MOUNT VERNON – After so many years and so many games, coaching baseball at Dyersville Beckman is still so much fun for Tom Jenk Jr. That’s with one exception.
“The only bad thing is 40 years of bus rides, and I still haven’t found a way to get comfortable,” he said.
Levity surely belied Jenk’s true feelings after what turned out to be a wasted 50-mile trip south Tuesday night. His quest for a huge coaching milestone came up short because of a power outage.
Not from his team, mind you, but at the Cornell College diamond. Class 2A third-ranked Beckman and No. 7 Mount Vernon played to an 8-8 draw through eight inning, then had to call it a night after it was discovered the ballpark lights weren’t functioning.
The teams were scheduled to play a double-header.
Thus, Jenk will have to wait at least a couple more days to reach 1,000 career victories. He has 999, as does Dubuque Wahlert’s Jerry Roling, whose team lost a double-header Tuesday.
The two have coached against each other numerous times over the years, with Roling spending the majority of his career at nearby Cascade.
“Jerry and I are good buddies, and he does a great job of coaching, too,” said Jenk, 61, who has a career record of 999-455 “He deserves to get to that point … I’ll be glad when he gets it. If he gets it before me, I don’t care. One of us will get it sooner or later.”
Only Gene Schultz, Dennis Olejniczak and Vince Meyer have surpassed 1,000 wins in history. Schultz (Lansing Kee) and Olejniczak (Decorah) are still coaching, with Schultz the all-time leader at over 1,700.
It’s an incredibly select group Jenk and Roling will eventually join. Beckman, the two-time defending 2A champ, has a double-header scheduled Thursday night at Clear Creek-Amana, a twin-bill Jenk believes could be moved to the University of Iowa because CC-A’s diamond is flooded.
“I really don’t care. Honestly,” Jenk said of hitting 1,000. “It’s never been a big issue with me. My main goal is always to win a conference championship and then make my way down to Principal Park in Des Moines (for the state tournament).”
“It can get frustrating at times coaching 15, 16, 17-year olds,” said Mount Vernon Coach Jeremy Elliott. “To go through that frustration year in and year out … He’s had the fortune of having some good players there over the years and some good coaches for a number of years that have helped him. But to stick with it for that long, you’ve got to have a real enjoyment of the game. And I think Coach Jenk has that.”
Beckman (19-8) held a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday night, but Mount Vernon (17-8) tied it with a pair of runs, including a tying one that scored on a two-out infield throwing error. Mitch Steger’s RBI single gave the Blazers the lead back in the eighth, but again MV tied it, this time on freshman Jared Booth’s two-out RBI infield single to second.
That’s when the umpires decided it was too dark to continue.
“(Jenk’s milestone) was in the backs of our minds coming into the game,” Steger said. “We tried to just focus more on the game and get the job done. But we had a rough night, this is a rough field to play on. Not trying to make excuses or anything, but we didn’t play to our full potential.”
“Hopefully they weren’t feeling any pressure because there’s no pressure on them at this point,” Jenk said. “When I look at 1,000 wins, that was never a goal of mine when I got into this. I don’t feel any pressure myself, so they shouldn’t, either.”
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