Several Central Illinois baseball aficionados received accolades for their efforts in giving back to the game.
Approximately 200 people attended the 38th Annual Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame Dinner, sponsored by the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association (IHSBCA). The dinner and awards ceremony cap a weekend that brings together many of the state’s high school baseball coaches, as there is a two-day clinic preceding the Saturday night event. As has been the case for the last several years, the event was held at the Westin Hotel at Yorktown Center in suburban Lombard.
Dave Kane, veteran sportswriter for the State Journal-Register of Springfield, received the Media Relations Man of the Year award. Art Voellinger of O’Fallon took home the Mike Herbert Distinguished Service Award.
Among those inducted into the IHSBCA Hall of Fame during the January 23 ceremony were area coaches Joel Hawkins of Highland (who also earned the Class 3A Coach of the Year honors), Mark Jackley of Mattoon and Tim Funkhouser of Edwardsville.
Kane has covered the small schools in the Springfield paper’s coverage area for more than 25 years. A Springfield Southeast graduate, Kane graduated from Lincoln Land Community College and Southern Illinois University. He worked at newspapers in Tennessee and Evansville, Ind. before returning to Springfield in 1983 to work at the State Journal-Register. He and his wife, Abigail, live in New Berlin. They have two children and two grandchildren, the youngest born in mid-January 2016.
Voellinger was captain of his St. Joseph’s College (Ind.) baseball team in the early 1960s before he returned near his native Belleville, working in O’Fallon as a teacher, coach and sports writer.
Hawkins spoke about his 24 years as coach of the Highland Bulldogs, a reign which has included a state baseball title, along with coaching many successful players, including current MLB pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
Funkhouser discussed his Edwardsville teams and how prior coaches helped shape his style, also crediting Hawkins for helping out a new coach when he was starting out. Jackley spoke of the strong ties that the Mattoon community has to his Green Wave team. He noted that Mattoon is much like his home town of Rock Falls. Jackley has led the Green Wave to more than 600 wins in his 26 seasons as coach.
Other winners spoke to the crowd and talked about their families and the sacrifices made while coaching or playing, as well as their accomplishments. Several focused on the family aspect with some very poignant speeches among the 20 or so given.
Other members of the Class of 2016 include coaches Neal Bertram of Rockford Lutheran and Don Erickson of (Burbank) Reavis. Wayne King, coach of Joliet Junior College, was selected by the Veterans Committee.
Other award winners honored were Craig Anderson, new Executive Director of the Illinois High School Association (Les Miller Man of the Year); Sean Ferrell of Libertyville (Assistant Coach of the Year); John Vito of Marengo (Bob Udell Umpire of the Year); Mitch Nowicki, Lincoln-Way North H.S. (Summer Coach of the Year); and Jeff Pohl of the Minnesota Twins (Tom Hull Scout of the Year).
Coaches of the Year are: Class 1A – Craig Partridge of Cobden; Class 2A – Mike McClellen of Rockford Christian; Class 4A– Mark Smith of (New Lenox) Providence Catholic.
Players of the Year: Class 1A – Logan Spalt of Cobden; Class 2A – Charlie Donovan of Westmont (award accepted by Joey Donovan, brother of Charlie, who died unexpectedly in November); Class 3A – Ryan Kramer of Nazareth Academy; Class 4A – Mike Madej of Providence Catholic.
Among the 200-plus people already in the IHSBCA Hall of Fame are several from the Central Illinois region, including Don Alton of Rochester, Lake Land College’s Gene Creek, Dave Greer of Pleasant Plains, Ken Knop of Stewardson-Strasburg, Roger Kratochvil of Mt. Olive, Pat Moomey of Chatham Glenwood, Ed Neighbors of Mt. Zion, Tom Pile of Edwardsville, John Statts and Jim Steinwart of Springfield, Gene Vidoni of Casey and Bob Wiman of Mattoon.
Abigail and Dave Kane