Lockport night game, 1965.
(WillCountyBaseball.org spent some time chatting local baseball with Lockport Head Coach Andy Satunas. Coach Satunas was guiding his Porters through a grueling stretch of games. Friday April 15th Lockport played a doubleheader against Lemont and crosscounty rival Joliet West. Saturday the 16th was Minooka. Tuesday the 19th was Homewood-Flossmoor, and the 20th was Neuqua. The 21st was HF again, and the brutal week finished with JCA on the 22nd. On the 20th WBC.org talked to Satunas about his outreach to the Lockport community and the impact his program has on local baseball.)
“I’ve been involved with this program for 16 years overall. I was an assistant coach for the first 10 – anywhere from being freshmen B level my first year to being a sophomore assistant. And then I was a sophomore head coach and varsity assistant before I took over six years ago as head coach. The one constant that our program has is we have an outstanding winning tradition. And within our communities of Crest Hill, Lockport, and Homer Glen there a lot of alumni out there, whether they’re Lockport alumni, or maybe guys who might have attended a private school in the area. And they not only respect our program, but they expect great things out of us. And what we tell the kids every day is a lot guys came before you, and it’s your job to work as hard as you can to honor them and leave it all out on the field.”
Coach Satunas talked a little bit about his program’s deep roots.
“Ron Coomer was here before my time. My first year was 2001, but just to show you what kind of tradition we have he’s one of those guys who comes back. I’ve been fortunate enough to build a relationship with him and many of the other alumni. And it’s great.
“One of things we do within our communities is we’re big on helping all of our local youth teams. Number one, we develop relationships with the coaches, the players, and their families. We run many, many camps throughout the year. We run one over winter break. We run one in the spring. We run multiple camps in the summertime.”
As a father of an eight year old Coach Satunas is seeing baseball from the opposite end of the spectrum. He knows that his program, like all the programs in the area, has to cultivate enduring relationships.
“I’m out at the fields. So, I’m out at the Homer Complex or Dellwood Park a lot. And it’s basically that we want to extend a helping hand. So anytime any of the coaches, whether it’s a house league or travel team coach, needs anything we help them. If they need ideas for practice, or one of their players is having a problem we help. And the most important thing is that all these kids in our communities get the chance to be the best that they can be.
“That’s the way I look at it. I figure that if we help enough people they’ll realize that we care about these kids. And when it gets to that time to make a decision they’ll know that not only this is a place where we have a strong baseball program, we have excellent academics; but more importantly we have a coaching staff that cares about the kids and wants to make them better people.”
Coach Satunas knows his outreach is a matter of meeting long held expectations in the Lockport community.
“That was something that was taught to me by some of my mentors who were here before me. Those ties and those relationships are the important thing. You need ambassadors out in the community to support your program.”
Coach Satunas talked about the importance of nostalgic Flink Field to the Lockport community.
“That’s another strong point is our facilities. I’d rank our facilities up there with anybody’s. It’s a thing where kids grow up, they drive by that field constantly because it’s along Briggs and Division. They look at it, and I can’t tell you how many kids say, ‘Wow Coach, I finally get to play on this field. I finally get to put on the Lockport uniform.’ And that’s exciting that they get to live out that dream, and we get to help them with it along the way.”
We talked about how this community outreach is part of his communication with travel teams during the summer months.
“Ever since I’ve been head coach here our philosophy about sharing our players is that we always have to put our players first. Sometimes it is better to be here with us, and other times it’s better for them to be with their travel program. What we do is keep open communication between, not only ourselves and the player, but with ourselves and the travel organization. We want to make sure that every decision that is made is the best for that young man. They’re the most important. They’re the ones who are putting in the work. They’re the ones who are striving to get to the next level.”
Coach Satunas stressed the point that not every player has the same needs, and travel programs provide opportunities to play that a high school program cannot.
“When you have a really high level player the high school coach serves a purpose. We help teach them the game of baseball. We help teach them to become responsible student athletes. We help them become better people by reinforcing the values their parents developed at home. Sometimes there are opportunities that I cannot provide them. If they’re that high level of a player they need to go out and spend more time playing at certain places.”
Coach Satunas knows that high schools serve a serious purpose for all talented baseball players.
“On the flipside if the young man is more of a low end collegiate player. He may be a Juco, a Division III, or an NAIA guy. There’s a whole lot that I can do as his high school coach to help him get to that next level. And some of those things might be things that the travel programs can’t do.
“We’re fortunate as high school baseball coaches to help provide an avenue for these young men to go to college. Some of these young men would not be going to college if it wasn’t for that opportunity to play baseball. And then what you hope happens is when they’re there playing baseball everything kind of clicks in their minds and they say, ‘Wow I also have a chance to get an education.’
“That’s something we talk to our parents about. If you play four years in our program and you are serious about playing college baseball there’s a spot for you. It may not be the spot that you wanted. It may not be the spot you thought you were going to, but if you’re serious and you want to play in college there’s going to be a school that will definitely take you.”
Coach Satunas ended our conversation with an emphasis on the quality of baseball in Will County.
“We traveled down to Louisville for a big tournament there earlier in the season. We wanted to tell them that we play real good ball where we’re from. I’m talking to the Louisville and Kentucky head coaches and they know us. Louisville, as of last year, didn’t have anybody south of the state of Kentucky on their roster. The fact that a powerhouse like Louisville recruits the Chicago area so heavily just shows where some of the best baseball is played.”
Photos courtesy of porterbaseball.org.