|Stalowy serves as coach on the field for Redbird baseball|
|Written by Tony Andracki, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Thursday, 23 April 2009 18:00|
Redbird senior Mike Stalowy is no stranger to change.
When he came to ISU four years ago, he took ground balls at third base, second base and shortstop. His junior year, he switched to first base and stayed there all season before making the move to second base this season for the 'Birds to replace the injured Kevin Tokarski.
Stalowy has also watched the ISU baseball program go through transformations.
When asked to describe his four years at ISU, Stalowy responded with a single word: change.
"There's been a lot of change in the program," he said. "Time goes by fast. I still remember my first game and now I'm getting up to the end of my career here. A lot of things have happened and we're moving in the right direction now."
Stalowy is moving in the right direction personally as well, securing two separate coaching jobs for life after his career as a player is over.
The native of Joliet, Ill., will coach for the Grand Lake Mariners of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League this summer and will help out with the Redbirds next year as a coach.
"If he wanted to be a college coach, I think he'd be a great one," ISU head coach Jim Brownlee said of his even-keeled second baseman. "I think he understands the game. That would be an outstanding future for him.
"I would take him on my staff any day. I'm sorry I'm not gonna get to coach with him next year," said Brownlee, who is retiring after the 2009 season.
When Brownlee looks for a coach on the field, he automatically looks toward the middle of the diamond.
"I think [Stalowy] and [senior shortstop] Collin [Salzenstein] have done an excellent job," he said. "Having those two guys as seniors in the middle of the diamond, we're very lucky and that's the reason we're having the year that we're having."
Brownlee attributed Stalowy's leadership abilities to the way he handles people and to the attitude he brings to the park day in and day out.
"He's good for his teammates because he picks them up and he cares about them," Brownlee said. "He cares about this program; he's bought into it. He's a great Redbird. He's gonna be very successful in life because he's got a great attitude and he's a good person.
"He's one of the best leaders that I've ever had . He understands how to treat people. If all of our players treated people the way Mike Stalowy does, they'd all be successful."
Brownlee has plugged Stalowy into the three-hole in the batting order this year, a spot the senior has not hit in in college, but was very familiar with, having hit there his whole life prior to ISU.
"I thought we were unfair putting him in the three-hole, but he certainly has stepped up because he's a competitor," Brownlee said. "He likes to compete. When you tell him he can't do something, he's gonna do it. He's gonna be successful."
Stalowy started out slow, but now says he feels comfortable at the dish hitting third.
"That's pretty much what baseball is," he said. "If you feel comfortable, things are going to come natural to you."
Things have been coming naturally to Stalowy lately, as he has raised his average to .350 after a recent three-week tear at the plate.
He leads the Redbirds in almost every offensive category, including RBIs (29) and runs (28).
"I think a lot of the guys have been counting on me when there's runners in scoring position and I just keep getting good pitches to hit and putting them in play," Stalowy said.
The recent offensive surge earned the Redbird senior a Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week award two weeks ago after going 10-for-19 while driving in eight runs and scoring six during the Redbirds' 3-1 stretch.
Not only does Stalowy bring it with the stick, but while moving around more defensively for the Redbirds than Mark DeRosa has for the Cubs, he is holding his own in the field, committing just one error in 132 chances with a .992 fielding percentage at second base this year.
Brownlee is appreciative of Stalowy's willingness to move positions, something he has done without so much as a complaint muttered under his breath.
"I think Mike Stalowy's just a baseball player," Brownlee said. "And he wants to do whatever he can do to help the team win and that's why he's my kind of player and one of my favorites of all time.
"He doesn't care where he plays, he just wants to play. Whether he's having a bad day or a good day, he's gonna play hard. And that's what makes him a great college baseball player."
Stalowy only has another month or so to be a great college baseball player, as just 16 regular season games remain in his ISU career.
"I don't tend to take my senior year any different than any other year I've been here," he said. "The only thing is that every game I play is one less game that I have to play. I definitely come out ready to play every single day because every game could be my last game.
"Never live with regrets. I'm very happy that I came to Illinois State. I'm very proud to be a Redbird and I wouldn't trade it in for the world."
Well spoken from the unquestioned coach on the field for the 2009 Redbirds.