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Podjenski named new NC baseball coach

By RAYMOND LINEX / Corsicana Daily Sun

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Following a method that has proven successful time and time again, Navarro looked in its own backyard for its next baseball coach. On Thursday, after interviewing three finalists, college administrators named assistant Matt “Pudge” Podjenski head baseball coach.

“I’m excited,” said Podjenski, who had been the only assistant former coach Whoa Dill had in eight stellar seasons. The two were together for 307 wins and two trips to the JUCO World Series.

In 2011, the Bulldogs won it all.

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Barbara) Kavalier and (Athletic Director) Roark (Montgomery) for the opportunity,” said Podjenski, 39. “If it’s not the best (JUCO baseball job) in America, it’s one of them.”

The move mirrors other recent coaching changes that have benefited the school, including Dill, who replaced current University of Texas baseball pitching coach Skip Johnson. In football, Nick Bobeck was promoted from within and won a national title in 2010, and Johnny Estelle replaced legendary basketball coach Lewis Orr and led the Bulldogs to two national tournaments.

Podjenski’s contributions to the program’s success over the last eight years did not go unnoticed.

“We had some really good applicants,” Montgomery said. “We had three good finalists, and it was a hard decision, but I feel like we made the right choice. Matt has earned it. He had a hand in all of that success.

“We were able to be very successful with Bobeck, Whoa and Johnny, who proved to be tremendous winners and fed off the veterans who had coached them.”

Podjenski said Job No. 1 was calling players to let them know the transition will be a smooth one. They will be returning to the program they are accustomed too. Secondly, the program now needs an assistant, something that will be taken up Friday with administrators, he said.

Dill, who resigned in May, praised the hire.

“I am proud of (Podjenski),” said Dill, who left coaching to spend more time with his family. “He deserves it. He has been with me for eight years, and he put his time in, working hard. And he’s a great guy. …

“I think he’ll do a great job, and he’s got a great club coming back. He’s in a good situation with a lot of sophomores.”

Navarro went 31-22 last fall, and advanced to the Region XIV tournament as the East Zone’s second seed.

Montgomery praised Podjenski for continuing to recruit and maintain the program even after Dill’s departure, and his own uncertain future. Still, he expects some level of transition.

“There will be a few growing pains like there always are,” he said, pointing to new responsibilities that fall on the program’s top official. “But Whoa didn’t go to the World Series in his first year.”

It’s Podjenski’s first head coaching job. The Omaha, Nebraska native played college baseball at the University of Missouri, and first became acquainted with Corsicana as an assistant at Hutchinson Community College out of Kansas. His teams would travel here to play the Bulldogs.

After a stint at Grayson County College in Denison, Podjenski came to Navarro when Johnson left for Texas, filling Dill’s vacated assistant’s role.

“You always feel like you are ready when an opportunity may come,” Podjenski said. “Whoa’s done a great job allowing me to work. He wasn’t a micro-manager.

“We both did a lot of recruiting, and he did a great job preparing me for that and day-to-day things.”

The 2011 national championship, understandably, ranks No. 1 on his list of memories the last eight years.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Podjenski said. “Hitting a walk-off home run to win the national championship, it’s like shooting a 12-point buck the first time you go deer hunting.”