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Baseball: Kosderka returns to Willamette after decade of coaching at Wilsonville

Former pitcher to serve as assistant at alma mater


by: GREG ARTMAN / FILE - Matt Kosderka is returning to his alma mater, Willamette University, as an assistant coach after 10 years at the helm of the Wilsonville baseball program. The Wildcats reached the state semifinals three times during his tenure.A school parent approached Matt Kosderka soon after he was hired to take the helm of the Wilsonville baseball team, reminded him of the program’s revolving door of coaches and uttered the words, “I’ll give you three years.”

That was before the 2004 season.

Nearly a decade later, Kosderka hasn’t forgotten those words as he steps away from his first head coaching position to become an assistant at his alma mater, Willamette University.

“Looking back on where WHS baseball is versus where it was when I took over, I am very proud of what’s been accomplished — not just by me, but by our players, coaches and alums,” he said.

During Kosderka’s 10 seasons, the Wildcats made the state playoffs eight times, reached the semifinals three times (2005, 2011 and 2013) and won two conference titles (2005 and 2011) while compiling an overall record of 169-106. His players, more than a dozen of whom have gone on to play baseball in the collegiate ranks, combined to receive 19 all-state honors and 70 all-conference awards.

Willamette head coach Aaron Swick said Kosderka, a standout player at the Salem school from 1995-98, was selected for his baseball experience and familiarity with the program, among other factors.

“Matt was chosen as an assistant coach because of his excellent coaching background and his ability to help our program in many different areas,” Swick said. “In addition, Matt’s Willamette background will be very useful when trying to recruit student-athletes to our school.

“Matt has a great passion for the game of baseball, Willamette University and molding young men, and I know he will do an excellent job in his new role. I am extremely excited to add him to our staff.”

Kosderka’s coaching transition coincides with Willamette’s announcement that he will be inducted into its athletic hall of fame at an Oct. 19 ceremony and banquet at the Salem Convention Center.

The former pitcher earned NAIA first-team All-America honors and was named the Northwest Conference player of the year as a senior after setting single-season Willamette records for strikeouts (109) and innings pitched (102 1/3). He also holds school career records with 30 wins and 350 1/3 innings pitched while ranking second all-time in appearances (53), complete games (25), starts (42) and strikeouts (265).

Kosderka found coaching as an outlet after being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 21st round of the 1998 MLB Draft, playing four seasons in the minor leagues and being released in 2001.

“For many years, baseball was everything to me,” Kosderka said. ”When it was finally over, I felt a bit lost. However, when I got into coaching, I began to discover that the rewards of coaching are much higher than playing. Being able to give back to the kids and see their satisfaction when something I taught them works is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever experienced.”

Kosderka, who is still teaching physical education, health and video production at Wilsonville this year, discussed his baseball trajectory in a recent interview with the Spokesman.

WS: Why did you take the assistant position at Willamette? Had you been hoping to return to your alma mater as a coach at some point?

MK: I had always hoped to return there one day, but it had never been the right time. My four years there as a player were some of the best times of my life. I learned so many life lessons while I was there, but more importantly, I learned what it meant to be an adult, and I wanted to have the opportunity to repay those lessons. So when I was offered the job, it finally felt like it was time. I am being reminded that I don’t know near as much as I thought, as the job presents a whole new set of challenges. Fortunately for me, I love a good challenge.

WS: Were you planning on a longer playing career? Was it hard to let go?

MK: For most of my life I wanted to be a major-league pitcher, and although life in the minor leagues as a non-prospect was a very tough life, I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to chase my dream. I was released from the Rangers in 2001 and only had job offers from independent teams. I decided that, at 25, if I wasn’t advancing toward the big leagues, I needed to move on with my life. 

WS: How did you decide to pursue coaching?

MK: I knew I wanted to stay involved in baseball. It is my passion and has taught me so much about myself and life. So, I decided that coaching and teaching was the best way to do so. I spent a year as a grad assistant at Concordia in Portland as I got my MAT, and then was in search of a job. I was unbelievably fortunate that my first head coaching job was at Wilsonville. While the program had been through a few coaches in the few years before I got here, the program had so much potential.

WS: How have you grown or changed as a coach since starting at Wilsonville?

MK: In the beginning, I thought I knew more than I really did, but over time, I learned that you can never master this game. You always have to be learning and you always have to be willing to change the way you do things to keep up with the times. I was very lucky early on at WHS to have some amazing young men in our program who helped me learn those lessons and how to build solid relationships with kids, which in the end, is what it is all about. They were hungry to learn and be the best that they can be, and I will never forget their efforts. In fact, I stay in touch with many of them today. 

WS: What stands out in your mind when you think about your experience in Wilsonville?

MK: Through the years, my good fortune continued, as year after year, I was lucky to coach some great kids, who I know will go on to become great husbands, fathers and role models. Despite having a lot of success in terms of wins and loses, I think having a part in their development is what I will cherish and miss the most. And while it will be tough to not be a part of it anymore, I can take comfort in knowing that I gave everything I had to our kids and the program, and that WHS baseball is in a great place moving forward. Hopefully, the program will continue to maintain or improve on our success, both on and off the field.

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WILSONVILLE BASEBALL UNDER MATT KOSDERKA

2004: 15-8, 8-6 in the Tri-Valley League (third); lost in the first round of the 3A playoffs

2005: 22-7, 16-2 in the Tri-Valley League (first); reached the 3A semifinals

2006: 18-11, 13-5 in the Tri-Valley League (second); reached the 3A quarterfinals

2007: 16-12; 14-7 in the NWOC (third); lost in the second round of the 5A playoffs

2008: 10-15, 9-12 in the NWOC (sixth); no playoffs

2009: 15-11, 12-9 in the NWOC (fifth); no playoffs

2010: 19-8; 15-6 in the NWOC (second); lost in the second round of the 5A playoffs

2011: 23-7, 12-2 in the NWOC (first); lost in the 5A state finals

2012: 14-14, 11-10 in the NWOC (fifth); lost in the first round of the 5A playoffs

2013: 17-13, 11-6 in the NWOC (third); reached the 5A semifinals

TOTALS: 169-106 (.615) overall; 121-65 (.651) in league play; 84-52 (.618) since joining the NWOC in 2007; eight playoff appearances

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HALL OF FAME

The Willamette University Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the Class of 2013 will be held Oct. 19 at the Salem Convention Center. The 7 p.m. banquet and induction ceremony will be preceded by a 6 p.m. social hour. 

Anyone interested in attending the reception and dinner should contact the Willamette athletic department at 503-370-6420. Reservations also can be made by sending an email to athletic director David Rigsby at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The cost is $75 per person. Tables are also available.



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