Coach in a league of his own

Back to Article
Back to Article

Coach in a league of his own

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Feb. 11, 2015 By Emily Leclair

Baseball is a game of numbers, and with eight WIAC titles, two NCAA Division III National Championship titles and a lifetime record of 402-128-1 at UW-Whitewater, head baseball coach John Vodenlich has the numbers.

Vodenlich, 45, will be the youngest member to be inducted into the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association (WBCA) Hall of Fame on Feb. 14, but his accomplishments go further than the outfield fence.

“He makes things difficult for us out there, just so that we have that sense of urgency, the sense that we’re going after what we want,” senior Mikole Pierce said. “He gets the most out of us and that’s hard for a coach to do.”

A former player at UW-W, Vodenlich went on to play professionally in Slovenia and helped win the Slovenian National Championship in 1994. He also conducted baseball clinics in Germany, England, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary.

After his professional career, he headed into the business world, but found that something was missing.

“It was fine and I liked it, but I really missed that contact that I had with athletes and specifically in the game of baseball,” Vodenlich said. “I had this void and I looked at how I might be able to fill it.”

After coaching at Edgewood College for two years, Vodenlich decided to come back to UW-W.

Vodenlich reached out to former head coach John Miller, looking for an assistant position.

He remained the assistant for three years, before taking over as head coach in 2004. Since then, Vodenlich found success on and off the field.

“A lot of people think that coaching is just about showing up for the game and coaching the game and going home, but all head coaches at our level spend a lot of time on non-field, non-sport related things,” Vodenlich said.

His lifetime record and his WIAC record of 203-59-1 reflect the success he has accomplished while on the field.

He has coached the team to 10 NCAA National Championship appearances, five appearances in the NCAA Division III College World Series and has been the WBCA Coach of the Year three times.

The list of credentials could go on-and-on for Vodenlich, but he will be the first to tell you what happens on the field is not the most important part of the game.

“I’m blessed to be in a situation where I work with a lot of quality young men, and when you get to know these guys, they become kind of like your sons and you want what’s best for them, you want them to be successful, you want them to be happy,” Vodenlich said.

Since joining the UW-W program as a player in 1989 and as a coach in 1994, 27 players have signed with professional teams.

Vodenlich credits the coaches he had throughout his development of his baseball career for his success.

Jack Harrison, his youth coach who coached him in football and baseball, Tom Brandon, his high school coach and Miller, his coach at UW-W have all shaped him as a player and as a person.

“I truly believe that we’re all basically influenced and created by those individuals that were part of our life,” Vodenlich said.

Vodenlich has reached out to his players in the same way.

“He has a lot of knowledge that he’s been able to pass onto us,” Pierce said. “I’ve learned so much from him just in the aspect of hitting.”

The 2014-15 season will hold more success for Vodenlich, who is 15 wins away from passing Miller for the most career victories as head coach in program history.

Vodenlich is one of five coaches who will be honored  at 12:15 p.m. on Feb. 14 at Madison Marriott West in Middleton, Wisconsin.

The numbers speak for themselves, but Vodenlich insists it’s more than a numbers game.

“I look at the whole picture and I can’t stress enough, that for me, it’s not about the wins and losses, it’s just about all the great people I’ve met along the way.”