Akouris: Local trio picks up big honors
By Tina Akouris email@example.com January 27, 2013 10:28PM
Coach Wayne King and player Luke Andrade stand for the national anthem while attending the Pitch and Hit Club awards Sunday in Lombard. King was named Chicago-area Amateur Coach of fhe Year, Andrade, Chicago-area College Player of the Year. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:36AM
Mike Foltynewicz knew the ride wasn’t going to be easy. He committed to play baseball at Texas when he was a senior at Minooka almost three years ago, but Foltynewicz was willing to drop it if a Major League Baseball team came calling and offered him perhaps more than the scholarship was worth.
So when the Houston Astros selected Foltynewicz in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft and made him the 19th overall pick, he knew he had to jump at the chance.
Wayne King just didn’t want to get in the way. As Joliet Junior College’s baseball coach, King entered the 2012 postseason at .500.
It wasn’t exactly an ideal position to be in, but his idea of stepping back and letting his players play worked. JJC won the NJCAA Division III national championship, the third in the program’s history to go along with titles in 1994 and 2008.
And Luke Andrade was one of those guys on King’s team that made another championship possible, hitting a team leading .396 and breaking the JJC all-time single season record for at-bats with 240.
Foltynewicz came home Sunday to The Carlisle in Lombard and joined King and Andrade at The Pitch and Hit Club’s annual awards banquet. All three were honored by the organization.
The Pitch and Hit Club, formed in 1942 by a group of Major League Players and scouts, also honored two MLB greats in Rich “Goose” Gossage and Tony LaRussa bestowing on them the Lou Boudreau Hall of Fame Inductee awards. In all, the organization handed out 20 awards on the evening.
Did I do the right thing?
Foltynewicz was named the club’s Chicago Area Minor League Player of the Year after going 14-4 last season with a 3.14 ERA for Lexington (Ky.) in the South Atlantic League. He was also named the Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
The Pitch and Hit Club award could be considered a validation for Foltynewicz, a sign that he is respected by those in and around MLB circles.
“I’ve had my ups and downs,” Foltynewicz said. “It’s been pretty scary sometimes. It’s going into a whole other world and getting to know the rules of an organization. Going out there at the age of 18 and starting a whole new life, I was thrown into it without much preparation.”
Texas was Foltynewicz’s dream school, so it is understandable that sometimes the 6-4 right-hander asks himself the question: “What if?”
“When I have a bad game I think that maybe they could have taught me more or that I could have matured more or learned the game more,” Foltynewicz said. “But I know I made the right choice.”
And winning the club’s Minor League POY award is going to do wonders for Foltynewicz’s confidence.
“All my hard work paid off and it gets me really excited for next year,” said Foltynewicz, who works out at Minooka twice a week while he’s home. “It’s not every day that someone gets an award from an organization like this. It’s going to be something that is going to be in my mind forever.”
Get out of the way
With a 28-28 record and the playoffs looming, King wanted the Wolves to just live another day in the playoffs. He got a national title out of the deal and the Pitch and Hit Club’s Chicago Area Amateur Coach of the Year Award, too.
“I really appreciate the award and it’s really special this year because of the season we had last year,” King said. “Everyone says it must have been good coaching, but I got out of their way. I let them play those last nine out of 10 games that we won.
“It’s a very nice award to receive and I’m very honored.”
King’s strategy led the Wolves to a 37-29 record and another championship. That late showing and the Coach of the Year award are going to serve as motivation for King, whose team opens the season March 1 in St. Louis.
Andrade won the Pitch and Hit Club’s Chicago Area College Player of the Year award. Retired Lockport baseball coach Jimmy Hall nominated Andrade.
“It represents the hard work I put in,” Andrade said. “It was surreal (finding out), because I knew I had a good year. I was happy winning a (junior college) World Series with my teammates, but that just added to it.”
Andrade, a New Lenox native and Lincoln-Way West graduate, was even able to get some brief one-on-one time with another of the banquet’s honorees in Gossage.
“It was pretty cool because he’s a Hall of Famer, and talking to a big leaguer is a reality check,” Andrade said. “He’s been there and that’s my dream.”
Andrade’s award probably means that he’s on his way there.