Wieder eager to get varsity baseball rolling at Wheeling
Submitted photo Jason Wieder, a 2002 graduate of Wheeling, will lead the varsity program into the upcoming season.
Jason Wieder can't get enough of coaching.
The sport and the age group doesn't matter since he's currently coaching eighth-grade boys basketball at Northridge Prep in Niles. He's also coached high school golf and baseball as well as Buffalo Grove Bills youth football.
"I love all sports and working with kids of different ages is a ton of fun," Wieder said. "The exciting part is it's all about building relationships, teaching the basics and learning fundamentals."
Jason Wieder also can't think of a better place to work than his alma mater.
The 2002 Wheeling graduate can't think of a better job than the one he was chosen for a week ago as the new varsity baseball coach. He's grateful to people such as assistant principal for student activities Steve May, boys athletic director Neal Weiner and associate principal Kate Kraft for the opportunity.
A lot of people would not exactly view a program that won 1 game last season as an opportunity of a lifetime. But Wieder, who coached the sophomore team last spring and the varsity team this summer, can see the possibilities for a program that hasn't finished with a record above .500 since 1989. He already saw it this summer when a grade-school camp started with just nine players but ended with nearly 20.
"My vision is to get in there and re-energize the whole program and inspire the community," said Wieder, a four-year varsity starter in baseball who also played football and basketball at Wheeling. "I have to get in the community and recruit more and get to the parents so they see the positive things happening at Wheeling.
"If they see my passion for Wheeling and my passion for this program, they'll start to invest more into Wheeling baseball."
Part of the investment into the future included Wieder's entrance into the program as the sophomore coach by then head coach Matt Padron.
"I was fortunate to get on board with Matt," Wieder said. "I was someone he thought was young and energetic and I'm thankful he trusted me."
Wieder's sophomore team went 13-20 -- but that was with some of the program's top underclassmen spending all or most of the season with the varsity. The youth movement didn't translate to success on the field, however, and a difficult season ended with Wheeling searching for its third coach in three seasons.
Wieder got his opportunity to show he could be a worthy successor in a summer where Wheeling showed signs of improving and recovering.
"We were competitive all summer and the kids started to gain some confidence," Wieder said. "The biggest thing was to put the past behind them and they saw their hard work pay off, finally.
"The big thing for me in the summer was to stay positive no matter what direction we went in and get these kids to love the game again. A lot of them stopped loving baseball and for a lot of them it's their favorite sport."
But Wieder knows at a school the size of Wheeling he can't, and doesn't want to, try to make baseball the only sport for his players. One of his regrets during his time there was giving up basketball after his sophomore year while continuing to play football and baseball.
In recent years some of Wheeling's more talented athletes passed on baseball to focus on other sports. But at a school which had the rare turnover in the same year of head coaches in the boys "big three," Wieder said there is a collaborative effort with football coach Brent Pearlman and basketball coach Tony Como that began with one weightlifting program.
"We've all been talking together and our vision is not only for our three programs, but for the school, to get the whole athletic program together," Wieder said. "To get a Wheeling athletic community base where hopefully the kids start playing more than one sport. We all said we'd love for a kid to go from football to basketball to baseball and to see kids improving."
It's something Wieder has already seen in his program. He saw a more united team after the summer was over and one he believes can compete and succeed sooner rather than later because of the senior leadership.
"I love seeing these guys have success and if their goals are high, my goals have always been high for these kids," Wieder said. "I think these Wheeling kids are class act and I want to see them succeed. I always want to hold the bar high for them."
Especially since this job means so much to Jason Wieder.
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