Kevin Fitzgerald embracing new role as Joliet Central athletic director

Fitzgerald transitions to AD after being the Steelman baseball coach for 11 years

Kevin Fitzgerald of Joliet Central.

In the 1985 Terry Gilliam movie “Brazil,” Robert DiNero explains that there’s nothing he hates more in the world than paperwork. In symbolic irony (spoiler alert for “Brazil” by the way), his character dies late in the film when a wind storm blows in and DiNero is buried in a literal mountain of paperwork.

Kevin Fitzgerald hasn’t quite gotten to that point (yet), although the massive paperwork increase is something he admits he’s still getting used to. He says he’ll get there, it’s all just part of getting acclimated to his new role.

After all, Fitzgerald now is the man in charge of athletics at Joliet Central.

After spending the past 11 years as the Steelman baseball coach, Fitzgerald now is transitioning to the role of athletic director. He’s taking the reigns from Jon Pereiro, who is departing for the same role at Naperville North. It’s a role that further ingrains him into the Steelmen culture that he’s embraced for more than a decade.

“I’ve been the assistant athletic director at the school for the past six years,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been in the building for as long as I have, and I feel like I have a really good relationship with the coaches and staff in general. I feel like I have the support of the staff and the students. They have faith in me that I can do this so I’m telling myself to remember and know that I can as well.”

Although he’s a Joliet West graduate, he played baseball for Joliet Township co-op. He was working a sales job 11 years back when he got a call about a coaching opportunity at West. He wound up enjoying “every second” of it and opted to go back to school to earn his teaching degree.

He still was coaching with West when he learned that Central head coach Tony Juarez would be stepping down into an assistant role. The opportunity to take over as head baseball coach and serve as a social studies teacher was what Fitzgerald called “a dream come true.”

“When I was at West we were all Steelmen,” Fitzgerald said. “Getting to be a Steelman again was a huge source of pride for me and something I was really excited about doing. I just ran with it.”

Fitzgerald came over as an assistant for the 2013 season under Juarez. After Juarez moved to assistant, Fitzgerald took over, a role he’s served ever since. While the baseball team’s win-loss record won’t jump off the page (13-21 in 2017 was their best mark), the standings don’t reflect just how much the program and students have grown under Fitzgerald’s leadership.

His hope is that the rest of the sports will have a similar growth with him taking over as AD. He’d considered applying for the position in 2021 when it came open, but said he loved coaching baseball too much to give it up then. He says he still loves coaching baseball, but he’s ready to take on the next challenge in his life and career.

“It wasn’t the right time [in 2021],” Fitzgerald said. “Coach Pereiro has done a fantastic job, but with him leaving now it just felt like the right time for me to step in and go for this position.”

He’s spending the summer figuring out the administrative side of things. He knows there will be challenges as with any job, and it’s no secret that it’s been a while since any Joliet Central program won a state title, boys wrestling in 1984-85 as Central and softball in 2000 as Township, according to the IHSA website.

Yet while there will be daunting tasks in front of him, he’s not worried.

“I’m just excited,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m excited to work at the school I’ve been at for so long. I just have huge pride in the Steelmen. I’m ready to work with these people and continue the tradition that we have and take it to another level.”