Newman University Athletics celebrated its baseball program creator, Paul Sanagorski, on Saturday, April 24, during a special ceremony and reunion.
Newman University president Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., and Director of Athletics Joanna Pryor presented Sanagorski a framed jersey of his retired number 11 before the 2 p.m. game against Rogers State.
Sanagorski’s players, alumni ranging from ’82 to ’98, joined them on the field.
Sanagorski created the Newman baseball program in 1978 when the university was known as Kansas Newman College. During his 22 years of coaching the Jets, he won 766 games — the most of any coach in Newman baseball history — and ranked No. 11 in all-time victories among NAIA coaches. He was named Coach of the Year eight times and was inducted into the Newman Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007.
He left Newman in 2000 to begin a minor league coaching career.
His entire coaching career spans more than 35 years at both collegiate and professional levels with experience at every level of the minor leagues, from rookie ball to Triple-A.
Sanagorski was head coach for the Wichita Wingnuts, but before that, he coached the Vermont Lake Monsters and was a professional hitting coach for the Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals. He also spent 12 years with the Atlanta Braves as an associate scout.
He coached the Kane County Cougars in 2002 and Jupiter Hammerheads from 2003-2005.
Sanagorski was inducted into the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
As for his time at Newman, Sanagorski said he remembered the days when there was nothing but wheat fields surrounding the baseball diamond.
“My guys had to go search for foul balls in the fields,” he said. “We didn’t have a fancy field — I had to measure and stake the diamond before games and practices — and we didn’t have lights for night games so they had to miss more classes to play during the day. But looking back, I’m just so proud of the players and all the hard work they put in. And the flexibility and support that came from the faculty was amazing.”
Zane Ehling, associate athletic director for external operations, planned the ceremony and reunion with the help of his colleagues. He jokingly said his goal was to make grown men cry, and noted that he did see a few tears on the field during the ceremony.
After the presentation of the jersey, Sanagorski alumni joined him in the Sr. Tarcisia Roths, ASC, Alumni Center for a makeshift reunion. The group shared stories of their time at Newman and reconnected with past teammates and faculty.
Ehling worked with the university archives team to have old Vantages, the student-run newspaper, displayed around the room and available for alumni to browse and reminisce.
Sanagorski said he was thankful for the time he had at Newman and even more thankful that 20-plus years later, he was able to reconnect with some of his past players.
“Being honored in this way, having my jersey displayed on the field’s fence and being given this opportunity to just hang out with my players today … I love this. The bond a coach forms with his players never goes away. I love all these guys.”
Sanagorski is currently assistant head coach for the Bishop Carroll Catholic High School baseball team.