Coach of the Year: South Elgin thriving under Jim Kating
By Erik Jacobsen firstname.lastname@example.org June 16, 2012 5:36PM
South Elgin coach Jim Kating (left) talks to David Goins during a game last month. Kating is the 2012 Courier-News Coach of the Year after guiding the Storm to its second regional title in three years. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Mediaa
COACH OF THE YEAR
1981 – Wayne DeMaar, St. Charles
1982-85 – No teams selected
1986 – Scott Beutlich, CL Central
1987 – Kirby Smith, Barrington
1988 – Jerry Curtright, Dundee-Crown
1989 – Lloyd Stover, Burlington Central
1990 – Dave Cooklin, Elgin
1991 – Terry Schabert, Larkin
1992 – Ed Brucker, Woodstock
1993 – Jim Beck, CL South
1994 – Lloyd Stover, Burlington Central
1995 – Dave Cooklin, Elgin
1996 – Len Asquini, St. Charles
1997 – Dave Cooklin, Elgin
1998 – Len Asquini, St. Charles
1999 – Len Asquini, St. Charles
2000 – Fred Bencriscutto, Dundee-Crown
2001 – Fred Bencriscutto, Dundee-Crown
2002 – Len Asquini, St. Charles East
2003 – Joe Kowalski, Larkin
2004 – Mark Foulkes, St. Charles East
2005 – Lloyd Stover, Burlington Central
2006 – Kyle Nelson, Burlington Central
2007 – Jeff Moeller, Westminster Christian
2008 – Steve Ream, Hampshire
2009 – Kyle Nelson, Burlington Central
2010 – Jeff Moeller, Westminster Christian
2011 – Steve Diversey, Streamwood
2012 – Jim Kating, South Elgin
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:12AM
Not every high school baseball team charges out of the gate with 13 wins in its first 15 games after losing all but one of its position players from the previous year.
And not every baseball team endures a nasty stretch of eight losses in nine games at the end of the regular season and then bounces back to make its deepest playoff run in program history.
South Elgin can claim it defied the odds and accomplished both feats during a roller-coaster 2012 season that saw the Storm compile a 21-13 record and advance all the way to a sectional championship game before losing a 12-11 heartbreaker against Grant, which went on to finish third in Class 4A.
Behind the success was coach Jim Kating, who didn’t let his team get too high during its fast start or too low during its late-season downturn. His even-keel approach helped South Elgin net its second regional title in three years and also earned him 2012 Courier-News Coach of the Year honors.
“Coach Kating definitely knows his baseball,” South Elgin senior Andrew Weedman said. “He pushes us hard and he believes in us all the time.”
Sharing the praise
South Elgin had several pitchers back this spring from its successful 2011 squad, but Weedman was the only starting position player returning to the fold.
When asked what the key was to overcoming so much turnover, Kating didn’t hesitate to pass the praise on to others.
“I think that my lower level coaches do a fantastic job getting the kids prepared to come up to varsity and to be ready for the expectations we have,” Kating said. “My lower level programs have been on the winning side for the last four or five years, so that’s starting to produce and I’m benefitting from it.”
Sophomore coach Bob Slania recently moved up from the freshman level to replace former sophomore coach Mark Cameron. Kating credits those two, along with varsity assistant Ben Erickson, varsity volunteer coach Dan Koss and the rest of his staff for playing key roles in the varsity success.
With that said, the man at the top deserves his share of recognition too.
South Elgin players say Kating uses the summer season and early-season practice to move guys around to different spots on the field in an effort to figure out how best to fill out the lineup card down the road. Weedman was one such example as he moved from first base as a junior to right field as a senior to make better use of his athleticism and throwing arm.
“(Kating) knows everybody’s strength, so he tried kids at different positions just based on what he’d studied about them,” Weedman said. “A lot of times they turned out to be starting in that spot. He put us in really good positions.”
Kating’s orchestration worked so well that the Storm was 14-3 and tied for first place in the Upstate Eight Valley when the calendar turned to May. The blistering pace came to a screeching halt, though, as South Elgin lost eight out of nine during a difficult stretch of the schedule in the middle of the month to tumble out of the UEC Valley race.
Staying true to form, Kating praised his players for being able to bounce back from the rough patch, but the players say it was a collaborative effort between the coaches and members of the team.
“We really wanted to get to our potential by the end of the season,” South Elgin junior David Palmer said. “(Kating) helped us keep calm and not get too worked up when we had that little stretch where we weren’t doing so hot.”
Background put to use
Kating boasts impressive baseball credentials that include a 5½-year run in the minor leagues.
He first rose to prominence during a successful high school career at Fremd and then went on to play college ball at Triton College and Southern Illinois. He was drafted by the L.A. Dodgers in 1986 and signed as a catcher before going on to play first base and both corner outfield positions while working his way as high as Class Double-A in both the Dodgers and Oakland Athletics farm systems.
“At practice (Kating) really gets on us, and we take it to heart,” Palmer said. “He’s been there before and he’s been in the big time, so we really listen to him.”
When asked how he applies his playing career to his role as a coach, Kating starts rattling off the long list of men he for played through the years and how their wisdom influences him now.
One of those former coaches mentioned is ex-Rangers and Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy, who coached Kating in the Dodgers system. Others are longtime Fremd coach Terry Gellinger, Bob Simmons at Triton College, Richard “Itchy” Jones at Southern Illinois and his father John Kating.
“All the coaches I’ve been involved with have really shaped who I am and what I do,” Jim Kating said.
Kating doesn’t stop with his playing days, though, as he recognizes the coaches he assisted during stints at Fremd, Glenbard East and Bartlett for helping set him on the path to becoming a head coach. He finally got his opportunity when South Elgin opened in 2005, and the ever humble Kating thanks all the administrators at the school past and present for their support.
“The chance to build a program from scratch is a rarity,” Kating said. “I want to make South Elgin a place that is known for baseball and a very competitive team.”
Judging from the recent track record, Kating is well on his way to accomplishing his goal.
The Storm has finished at or above the .500 mark for five of its six varsity seasons, with its only losing campaign coming in 2007 in the varsity program’s first year. This spring marked the first time South Elgin didn’t set a program high for single-season victories, and an 11-inning loss to Streamwood in a 2011 regional championship is the only thing keeping the Storm from three straight sectional appearances.
“We’ve been to the regional championship three times in the last three years and won regionals in two of the last three years,” Weedman said. “I think (Kating) is really bringing it in the right direction and turning a young program into something really big.”