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Friday, Oct. 21, 2005

Thirty-year baseball assistant becomes first DIII coach to be honored

WILLIMANTIC, Conn.Bob Wojick, a 30-year assistant coach with the nationally-prominent baseball program, has been selected as recipient of the 2005 American Baseball Coaches’ Association (ABCA)/Baseball America National Assistant Coach-of-the-Year Award.

Wojick, credited with much of the behind-the-scenes work in the program over the last three decades, becomes the first recipient of the award not to be selected from the Division I ranks. The award has been presented annually since 1999.

“I’m very excited about winning the award, and my family is excited about the award,” noted Wojick, who embarks upon his 30th spring as an assistant coach with the Division III program in 2006. “(But) I was surprised about winning. I didn’t think that I would get it. Most people think that it’s a Division I award. I know that I did. I think it’s a great accomplishment in the fact that it shows that anyone can win it in any division. I’m glad that I won it in that respect,” added Wojick. “I’m glad that I broke the mold. Now, Division III (coaches) who stay in it as long as I have know that they have the opportunity (to win the award).”

A native of Willimantic and long-time resident of nearby Columbia, Wojick will be presented with the award at the Honors Luncheon Saturday, Jan. 7 at the 2006 ABCA national convention at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. As the first vice president of the ABCA, Eastern 38th-year head coach Bill Holowaty will serve as emcee of the luncheon and will formally present Wojick with the award.

Employed in the Hartford Public School System in the Work Readiness Program since 1971, Wojick has served in a part-time capacity throughout his tenure at Eastern. Following a three-year playing career between 1969 and 1971 under Holowaty, Wojick was named sub-varsity coach in the fall of 1971 and was promoted to assistant varsity coach in the 1982 national championship season. After the second of the program’s four national titles in 1990, Wojick retired from the staff to spend more time with wife Sandy, daughter Kimberlee and son Brian. He returned to the program in time for the 1996 season and has been part of additional national championships in 1998 and 2002. Since 1973 – when the program qualified for its first (NAIA) national tournament – Wojick has been a fixture on the third base coaching lines. He currently serves as associate head coach.

In addition to winning four national championships with Wojick, Eastern has qualified for 22 NCAA Division III and four NAIA tournaments and has advanced to ten national tournaments. The program has enjoyed 22 seasons of at least 30 wins, including four 40-win campaigns. Eastern’s 29-year record with Wojick on the coaching staff has been 960-340-3 for a winning percentage of 73.8 per cent.

For 30 years, Wojick has played an important role in every aspect of the program, from the improvements of  Alumni Field -- the former on-campus baseball facility-- in the early 1970s with new infields, dugouts and fences and the installation of lights, to raising money for spring trips to Hawaii, California and Florida, to publishing the team’s yearly media guide and financing national championship rings.

“I can’t think of anybody in the country who is as deserving of this award as Bob,” praises Holowaty. “It’s long overdue.  It’s not a one-year award. It’s really a lifetime award.

“His call to duty has been unbelievable, and it hasn’t been in just one area”, notes Holowaty. “It’s been from A-to-Z. He’s always been there. He’s the backbone of the program. He’s really been my right arm. Anything that we’ve done, we’ve done together.”

While Wojick’s expertise in the third base coaching box may represent just a fraction of his overall contributions to the program, its significance has not been lost on Holowaty.

“Bob is an outstanding third base coach. He has won many ballgames for us,” points out Holowaty. “That alone has been a big part of our program. We just take that for granted, but it’s a tough position. You’re out there on the firing line.”

Previously, Wojick has been honored by Eastern on two occasions. In 1990, Wojick’s sleeveless playing jersey and home white coaching jersey were officially retired during ceremonies on Alumni Day. In 1992, he was inducted into the Eastern Hall of Fame.

Wojick is among five long-time coaches who have helped establish Eastern as the premier Division III program in the country. Together, the five have combined for 89 years of service. In addition to Wojick, John Risley (18 years) and Len Reed (14) remain active members of the coaching staff. Previously, Ron Jones spent 13 season with the program through 1998 and Scott Smith spent 15 seasons on the staff through 2004.

At the award presentation, “I’m going to recognize the other coaches – like Lenny (Reed) and Riz (John Risley) – and all of the other assistant coaches who have ever coached at Eastern,” says Wojick. “They never get the recognition, but look at the work that they’ve done.”

Until this year, Division I programs had produced the six previous recipients of the ABCA/Baseball America Assistant Coach-of-the-Year Award:  Cal State Fullerton’s Dave Serrano (2004),  Texas A&M’s Jim Lawler (2003), South Carolina’s Jim Toman (2002), Notre Dame’s Brian O’Connor (2001), Clemson’s Tim Corbin (2000) and Stanford’s Dean Stotz (1999).

The award is selected by a panel of representatives from the ABCA, as well as a representative from Baseball America magazine.

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