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The junior outfielder and Alaska native talks with Sports Extra's Mark Janssen
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John Szefc was named Kansas State's Associate Head Coach just one month prior to the 2011 season, and the 22-year coaching veteran made a quick impact in Manhattan as he helped the Wildcats earn their third-straight NCAA Regional appearance, while Szefc advanced to the eighth NCAA tournament of his career.
Szefc, who is the program's hitting coach and oversees the team's infielders, came to K-State with eight years of experience coaching at top-tier programs. Szefc also has seven years of head coaching experience as he ran the Marist program from 1996 to 2002, winning four conference championships and making three NCAA Regional appearances.
Szefc, who has coached 60 players that were either drafted or signed pro contracts since 1997, brought an aggressive offense to Kansas State, which played right into the Wildcats' strengths. The Wildcats led the Big 12 in stolen bases for a third-straight season in 2011 with 123, which ranked third in school history. And, thanks to a late-season run that saw K-State record 124 hits over the final 11 games prior to the NCAA Tournament (11.3 hits per game), the Wildcats placed 10th in school history with 564 hits on the season.
A native of Middletown, N.Y., Szefc saw three players - Jared King, Jason King and Nick Martini - earn All-Big 12 accolades in 2011, while Jared King was named a Freshman All-American. Additionally, Jason King set the single-season (12) and career (22) sacrifice fly records, and finished third in school history with 35 extra-base hits in 2011.
Szefc came to Manhattan after a two-year stint at the University of Kansas where he was the team's hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. While in Lawrence, Szefc helped lead the Jayhawks to two Big 12 Championship appearances and a NCAA Regional berth during his first season in 2009.
With Szefc's guidance, the Jayhawks made a 17-point improvement in overall team batting average from .287 in 2008 to .304 in 2010. In Big 12 games in 2010, Kansas hit .305, which ranked second in the conference, while it led the league in base hits (304), and finished second in runs scored (195) and walks (115) during league play.
Following the 2010 season, three of Szefc's players were drafted, including Brian Heere and Robby Price, who recorded season highs in several offensive categories in 2010.
In just his first season at Kansas, Szefc's hitters raised their batting average by 14 points and scored 68 more runs than they did in the previous season. He also tutored the Big 12's first Triple Crown winner in Tony Thompson, who led the league in batting average (.389), homers (21) and RBI (82).
Szefc coached three of the top six hitters in the conference in 2009 in Thompson, Heere (.364) and David Narodowski (.354).
Prior to his position at Kansas, Szefc was the head assistant coach at Louisiana from 2003-08, running an aggressive-style Ragin' Cajun offense that saw a dramatic 60-point jump in batting average during his first three years. In fact, three of his team's batting averages still rank in the top five of Louisiana history. His 2005 squad set a school record for hits and finished second in school history in runs scored and RBI, while the 2002 team tied the school record with 145 stolen bases.
While in Lafayette, Szefc was responsible for overseeing the Ragin' Cajuns' recruiting efforts, instructing hitters and infielders and coaching third base for a program that won the Sun Belt Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in both 2005 and 2007.
During the Cajuns' Sun Belt Championship season in 2005, the offense dominated the conference and showed up nationally in major statistical categories. Louisiana finished eighth in the nation in hitting (.327), 10th in runs scored (551), 17th in slugging percentage (.495) and 23rd in doubles (155). In the conference, the Cajuns led the Sun Belt in hitting, runs scored, hits, doubles and triples. Freshman catcher Jonathan Lucroy hit .379 and was named a 2005 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.
Szefc coached three Louisiana hitters that were drafted in 2005 in Dallas Morris (24th round, Angels), Phillip Hawke (29th round, Rangers) and Justin Morgan (39th round, Cubs).
Szefc posted a 212-137-1 record as the skipper for Marist, leading the Red Foxes to their first baseball title as a member of the Northeast Conference in 1997. He also guided Marist to three more NCAA Tournament appearances in 2000, 2001 and 2002, including a 41-14 record during his final year at the school. The 2002 squad claimed a victory over Southwest Missouri State in the NCAA Lincoln Regional, while five of Szefc's players on that team went on to be selected in the MLB Draft.
Szefc won multiple awards as a head coach as he was named the 1997 NEC Coach of the year, while he earned American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Northeast Region Coach of the Year honors in 2001.
Before his arrival at Marist, Szefc spent one season with Sacred Heart University and four years as an assistant coach with his alma mater, Drexel, from 1990-94.
Szefc managed the New York Generals in the Atlantic College Baseball League (ACBL) during the summers of 1995 and 1996, guiding the club to a 47-28 record in two seasons, two consecutive Kaiser Division championships and the ACBL championship game in 1996.
Szefc played collegiately for two years at Connecticut before transferring in 1987 to Drexel. During his senior campaign for the Dragons, he was tabbed an All-East Coast Conference outfielder.
Szefc graduated from Drexel University with a degree in corporate communications in 1989. He also holds a master's degree in sports administration from Temple University.
A native of Middletown, N.Y., Szefc and his wife, Barbara, have a daughter, Anna (6), and two sons, John Michael (5) and Sam (2).