By Bryan Nichols
UPPER BURRELL, Pa. – Zach Jankowski will be the head coach of the first baseball team at Penn State New Kensington in several years.
Baseball has been absent from PSNK (Penn State New Kensington) for several years. The lack of players as well as a coach has been a problem. Jankowski was offered the job of head coach and accepted the responsibility of coaching the team and rejuvenating the program. He said that he was much honored that PSNK chose him to lead this team.
Jankowski said he has been associated with baseball ever since he was 7 years old when he began to play T-ball. Ever since then he has been associated with the sport as a player and a coach. His first coaching job was in 1997, the year after he had graduated. Jankowski said he wanted he wanted to become a coach to because he has always been competitive, and coaching helps satisfy his urges. He helped coach an 8-9 year old team in Vandergrift. Jankowski was still playing baseball him self at this time, so he came around and helped whenever he had the time to.
“First real coaching job was in 2002,” Jankowski said. “Varsity assistant at Kiski Area.”
Jankowski is also a teacher at the high school as well. He was the assistant coach at Kiski from the years of 2002-2005. He was then awarded the head coach in 2006-2007. Unfortunately for Jankowski, Kiski decided to open up the job in 2007. It came as a surprise to him because he said they made tremendous progress and had built a program from virtually nothing.
“Some tough decisions that I had to make regarding cuts and playing time angered some parents connected with the school board, and the rest is history,” Jankowski said. “So they hired some other guy and I started looking around for other opportunities.”
Once Jankowski was done coaching at Kiski Area, he then called the coach at Plum High School and he was happy to give Jankowski an assistant position. He then applied for the job at PSNK and got it.
“I took the job because I wanted a new challenge and wanted to get away from all of the parents and political nonsense that goes along with coaching in high school,” Jankowski said. “I thought it would be very refreshing.”
Jankowski said he is so passionate about baseball because there are so many things that intrigue him about the sport. He says baseball intrigues him because one doesn’t have to be a great athlete to be a good baseball player. Jankowski said that average athletes that work hard to develop skills and understand the game can develop into very good baseball players. He also says that he gets “high” from helping people improve themselves.
“Teaching and coaching are the two careers in this world where you can really impact young people,” Jankowski said. “I coach baseball over other sports because that is where my experience and knowledge is the best, but it is teaching and coaching that intrigues me, the subject or sport doesn’t really matter that much.”
Jankowski said that rebuilding this baseball program is very important to him. He said he hates to fail at anything that he does. His goal for the fall season was to simply field a team and get through it without having to forfeit any games. Jankowski said his goals for the spring are also similar.
His future, however, is unclear. Jankowski said he takes it one day at a time, and decides with his family at the end of each season what is best for them. He is optimistic for next season. The university hopes to keep him for years to come.
“Goals for next fall are to have 20-25 players and be a much more competitive team as far as wins and losses.” Jankowski said.