Bob Wickman file photo
Former Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Bob Wickman — seen here in this 2000 file photo — saved 267 games during his 15-year career.

He might be known as a former major league baseball player to most people, but to the members of the River Valley High School baseball team, Bob Wickman is the person who stepped up to help out after their coach was fired.

Wickman, a two-time All-Star relief pitcher who spent five years with the Milwaukee Brewers, has been coaching the Blackhawks for the past two weeks after Andy Cowley was abruptly fired at the Spring Green school.

River Valley athletic director Eric Briehl said he could not talk about anything surrounding the firing of Cowley.

"Our head baseball coach two weeks ago was dismissed, which I can't go into," Briehl said on Wednesday. "I'm not allowed to go into details."

Wickman was serving as an unpaid assistant for the Blackhawks and he agreed to take over the team.

Reached by phone, Wickman declined an interview, saying the job was temporary for now. Wickman was named coach for the remainder of the season, although there is a chance he could return in the same capacity next season.

"As Bob mentioned to me, he said this is a good period of time for a month where he can get his feet wet and see if it's something he'd be interested in in the future," Briehl said.

"I know he has also mentioned to me, 'If you have someone that would be a real excellent candidate ...' (Wickman) wants to remain in the baseball program in one capacity or another. I think we'll see how he feels about running the show for the rest of this year and see what his thoughts are."

Wickman did say briefly he never expected to be in this position.

"On the whole, I definitely did not have intentions of doing this," he said. "I have three children I enjoy watching sports with and I didn't retire from baseball to take a head coaching job this quick."

Wickman retired after the 2007 season, following a 15-year career during which he played for the New York Yankees, Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks. He appeared in 835 games with a 63-61 record and an ERA of 3.57.

He posted 267 career saves, including a club-record 139 with the Indians. He saved a career-high 45 games for Cleveland in 2005.

Wickman played at UW-Whitewater for three seasons and was the school's first major leaguer. His No. 20 jersey was retired by the school in 2003. Wickman attended Oconto Falls High School.

So, how did he wind up at River Valley? Wickman's wife, Sue, is from the Dodgeville area and the couple built a home in the River Valley school district and moved there following Wickman's baseball career, according to Briehl.

"He's got younger kids coming up through the grade school and wanted to become involved, so he had been helping us with our baseball program," Briehl said.

While having a former major leaguer as a coach might have been unusual at first, the players quickly got used to having Wickman around.

"He's been around the community for two or three years," Briehl said. "The kids were quite familiar with Bob and who he was, so it wasn't like somebody came in and it's the first time you're meeting someone who was a former major league baseball player.

"(He) knows the families, knows the kids and has become part of our school district and our communities. I think (the change) was pretty matter of fact."

The Blackhawks are 10-9 — 5-6 in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference, good for fourth place as of Wednesday.

Briehl described Wickman as "down to earth" and said his motivation for taking the coaching job was simply to help the players salvage the final month of the season. "For the benefit of the kids is the reason he stepped in," Briehl said.


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