Retirees: Coach Jack Kuzniczci

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Baseball coach Jack Kuzniczci is retiring after 36 years of coaching and over 500 wins.

Jack Kuzniczci started his career in baseball at Anderson High School, and by the time he went into college at UC, he was breaking records.

There he led the team to victory and was the most valuable player in regards to hitting. He went into Minor League Baseball and signed a pro baseball contract. After getting out of the minor league he went back and finished his degree to become a coach.

“Well actually when I was growing up, I never thought about becoming a coach. I always wanted to be a player.” Kuzniczci said, “But, you know I’ve always enjoyed being with younger people. So when I didn’t get into the major leagues. I knew I had to get a good job so I’ll get a job coaching. And so [it] just kind of became a passion of mine,”

His passion led him to be spotted by Jeff Brokamp, former WHHS’ principal, where he was given an offer as a part-time coach. After his 30th year of coaching at Madeira, he decided to retire. Since then he became the head coach of varsity baseball and has led WHHS to consecutive finishes with a .500 win percentage, helping them become a contender in the ECC. On May 15, Kuzniczci took his 500th win as a coach..

He credits his success to his work ethic. “I’m not afraid to put time in. You know when I was growing up, even on Christmas Day, I would go to my basement, swing the bat and do things like that.” When he was a freshman at high school he hit the weight room really hard. “I was willing to do what it took to be good. If I had to get stronger that’s what I did. If I had to get faster- I actually tried to find a track coach and learned how to run faster to get better form,” Kuzniczci said.

Kuzniczci’s typical practice with his players lasts an hour and a half. Some practices take place during the off-season before baseball starts. They focus on defense, getting out there and hitting, working with the ball and pitching. His experience and understanding of the sport has transformed his players.

“He’s so knowledgeable about the game and he’s entirely made some guys go from no chance of hitting the baseball to great hitters,” Micheal Conte, a player on WHHS’ baseball team, said. “He’s done that year after year, after year. I know my first two years on varsity freshman and sophomore year I really struggled to hit the ball and I was really not much of a threat offensively. And he’s really worked with me consistently and now I’m batting over .400.”

Kuzniczci’s relationship with the players has made this game very fun to coach. Throughout his years at WHHS, he has watched them grow into stronger baseball players.

He has left a permanent mark on Walnut baseball. He has brought Walnut from the bottom of the barrel to an actual contender for the ECC, year in and year out. And that culture change started with him.”

— SENIOR Michael Conte

Kuzniczci is known for bringing his team together with his stories and speeches. Conte recalls a recent victory in which Kuzniczci let himself be animated in his emotional speech, “So we just beat Turpin for the second time, we swept them. And there’s a little bit of bad blood going on again.” Conte said, “And Coach K’s speech after that game may have been the most fired up I’ve ever seen him. He was just off laughing the whole time, smiling the whole time, fired up. It was awesome. That’s my favorite Coach K story ever.”

Leaving his team is one of the things he’ll miss about WHHS. “A lot of people don’t realize that when a teacher goes to school, I mean obviously I have my own kids that I’ve had at home but these are like my second kids. When I have students, I just love going in and seeing students. I’ll miss seeing their smiling faces,” Kuzniczci said.

He’s been planting his faith and training with these freshmen to senior players and encouraging them both on and off the field to use their talent and take their time.

“I’ve been teaching for 36 years. I’ve been coaching baseball for most of those years. It’s not easy saying I’m done because that’s something you’ve done and you get used to being the coach. You know that’s who you are, the coach. Then all of a sudden now you’re not going to be the coach. It’s kind of emotional. You’re hanging up and stop doing something you love to do,” Kuzniczci said.

Kuzniczci plans on going out and getting a job at a golf course to get his golf for free. He might volunteer to coach but he doesn’t want to have the responsibility of a head coach anymore. Kuzniczci wants to spend his retirement in his new house in Buckeye, Arizona which is being built for him and his wife to move into. There, he’ll be able to bike all year and play golf. While he’ll miss WHHS he also feels as though this move is the right step forward for him.

“Sometimes you need to do something different. You know I’m 63 years old and after teaching for 36 years I just need something else,” Kuzniczci said.