By STEVE KRAH
Jim Jaworski took a piece of his northwest Indiana upbringing and his love for baseball with him to sunny Florida.
Born in Merrillville, Ind., Jaworski few up in Crown Point, Ind., attended St. John The Evangelist School in Saint John, Ind., for grades 1-8 then graduated from Andrean High School in Merrillville in 2003 and Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., in 2007.
Primarily a catcher in high school, Jaworski was a catcher, outfield, first baseman and designated hitter over his four college seasons while majoring in Mass Communications and minoring in Business.
“I’ve been very fortunate with the coaches I’ve had,” says Jaworski, who played for Dave Pishkur at Andrean and Rick O’Dette at Saint Joseph. Jaworski was a Pumas assistant on O’Dette’s staff in 2008.
Pishkur, who picked up his 1,000th career victory and surpassed LaPorte legend Ken Schreiber to become Indiana’s all-time coaching wins leader in 2019, has led the 59ers to eight state championships (2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019).
O’Dette has amassed more than 500 NCAA Divison II victories in 20 seasons — 17 at Saint Joseph’s and three at Saint Leo (Fla.) University.
When Saint Joe closed its doors after the 2017 season, O’Dette landed at Saint Leo, which means he is a couple hours’ drive from Jaworski.
“Our relationship goes pretty deep,” says Jaworski of Coach O. “His kids were in my wedding — all that stuff.”
Jim and wife Stephanie Jaworski are expecting their first child in March 2021.
Other SJC alums (#ForeverPumas) cling to their alma mater while they’ve also adopted Saint Leo and have been known to show up at Saint Leo game pre-COVID-19.
“There are a lot of great memories at Gil Hodges Field for sure,” says Jaworski. “It’s a loyal group,” says Jaworski.”
The 2021 season will be Jaworski’s 12th with the Daytona Torturgas, a minor league affiliate since 2015 of the Cincinnati Reds (the team was tied to the Chicago Cubs 1993-2014). Since November 2009, he has been general manager since December 2018.
He has also held the positions of ticket and group sales manager, director of group sales, vice president of business development and assistant general manager while with Daytona.
Jaworski was a media relations intern with the Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers from January to November 2009.
As general manager, Jaworski has a hand in many aspects of operating the Tortugas. There are full-time and seasonal employees.
The cancellation of the 2020 Baseball Winter Meetings have slowed down the hiring process a little, but Jaworski expects internships to begin in January.
Last week, Major League Baseball extended invitations to 120 minor league teams and Reds also reached out to Daytona. The deadline for accepting those invites is Friday, Dec. 18.
“We need to make sure we gather all the information,” says Jaworski. “If make sure that move, it has to be what is best for the fans, city, community and team.
“It’s all about the game of baseball and doing things here in the community,” says Jaworski. “We’re growing the game we all know and love.
“That’s a pretty cool thing.”
It remains to be seen what league and level Daytona will land in for 2021. In recent years, the Tortugas were in the Advanced Class-A Florida State League. Going forward, Minor League Baseball will have Triple-A, Double-A, Advanced-A and Low-A with rookie-level leagues being eliminated or re-cast.
The pandemic wiped out the entire 2020 minor league season at historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark and there have been furloughs, but the team has hosted 50 to 60 events since the end of May.
There has been everything from movie nights using the video board, small baseball tournaments and showcases on the artificial turf (installed for the 2019 season), a Bob Ross waiting classic, chicken sales, a dance recital, corporate outings and various awards programs for Volusia County schools. A second blood drive is slated to the park Thursday, Dec. 17.
“We utilize the ballpark as much as we can with health and safety being our No. 1 priority,” says Jaworski.
Jackie Robinson Ballpark opened in 1914 and has undergone many renovations over the years. Hall of Famer Robinson played there with Montreal Royals May 17, 1946.
Bethune-Cookman University, a member of the NCAA Division I Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, practices and plays games at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.