Former pro Sefcik takes over at Marist
Teaching pros are commonplace at golf courses.
They’re a little more foreign on high school baseball fields.
Homewood-Flossmoor once had ex-major leaguer Steve Stanicek as its diamond boss. Now Marist has entrusted its varsity baseball program to another former pro.
Kevin Sefcik, a 1993 St. Xavier University graduate who prepped at Andrew, spent part of seven seasons in Major League Baseball, most of those with the Philadelphia Phillies. His background shouldn’t hurt Marist when it comes to enrolling a greater number of male student-athletes.
“It’s kind of cool,” Sefcik said, referring to his rare status as a major leaguer-turned-prep coach. “I hope that it gets kids interested in coming here.”
Marist athletic director Bob Lim thinks Sefcik will be a definite asset.
“The thing I like about Kevin is the fact that his major league career was made from him hustling and working hard and coming to work every day,” Lim said. “I think because of that he can relate more to these kids.”
Sefcik’s interest was whetted by previous interviews with his collegiate alma mater and Brother Rice. He served as an assistant to John McCarthy with the Crusaders the past three years but still yearned for a head-coaching job of his own.
A little help from his friends did the trick.
“I felt pretty good [about Marist] because I had some people throw my hat in the ring,” said Sefcik, who preferred those individuals remain anonymous. “I felt that if I went through the [interviewing] process and everything went well that it would work out.
“I think we had a good connection and it kind of feels right. I like the idea of being at a private school where you can get kids from all over and not just the [immediate] neighborhood and I like their [baseball] facilities they put up.”
Sefcik, who is a full-time coach for the Illinois Sparks travel program, said his 11 years of coaching experience — which also includes a couple seasons spent as an SXU assistant — is a much more important entry on his resume than his time in the majors.
“Playing in the major leagues doesn’t [automatically] make you a good coach,” he said. “If I would have tried to do this as soon as I got out, it probably wouldn’t have worked.”
Sefcik, who played under highly regarded Frank Ganser while at Andrew, says he adopted the latter’s emphasis on “practicing with pride and playing with pride” and credits Ganser as the guy who “taught me how to play the game. We spent a lot of time on drills.”
Sefcik plans on doing the same thing and he’ll go into next spring with one basic tenet.
“Don’t assume the kids know [about something],” he said. “Kids want to learn how to be better, [so] figure out a way to break it down and explain it.”
“When I interviewed him he had a very calm demeanor [and was] very matter of fact,” Lim said. “He’s a pretty level-headed guy and he wants to do it the right way and run his program where he could teach the kids the fundamentals they need.
“Our coaches like to give any kid that wants to the tools they need to get to the next level, whether it’s college or the minor leagues. One of the selling points on him is the amount of contacts he has in terms of helping kids reach that level.”
Sefcik believes travel ball has actually been a boon to developing more fundamentally sound athletes. What is missing, he says, are some of the “team concepts, like hitting behind the runner and throwing to the right base [while on defense].”
He insists he’s “not thinking of anything outside the box,” but Sefcik is an admitted stickler for “practice organization.” Toward that end he will keep all three levels together as much as he can and break down sessions by grouping together those who play the same position for portions of each practice.
“It’s done in football [because] you’re getting more reps,” Sefcik said. “You maybe spend a half-hour on skill sets and then get the team stuff done. I want to make sure I see the freshmen and sophomores as much as I can so everybody’s ready for the varsity level.”
Before getting his position with the Sparks Sefcik worked in the accounting field for a time and later owned a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop. A financially rewarding deal coaxed Sefcik to sell the business and turned his attention back toward baseball.
“It worked for my family and fits my lifestyle,” he said of his Marist position. “I feel like I didn’t get those other jobs [at SXU and Rice] so I would be free to take this one.
“I think the school offers a lot. And if I do a good job and people think I’m doing a good job, I think [more] kids will come.”