It’s been 5 years, but Kirk Engelkens is finally back where he feels he belongs: in a Milledgeville Missiles uniform.
The former Missile standout, who graduated in 2009, was hired as Milledgeville’s new varsity baseball coach at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. He replaces another former Missile, Kyle Knutti, who had his resignation as a high school math teacher accepted at the same meeting.
“I’m excited, and I’m going to put everything I’ve got into it,” Engelkens said. “It’s going to be a little weird being back in the old home-field dugout, but I’m proud to be wearing the orange and black again.”
Engelkens, who was also hired as a junior high science teacher Tuesday, spent last season as an assistant coach in the high school football, basketball, and junior high track & field programs in the Forreston school district.
And while he hasn’t yet coached baseball, he definitely has the pedigree to fall back on. He was SVM’s male athlete of the year in 2009, and he was a two-time all-NUIC baseball player during his 4-year varsity career.
Also a standout in football and basketball, Engelkens knows what the Missiles have coming up in terms of talent and future players. He’s spent several summers since graduating from high school as a youth league umpire.
“I think that gives me an advantage right now, because I know the players and feel like I have a good relationship with them,” Engelkens said. “It should be a smooth transition.
“Plus,” he added with a laugh, “they already know better than to argue with me.”
That relationship is the biggest adjustment Engelkens expects to face in his new coaching gig.
“We’re friends now, and I can joke around with them,” he said. “The big thing I’m going to have to show them is it’s not the same relationship anymore. We can still joke around at times, but I’m their coach and teacher now, not their friend.”
Engelkens made the move back to his hometown because of a better opportunity to get into the administrative side of things. With little chance of a head coaching gig in Forreston, he believes there’s a better chance to build his resume in Milledgeville.
One thing’s for sure: his work ethic hasn’t waned a bit, and he’s looking for the same thing from his new players.
“I’m not just going to show up and phone it in,” Engelkens said, “and I anticipate them working hard and putting in quite a bit of time and effort, too. If they’re not ready to work hard, it’s not going to be a lot of fun for them … but if they buy in, we can build something special.”