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Locker tabbed as new WHS baseball coach
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Lately, there’s been a common theme to the hiring of baseball managers.
Former catchers are the hot ticket right now.
In fact, nearly half of the skippers in Major League Baseball fit that description.
It’s also one of the characteristics of the newly-hired baseball coach at Warwick High School. Bob Locker, who played the catcher position during his prep days at Manheim Central, was approved at the Warwick School Board’s meeting Tuesday night to replace Matt Gale in the Warriors’ dugout.
It won’t be unfamiliar territory.
Locker previously coached 14 seasons in the Warriors’ baseball program, including four as an assistant under Mike Brown. Now he is hopeful that all those years of toiling behind the plate will help prepare him for the duties as Warwick’s new baseball coach.
"I’ve always viewed it the same way that the catcher needs to be in charge of the game because he sees everything," Locker said. "If you’re looking at the catcher’s position, having the tools like a strong arm is good, but the knowledge of your pitching staff and knowledge of the game is as important sometimes as the tools, and yes, I think that’s helpful for me as a manager. I’ve got to be honest, in the time I spent with Browny, he gave me the opportunity to coach third base and to call pitches during those seasons. So I think I’m fully equipped for what’s going to happen."
This latest opportunity isn’t one that he foresaw happening when Gale stepped down in August following three years in the position. In fact, Locker, who is also the head coach of the Warriors’ football team, didn’t initially apply for the job.
Of those who did throw their name in the hat, there were qualified candidates that Warwick athletic director John Kosydar and his committee interviewed. Unfortunately, though, things weren’t working out with their schedules for them to take over the position.
From there, knowing that Locker was a former coach in the program, Kosydar approached him about the opening. Plus, Locker had been contemplating the idea of applying for an assistant’s position which was being added to the baseball staff this spring.
"When things weren’t working out for the head coach search," Kosydar said, "I went to him and said, ‘Would you be interested in applying for the head coach?’ And he thought about it and he said he would be interested. So I had conversations with high school principal Troy Price about the thought of him being the head coach for two sports, if that’s the direction we were going to go, and both of us were very comfortable with that because we just feel he’s very capable. He definitely has baseball knowledge."
Added Locker: "I see John on a regular basis, and I said that if it didn’t work out with the candidates that went through the first round, that I would apply for the job. I didn’t do it thinking I was a shoe-in or anything. I just merely said that I would put my name in and see what came of it."
Applying for the job certainly wasn’t something that he took lightly. With the time commitment involved coaching the football team, Locker thought about his concerns in terms of balancing both positions. He also talked the matter over with his wife, Marlene.
Looking at the big picture, though, Locker is confident in his ability to handle the challenge.
"I think I’m fully capable of budgeting my time, and with both baseball and football, I have excellent assistant coaches," he said. "I have people that I’m completely confident in to be able to do some of the things. I don’t see that I’m going to miss a lot in either one … If I wasn’t confident that I could make this work, I wouldn’t take the position because the last thing I would want to do is ever short change the kids in any of the programs. The opportunity to be a part of extra-curricular activities and to coach young men is a privilege. And when we undertake jobs like this, we have to go about it the right way and we’ve got to be in it for the right reasons."
Jarrett Falduts and Todd Smoker are two of the three paid assistants on the staff and Brian Wiczkowski will be a volunteer assistant.
"I have excellent assistant coaches and I’m going to rely on them," Locker said. "Todd Smoker has excellent baseball knowledge and and then Jarrett Falduts and Brian Wiczkowski … I think between all of the people involved that our baseball knowledge is more than sufficient to do this."
The Warriors had more than sufficient knowledge in the spring of 2008, when Locker was the third base coach with Brown on Warwick’s first-ever District 3 championship. Locker then remained on the staff for two more years prior to stepping down in 2010.
His final season in the coach’s box was the freshman season for the players who are now seniors on the team — the likes of Zack Hurst, Tyler Morris, Robert Gerofsky, Alec Rhoads, Cody Kimmel, Ryan Braundmeir, Caleb Metzler and Braidy Weiler. So Locker obviously has some familiarity with them, and there are others that he has had in class as a teacher at Bonfield Elementary School. Some he knows from coaching them on the gridiron.
But he has had the opportunity to sit down with Gale and returning assistant Smoker and pick their brains about many of the returning players. Locker has also seen many of the players in open gyms and he will be working hard to be as prepared as possible by the time pre-season workouts begin in March.
"Matt expressed to me that as much as anything, he thought it was an excellent group of kids, that they are very hard working, extremely coachable and were willing to do the things necessary to be successful baseball players," Locker said. "My goal is going to be to get as much knowledge on all these kids in terms of their baseball abilities as quickly as I can. And we’ll go from there."
Locker is not naive to think that there won’t be days he will be dragging a little bit with the full load that he is carrying. But by the same token, he doesn’t have a timetable for how long he will coach the baseball team.
"I look at this as a great opportunity," Locker said. "Like I said earlier, the opportunity to work with young men in sports is something I love. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity. We’re just going to go into this season and see how things go, and at the end of the season, I’m sure I’ll sit down with John (Kosydar) and we’ll take a look at things. I’m not going to say it’s going to be one year, I’m not going to say it’s going to be 10 years. I’m just going to go into the season as prepared as possible and see what happens."
He wants to be as prepared as possible?
Spoken like a true catcher. More LOCKER, page B-6