Winning his 500th career game as Lake’s baseball coach last Thursday was a good enough reason for Greg Wilker to go out for lunch the next day with athletic director and longtime friend Dave Shaffer.
But the lunch was actually a diversion executed by Shaffer, who had something else in mind.
When Wilker returned to school he was steered through Shaffer’s office into the school gym, where the entire student body and faculty were waiting to show their appreciation, many holding “500” signs.
Wilker, 52, was humbled by the attention.
“It was quite a surprise,” he said. “Right away I turned to my players and told them I’d get them back at practice. They started laughing. It’s a great group of kids again this year. They’re fun to be around.”
The players have almost always been fun for Wilker to be around. So much so that he’s not sure when he will retire from coaching.
“We just take one year at a time and go from there,” said Wilker, who has been a business teacher at the school since the fall of 1983 after graduating from Wright State University. “I really enjoy being around the kids, and that goes a long way.
I also coach football here, and I really enjoy working with coach [Mark] Emans. I always see where the energy level is at the end of summer.”
Wilker’s 500th win was a 19-4 victory at Port Clinton. A doubleheader sweep of Evergreen two days later lifted his career record to 502-309.
Wilker’s tenure has included two titles in the Northern Lakes League, four in the former Suburban Lakes League, and a 2012 championship in the Northern Buckeye Conference. His Flyers won district crowns in 1985, 1990, 2001, 2003 and 2011, with the 2001 team reaching the Division III state semifinals.
Wilker said reaching state was his career highlight. As for the milestone, it’s been more about the journey than the destination.
“It just means that I’ve been doing it a long time,” Wilker said of reaching 500 wins. “But I’m proud. When I came here I knew the community was big into baseball. If you’re from around this area, you’ve heard of Walbridge [youth] baseball.
“If you’re going to coach at the high school level, you need something like that. We have a lot of parents who take the time to play with their kids, and some who coach them when they’re younger. If they don’t work with them when they’re [age] 3 to 13, it doesn’t matter what I do when I get them at 14. That’s a big part of our success, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Wilker credits his wife of 30 years, Linda, as well as his assistant coaches, for his longevity.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “The best part of this is just seeing the kids mature from their freshman year through their senior year. Obviously we want to teach them to play the game the right way, but my No. 1 goal is helping to build their work ethic. That way, no matter what they do in life, they’re going to be successful.”