With baseball in his blood, Polak brings passion to new role as QND’s skipper
QUINCy — Rich Polak was where you’d expect him to be on a wintry Thursday night.
Throwing pitches and teaching swing mechanics.
“Baseball is my life,” he said.
It’s his livelihood and his passion, too. So for the owner of Complete Game Training Academy, coaching the game comes naturally. His fit as the new Quincy Notre Dame baseball coach seems natural, too.
QND athletic director Bill Connell introduced Polak as the next head coach during a Friday morning press conference. Polak replaces Ryan Oden, who resigned December 7 after six seasons at the helm and 12 seasons overall with the QND program. The Raiders went 125-31 during Oden’s six seasons.
The team Polak inherits should add to that winning tradition.
“Probably 80 percent of those in the program from seniors down have played for me or I’ve trained at some point in their careers,” Polak said. “I’m super excited about that. A lot of talent with that group. Coach O has done a phenomenal job with that program.
“He really set some great foundation pieces for us. Hopefully I can steer the ship right and get the most out of them because those guys can play.”
The Raiders return six everyday starters and their top two starting pitchers from a team that went 32-3 and reached the Class 2A sectional championship. Eight of QND’s seniors have signed a national letter of intent with a college program, including three within the Great Lakes Valley Conference and two with John Wood Community College.
“That’s one of the things that was so attractive to me,” Polak said. “Especially with the senior leadership of this group, it’s not like I have to go out there and spend three hours on bunt defense or first and thirds. It’s more of, ‘Hey, let’s let these guys go out there and do their thing and keep them between the lines. Don’t screw it up.’”
Polak and Oden served on the same QND staff for from 2012-16 under then head coach Chris Martin. Polak stepped away following the graduation of his son, all-state slugger Joey Polak, in order to track his son’s collegiate career.
With Joey Polak now an assistant coach at Maryville University, the time was right for his father to chase this opportunity.
“I thought if I was ever going to come back this would be the group to do it with,” Polak said. “It’s not just the seniors. There are players at all levels in there. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this. There’s going to be a lot of work, but there’s also going to be a lot of fun.”
That’s because this team is intent on creating a legacy.
Polak can help do that. A all-state player at Chicago Brother Rice in the mid-1980s, Polak played for the New York Yankees in their minor league system for seven years after being drafted in the 20th round of the 1989 amateur draft following a career at the University of Central Florida.
He was an assistant softball coach at Culver-Stockton College and an assistant baseball coach at Quincy Notre Dame before opening Complete Game in November 2014. Polak has 71 players on six teams that travel throughout the Midwest during the summer representing Complete Game.
During his stint as an assistant coach at QND, the Raiders won two regional titles and a sectional crown, but they haven’t been to the state tournament since finishing second in Class A in 2004.
“We haven’t reached the ultimate goal for a long time at the school,” Polak said. “I think every one of these guys have that thought process that it’s where they want to get to. They’re also realistic to understand you can’t just throw your glove out there and say, ‘Hey, we’re QND.’ You have to go earn it, and I think that’s what makes this group really special.”
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