Long before Dundee-Crown graduate Kevin Tomasiewicz stepped onto a pitcher’s mound at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, he played football … but not for long.
“Three days,” he said with a laugh. “My football coaches at Dundee-Crown knew the head coach up there. I went up there to play football and baseball. I was a punter and a kicker.”
While preparing for his freshman football season, Tomasiewicz said the kickers and punters went to the locker room after 90 minutes while the rest of the team was still on the field.
“I walked into the locker room and there are these big trays of cantaloupes, watermelons and all types of fruits,” he recalled. “[The older players] said, ‘Our job is to cut up the watermelons and cantaloupes for the rest of the team for their snack.’ I said, ‘I think I’m going to play baseball, guys.’ ”
While the football team “had plenty of punters and kickers at that time,” his impact on the baseball team became historic.
Whitewater announced Wednesday that Tomasiewicz, the Most Valuable Player in the Warhawks’ run to the 2005 national championship and a two-time NCAA Division III All-American pitcher, is part of the university’s 2021 Athletic Hall of Fame class.
“I’m very appreciative of them giving me the honor this year,” said Tomasiewicz, who played four seasons in the New York Mets’ organization after being drafted in the 26th round. “It’s surreal.”
For his career, Tomasiewicz posted a 35-5 record – including 15-1 in the national championship season – and 232 strikeouts in 253 1/3 innings. In 2012, he was named to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s All-Centennial baseball team.
His career provided a massive amount of memories, which he often shares with his players as the head baseball coach at UW-Oshkosh, where he recently completed his eighth season.
“I think about how we built up the program [at Whitewater] until we were at the top of the country,” he said. “I think about the camaraderie. I talk to our players about enjoying the moments you have in college, enjoying your friends, because it’s going to change when you get into the real world.”
Among the discussions with Oshkosh players are about his most difficult moments in baseball, such as his final season with the Mets.
“I like to teach guys life lessons through my experiences,” he said.
After reaching Class AA in his third season, Tomasiewicz was prepared to return to that level. But the Mets had other plans.
“On the last day of spring training of my last year, I was set and ready to go to Double-A and they said, ‘You’re going to stay in Single-A,’ ” Tomasiewicz said. “I walked into the office of the guy who ran the minor leagues and told him what I thought. Magically, two weeks later, I had one bad outing and I was released. I told my players that story this year, and their jaws dropped.”
Tomasiewicz will be inducted Oct. 30 along with seven other athletes, two administrators and one team.
Going back to Whitewater will be especially rewarding because the Warhawks’ current head coach – John Vodenlich – was Tomasiewicz’s coach for his final two seasons.
“He was the exact coach that I needed – somebody to tell me, ‘You screwed up. Figure it out,’ ” he said. “He was – and still is – a no-nonsense guy. When I got to pro baseball, I wasn’t that coddled player that some professional players are. John was a big part of me getting ready to be at the bottom of the totem pole as a 26th-round draft pick.”
Tomasiewicz also is excited to share the honor with his family, including his father, Tom, mother, Diana, wife, Jessica, and three daughters – McKenzie, 4, Addison, 3, and 7-month-old Rylee.
“My dad was the president of the Little League,” he said. “My mom ran the concession stand. I think about the amount of hours they took off of work to come see me play. I hope it means as much to them as it does to me.
“It’s going to be special,” he said.
What a relief at MSOE: Huntley grad Cole Raines, a senior relief pitcher at D-III Milwaukee School of Engineering, earned honorable mention recognition this spring on the All-Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference teams.
In 16 relief appearances this spring, the right-handed Raines posted a 2-1 record, three saves and a team-low 1.24 ERA. In 29 innings of work, he struck out 26 opposing batters. He held opponents a .216 batting average.
MVP at Augie: Junior softball player Ashley Dehmlow (McHenry West) was named the team’s co-Most Valuable Player this season after starting a team-best 38 games for the Vikings (14-27).
Dehmlow batted .267 with a team-high 10 doubles this spring, while finishing second on the team with 28 hits.
Barry Bottino writes about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.