What made Brown Deer’s Kevin Wild as good as he is on the baseball diamond is the same thing that makes him good in his other four sports: basketball, football, golf and soccer.
And Wild’s baseball coach Mike Donahue ought to know that best, because he also served as Wild’s quarterbacks coach last fall when the multi-tasking Falcons star was leading his team to a Woodland Conference title and a berth in the third round of the WIAA state playoffs.
“The biggest thing that’s always separated him from others is his ability to sense his surroundings,” said Donahue, who was named the 2008 CNI All-Suburban Baseball Coach of the Year.
“It’s what made him a great point guard in basketball, too. He just sees things before they’re there. He’s just a step ahead of everyone. How he can keep his focus like that (on each sport) and maintain a 3.0 GPA is just amazing. I don’t know how he does it.”
Wild was named to this year’s CNI All-Suburban Baseball Team after being named to the 2007 CNI All-Suburban Football Team and the 2007-08 CNI All-Suburban Basketball Team. He is just the second athlete to earn all three CNI honors, the other being West Allis Central’s Johnny Meier in 2001.
Wild and the Falcons baseball team turned a 2-9 start this summer into a slot in the WIAA state semifinals.
According to Wild, a lot of it had to do with the coach.
“He’s really a player’s coach,” Wild said of Donahue. “He’s good to us, not a person who’ll stay aloof or keep his distance. He really relates to us and is very social. Not intimidating at all. He’s a good game manager. He gambles when necessary and just does what it takes. … But trust me, he does let us know when he’s unhappy.”
Like the time during a doubleheader loss to New Berlin West late in the season where Donahue snapped at a young player for making the same mistake twice.
“For me, the biggest thing is instilling confidence in the kids,” Donahue said. “You do that and they will have confidence on the field. There are certain points where you need to get on them, but you can’t do it very often. I think when I did it, it sunk in.”
Donahue takes his coaching cues from his old football mentor at Cudahy, Carey Venne. Back in the early 1990s, the Packers stunk, but Venne molded a group that was 0-9 as sophomores into a Division 2 state champion in 1994. Donahue was a special teams player for the Packers that year.
“Carey really found a way to get the best out of a kid that he could,” Donahue said. “Some he coddled, some he yelled at, but he always made sure we had fun. You do that, the kids will always come back for more.”
Take Wild, for instance. Much like his similarly talented older brother Shaun did, Wild parcels out his time carefully, devoting all his energy to the team at hand. Starting this fall, however, he will go from multi-tasking to a singular focus as he heads over to the powerhouse junior college baseball factory Madison Tech.
“It’ll be different,” Wild said, “but I think it (baseball) is my best chance at succeeding in the big-time. I just need a coach to help me use my talents in the right way. I realize that if I were a few inches taller (he is listed at 6-foot-1-inch) I’d be playing football, but I eventually hope to fit the mold of a good (Division I) college outfielder.”
A strong season
Wild, who did not pitch for a month this season because of a sore elbow, played every position except left field and catcher during the regular season. When he returned to the mound late in the season, he was lights out.
He won four games from the hill in a three-week run during which the Falcons won nine of 11 games. Wild won three of Brown Deer’s five WIAA tournament games. He also played solid infield and had a critical home run in the sectional final win against Nicolet.
“All the kids just feed off his dedication,” Donahue said. “He’s completely gung-ho for the sport he’s in while he’s in it.”
That success left an impression on Menomonee Falls coach Pat Hansen, whom Donahue succeeded at Brown Deer six years ago and whose team lost to the Falcons in a state quarterfinal last month.
“I tell you, Kevin reminds me in his competitiveness of (Brookfield Central’s) Mike Bogard (CNI co-Player of the Year),” Hansen said. “He’s just a bulldog out there.”
Donahue said he would not have gotten anywhere this summer without the intensity of Wild and the six other seniors on the team, most of whom had experience winning league or state titles in football, basketball and track.
He was especially grateful for the leadership of Wild, a throwback athlete in this age of specialization.
“It just goes to show you that you don’t have to focus on just one sport,” Donahue said. “Each sport can make you better for the next.”
“But he’s just so good at baseball. He’s got such great arm strength. He’s got (tools) that you just can’t teach.”
But Wild, even as he is focusing on baseball in college, will remember the lessons he learned in the other sports.
“I think when I’ll get a chance, I’ll come back for a few football games this fall,” he said. “I can’t stay away from the stuff for long.”
Steven L. Tietz can be reached at (262) 446-6619.
Brown deer CNI picks
Since the team was started in 1990, eight different Falcons have made the
CNI All-Suburban Baseball Team:
2008: Kevin Wild, infielder; Mike Donahue, Coach of the Year
2006: Shaun Wild, infielder
2003: Chad Olson, infielder
2002: Eric Belter, outfielder
2000: Tommy Rapp, utility
1999: Joe Setzer, outfielder
1998: Setzer, outfielder,
1992: Scott Mirkes, catcher
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