ROCK HILL, S.C. -- If all goes well, Joe Hudak will coach his 1,000th collegiate baseball game sometime within the next two seasons, but the New Castle native has no plans to hang up his spikes soon.
"All I ever wanted to do is coach baseball. I am 51 years old now and I plan to keep on coaching as long as the Lord lets me coach," said Hudak, a Shenango High graduate who recently completed his 18th season overall as a college baseball coach, including his 11th at Winthrop University.
A former baseball coach at Union High and Geneva College and an assistant at Mississippi State, Hudak now has coached 929 games and shows a 534-387-4 overall career record, including 331-250-4 at Winthrop.
This past season, he guided the Eagles to a 29-30 record, including 8-13 in the Big South Conference.
Challenge of building
What Hudak likes best about coaching is the challenge of creating a winning program.
"When you are a college coach, you are able to build your own program. The name of the game is recruiting, and you are able to recruit your own players and coaches," said Hudak, who turned both Winthrop and Geneva into winners.
"Building a program is the greatest challenge, and when you do it, it is very satisfying. When I was at Geneva, I did the same thing."
While at Geneva, he posted a 203-137 record over eight seasons.
Hudak said he has no plans to leave Winthrop, but has and will consider other opportunities.
New stadium, contract
"We just built a brand-new, $21/2 million stadium. I just signed a five-year contract here last summer. They [Winthrop] have been appreciative [of] what we were able to do here, so they made a commitment to the [baseball] program and me," he said.
Hudak came close to switching jobs last year.
"I was one of the four finalists for the University of Georgia coaching job last summer. The search committee actually recommended me, but [they] hired the [Georgia] assistant coach," said Hudak.
He said he came to Winthrop because, "I knew there was an opening and I always had a desire to coach in the Carolinas."
And he recalled, "There were 126 applicants for the job."
Eyes area talent
Hudak recently recruited Matt Repec from Boardman High to play baseball for Winthrop, and said he always is in the market for other area players.
"The Youngstown area is a great baseball area. I am very familiar with the Class B League. I played against Class AA League teams when I got out of college in the Lawrence County League," said Hudak, who is friends with Repec's coach at Boardman, Scott Knox.
In fact, when Knox was being recruited for baseball while a student at Columbiana High, he visited Geneva when Hudak was coach there, but then selected Kentucky.
In addition to Repec, Hudak said he has recruited several other players with area ties, namely Matt Wolf from Salem High, Jeff Santa and Mark Richards, both transfers from Youngstown State; and Ryan Campbell of East Liverpool, who played in the Class B league.
Malone, KSU graduate
Hudak got his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Malone College in 1972, and his master's degree in physical education and athletic administration from Kent State in 1979. He was a shortstop and pitcher for the Malone baseball team.
While at Shenango High, he played baseball under coach Tom Sovesky.
Hudak launched his coaching career at Union High in 1976, and produced a 62-30 record over four years.
Hudak is married to the former Rhonda Parrish of Rock Hill and they have a daughter, Logan Elizabeth, 6, and a son, Joseph Preston, 5.
Hudak's mother, Betty, and sister, Barb Clingensmith, still live in New Castle. His father, Joe, is deceased.