Baseball: Matt Kosderka takes over Lewis and Clark helm
After finishing his professional baseball career, Matt Kosderka reinvented himself.
Instead of playing in the big leagues, he set his sights on a coaching career and hoped to one day lead a collegiate baseball program.
But to gain experience and credibillity, he had to start at the high school level, which led him to accept a coaching position at Wilsonville High School.
Fourteen years later, in 2014, he took an assistant coaching job at Willamette University.
And this June, Kosderka achieved his goal — accepting the head coaching position at Lewis and Clark College.
Kosderka's relationship with Lewis and Clark goes back to the turn of the millennium when his wife Emily Kosderka assumed an athletic trainer position at the college for three years. During that time, he developed relationships with people at the school. And once the Lewis and Clark head baseball coaching position opened up, the school encouraged Kosderka to apply for the job. Kosderka recently bought a new home in Wilsonville and plans to stay there for the foreseeable future. So he needed a job that would be close to home and Lewis and Clark, located in Portland, fits that description. Plus, he had his eye on that coaching position for a long time.
"Lewis was always the program I was interested in and it turned out to be right for everybody," he said.
So he applied and was offered the gig.
"I like to think it's my combination of experience at the high school and collegiate level and I have a pretty good vision of how to make the experience excellent for kids to play here both on and off the field," he said.
During his long tenure at Wilsonville, Kosderka threw tactical arrows at the dart board to see what would stick. And he says this process helped him develop a distinct and fully-formed philosophy.
"A lot of the stuff I'm going to do at Lewis and Clark began in the beginning stages at Wilsonville," he said. "We had two general philosophies at Wilsonville. 'O' philosophy. Outwork everybody. I thought that was really important for kids to understand if we want to be great we have to put the effort into doing that. The other one was the pride philosophy. Being prepared, taking responsibility and having integrity and dedication everyday," he said.
He wants his Lewis and Clark team to be aggressive in every facet of the game — whether that be pitchers attacking the strike zone or base stealers challenging opposing catchers.
"I hope we're an adaptable team that can adjust to our opponents. I want the team to be smart with decisions and also be very aggressive. And put a lot of pressure on the other team. We want to win games instead of thinking about not losing games," Kosderka said.
The Lewis and Clark program won just seven of 38 games last year and Kosderka acknowledges that consistent on-the-field success might not blossom immediately. But he plans to focus heavily on player development.
"I think our program is going to be based on player development and personal growth. On the field I would like to see players develop their skill set and hopefully take their success to the next level. We've been down in the conference the last couple years and we would like to get into the thick of things in our conference," he said.
Arguably the main difference between the high school level and the college level is recruiting. In high school, coaches work with the players you are allotted and in college coaches attract talent to your school.
Kosderka hit the recruiting trail as an assistant coach at Willamette but the onus on reeling in talented players will now fall squarely on his shoulders.
"At the college level you have to put together a sales pitch that is going to be appealing to a kid and get them to want to come to your school," he said. "It's about building relationships with kids and providing them information about what their college experience will be like."
But he sees his extensive time at the high school level as an advantage in recruiting.
"I think I have a feel for what a teenager is going through and thinking having spent 14 years at the high school there," he said.
Kosderka started the job July 5 and has since began to fill out his coaching staff, has been in contact with current and future players, implemented a youth baseball camp and has begun surveying next year's recruiting class.
Four years ago, in order to afford Kosderka the time to make the jump to college baseball while also taking care of their two kids, Emily switched from her job as athletic trainer at Concordia University to a exercise science professor at Concordia. Now, her more consistent hours allow her to watch the kids in the afternoon while Kosderka coaches the team.
Over a decade after leaving Lewis and Clark, Emily has a reason to root for the Pioneers again.
"She's made a lot of sacrifices for me as a high school and a college coach. It's not only a great accomplishment for me but a great accomplishment for her. She's very enthused and excited to be part of the family again," Kosderka said.