Photo by Jeff Vorva
Richards coach Brian Wujcik won his 500th career baseball game on May 2.
Some coaches who are lucky enough to land a head coaching gig at a young age are hotshots who are ready to make that job a stepping stone for something bigger and better.
Brian Wujcik, however, was not like that.
He grew up playing baseball at Richards and was an offensive star at the University of Iowa and when he was named the school’s head baseball coach for the 1992-93 season he wasn’t looking to leave. There was a guy at the Oak Lawn school – football coach Gary Korhonen – that Wujcik looked up to.
“Twenty five years go by in a hurry,” Wujcik said. “One of the blessings that I’ve had is to have an opportunity to work in the same building as Gary Korhonen. He was a coach here for (35) years (and won 315 games – sixth highest in the state) so I got a chance to witness the longevity, the stability and the dedication to a program. That was a big inspiration. I tried to emulate his program and run the baseball program the same way.’’
Wujcik picked up his 500th career victory on May 2 in thrilling fashion as the Bulldogs beat Shepard 7-6 in a South Suburban Red contest in Oak Lawn. Down 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh, Nike Gall hit a two-run single to drive in the tying and winning runs.
In 1986, Wujcik and Reavis star Mike Budds were named the first Regional-Reporter co-Players of the Year and when Wujcik went to Iowa, he set a school and Big Ten record when he drove in 10 runs in one game. He also set a school record with 12 doubles in a season and won a league batting title.
But playing the sport and coaching it are two different things, as he found out in his rookie season as the boss.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “My idea of practice was putting on a glove and showing the kids that I could still play. It took me a little while to realize that what I needed to do was teach them instead of going out to play with them.’’
The coach’s 500th win was memorable with the walk-off hit and celebration. Hie doesn’t remember much about the first win.
“It took five games and it was against Bloom,” he said. “I don’t know any of the details.’’
His players joked about his gunning for 1,000 victories but he is not sure that will be in the cards.
“I know Jack Kaiser at Oak Park River Forest coached for (more than) 45 years,” he said. “I don’t know if I have that in me.’’