The Press Newspaper
Greg and Linda Wilker have been married going on 25 years and they don't have any biological children of their own, but man, do they have a big family.
That's how Greg Wilker likes to think of his Lake High School baseball program. One big family.
When you've been around the block as long as Wilker - 25 years and counting at Lake - what other way can you look at it?
Following Wilker's 400th career victory with the Flyers last week, he admitted that it is "just a number to me." Lake defeated host Lakota 6-2 on May 8 to give Wilker his 400th career win.
"I'm not just proud of baseball team, but the whole school," he said. "I think the kids see that. Teaching or coaching football, I think parents see that. I'm fortunate that I've had great support from the administration and the parents over the years. If you coach as long as I have, some parents aren't going to agree with everything I do, but overall they've been outstanding."
Wilker, 47, who has also been an assistant football coach at Lake for a quarter century, has a 401-276 record with the Flyers. Last Saturday's sectional tournament win over Lakota gave this year's squad a 14-7 record, including 5-3 in the Suburban Lakes League.
A graduate of Coldwater High School, Wilker played offensive guard and tackle on the Cavaliers' football team and played first base and third base on the baseball team.
His first baseball coaching gig was with a Pony League team when he was in college.
Wilker coached Lake's junior varsity team his first year, then became the head coach the following season. He replaced Bob Brough as head coach, although Brough later became one of Wilker's assistants.
Wilker's teams have won three SLL titles, two Northern Lakes League titles, 14 sectional championships, four district titles and one regional title. His 2001 team, which featured Eddie Severhof, Jason Kapp and Scott Conley, made the state semifinals.
"I've been blessed with a lot of great kids," Wilker said. "There were so many great years. We've been lucky to have some good tournament runs."
Wilker said his 1990 team is one of the Lake squads that stands out.
"We started out 5-5 and we were just muddling along," the coach said. "We lost to Rossford and were 5-5 and I said we could go either way. I think I only had 12 kids and they worked their tails off. We won 17 or 18 in a row and we won games we had no business winning. They just believed they were going to get it done.
"Brian Taylor and Jeff Dominique were there and they went on to play at Bowling Green. I think we were 23-6 and lost in the regionals in a heartbreaker. We won the NLL championship that year. They were going to find a way to win."
Wilker also fondly recalled his first league championship team, in 1998.
"We had the worst season we ever had before that season, at 6-22," he said. "We took a beating. They worked hard in the summer and we ended up winning the NLL. Since that point, we've been pretty competitive ever since."
Todd Bringman, who has faced Lake seven times as a head coach and assistant at Woodmore, said coaches know what they're going to get when they face the Flyers.
"Greg is definitely somebody to look up to," Bringman said. "Lake is always competitive.
Wilker said being able to coach for 25 years says a lot about his relationship with his wife, Linda.
"She's spent many years out there, helping build a mound or painting a dugout," he said. "A lot of people don't see that. We'd go out on a Saturday or Sunday and work when no one's around. Without that support, you don't stay in coaching this long."
Wilker admitted he still has a passion for the game after a quarter-century.
Asked how much longer he intends to coach, Wilker said he always takes it one year at a time.
"At the end of the season I say, 'do I enjoy going out there?' " Wilker said. "As long as I say yes, and as as long as they want me, I still get a big thrill out of winning games and just going out there and trying to get better every day."