|Jeff Wiktorski played with the Marietta Pioneers for four years between 1982-1985, making the final series in all four years. The Pioneers finished first once and second twice in his college career.
d3photography.com photo by Steve Frommell
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- Jeff Wiktorski came to Appleton to watch his nephew, Cody Wiktorski, and his St. John Fisher teammates play in the 2016 NCAA D-III World Series. He sat down with Jim Dixon to talk about his experiences as a D-III player in the '80s for the Marietta Pioneers.
D3: What position did you play at Marietta?
JW: I was a shortstop for three of the years and in my senior year I ended up in left field. They had a lot of infielders and lost a couple of senior outfielders so it was one of those things. I got asked to move and I said I would do it for the benefit of the team.
D3: What was it like to play for Coach Don Schaly?
JW: It was intense. He was a well-organized, structured coach and we all respected the level he pushed us to. In the end, although he could be a tough coach, when we won and saw ourselves separate from the competition, we realized what he was doing. It was an intense four years and we saw the results of it and that made it fun.
D3: What was it like to play in the D-III World Series?
JW: We played at our field at Marietta. The crowds were huge. A lot of people would argue that we had the home field advantage but as you can see, we did not win every year despite we had the home field advantage and the home crowd behind us. It was a smaller field and there was about 3,000 people and felt like 10,000 all rooting for you. It was pretty intense.
D3: Talk about playing with Terry Mulholland.
JW: We were roommates for three years. Terry was a great guy and a fierce competitor. Obviously a great ball player. The best way to describe him was that he was a left-handed pitcher. These guys are a bit quirky. He was real tough and helped us quite a bit. We lost him our junior year when he went in the first round [of the MLB draft] and we lost our No. 1 in our senior year. We made it to the final game that year and you wonder if things might have been a little different if we had him in our senior year.
Cody Wiktorski on his uncle Jeff Wiktorski
He played for four years at Marietta. He is reliving his college years with us here and is extra pumped for us. He is giving us motivation, taking pictures of old newspaper articles [on his World Series appearances]. He talked to me about staying focused, confident and taking it all in. It is stuff he talks about nw, even thirty five years later.
He [gives advice], a little here and there. He knows I am an independent person, a 'kind of let him do his own thing' type of person. I am willing to take any advice.
D3: What was it like to win the championship with the 36-8 win over Otterbein?
JW: It was a real dichotomy as it was close for the first three innings. I was fortunate that I was able to throw out a guy at home for the third out. They had already scored a run and we stopped that rally. We went out in the inning and scored nine runs or something like that and it started running from there. The next three inning were incredible. We could not make an out. Everyone drove in runs, everyone was getting hits, a lot of walks. It was 35 to something and you knew the game was won but we still continued to score runs. People find it difficult to believe we scored 36 runs in a championship game, especially against a team that we had lost to three times before.
D3: Any other favorite memories of the 1983 D-III World Series?
JW: I go back to the game a couple before the championship game. We lost our first game to Otterbein 5-4 and the second game we were down 8-0 to Cal State Stanislaus in the second inning. It was 12-3 in the seventh and we scored five in the eighth and five in the bottom of the ninth, I was lucky to score the winning run, We came back to win 13-12. Without that win we would never have made it to the championship game. I don't know where that stands in comebacks but that was a huge comeback, down 12-3 in the seventh.
D3: What life lessons did you learn as a member of the Marietta baseball team?
JW: I have to admit that any time you have the opportunity to reach a pinnacle of whatever level, whether it is a Division III World Series or something else, you should try. I guess I have been proud enough to play on and be a part of winning teams and that has carried over into my personal and business life. I have always been part of larger corporations and teams that were very successful. I can see being a sales manager like myself, I understand the importance of having great chemistry among teams. That has been one of my takeaways. I enjoy watching my nephew play and be able to relive all the events that I probably underestimated or under appreciated while I was playing. I did appreciate it but I appreciate it more now.
D3: What advice have you given to your nephew Cody?
JW: After watching him play, he is giving me advice to play ball. The only advice is incentive. At the beginning of the year we teased each other. I took pictures of my championship ring and my All-American certificate and a few more things and said 'in your senior year I would like to see you go out in style.' He told me the other day that he has all these things hanging up on his wall and that was his motivation this year and here they are. The kid is a great offensive player, a great defensive player. Once in a while there is a few tips here and there if he is not batting that well. By and large he can figure it out himself.