SJ-O celebrates Wolken's dedication
ST. JOSEPH — Bianca Truitt Green has fond memories of the 1985 softball season at St. Joseph-Ogden, the first time the Spartans made it to the state tournament.
“It was really an incredible time to be playing softball,” she said, “and to be playing for him.”
That’d be legendary coach Randy Wolken.
Wolken, with 903 the winningest softball coach in IHSA history, was honored Saturday with a ceremony dedicating the SJ-O softball field in his honor.
From here on out, the Spartans will play their home games at Randy Wolken Field.
Green engraved a plaque with the words “900 wins and counting” that she and other former players presented to Wolken before he reached the milestone.
“I think what makes him a good coach is that his expectations for his players are the exact same expectations he has for himself,” Green said. “We are all invested in the same thing.”
Said SJ-O Superintendent Jim Acklin during the ceremony: “It’s highly unusual for a coach to stay at one school for 35 years. It’s even more unusual for the program to have consistent success. We are talking about something very special.”
Susan Jacobs Goldstein played softball at SJ-O from 1993-1996.
“I had worked hard and he pushed me hard,” she said. “It meant a lot to me.”
Kim Brooks Allen, a freshman softball player during Wolken’s first season in 1979, said SJ-O competed in fall softball her first two years in the program.
Wolken pushed to move the season to the spring so the team could compete in the postseason.
“I feel he changes the way he coaches with the times,” she said. “He is dedicated to this program 12 months a year.”
St. Joseph Mayor B.J. Hackler announced at the event that Saturday was Randy Wolken Appreciation Day in St. Joseph.
“Randy has been a great ambassador for SJ-O and the village,” Hackler said.
Wolken said he felt blessed about having the field named in his honor and that a crowd of a few hundred attended the dedication, which came after SJ-O swept Momence in a doubleheader.
More than 40 former players were on hand.
“I never, ever thought this would happen,” he said. “I love it that I have such dedicated athletes from the past and present. There is a lot of respect both ways, from them and from me.”