By STEVE KRAH
More than five decades after he began, Tim Stoddard is still chasing championships.
The man who helped win a state basketball title at East Chicago (Ind.) Washington (1971), a national basketball crown at North Carolina State University (1974) and a World Series ring for the Baltimore Orioles (1983) has also been an assistant coach at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., for five College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin regular-season crowns (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021) with three CCIW tournament trophies (2017, 2018 and 2019) plus an NCAA Division IIII World Series appearance (2017).
Stoddard, who turns 69 on Jan. 24, works primarily with Cardinals pitchers — something he did the previous 22 seasons at Northwestern University (1994-2015), where he was on the staff of fellow Central Illinois Collegiate League alum Paul Stevens (now a University of Chicago assistant).
More than two dozen of Stoddard’s pitching pupils have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Three former Northwestern arms — J.A. Happ, Bo Schultz and George Kontos — have pitched in the majors.
North Central head coach Ed Mathey was leading the Northern Illinois University program when he became acquainted with Stoddard and brought his friend in as a part-time coach before the 2016 season. Mathey and assistant Joe Heller are the full-timers among Cardinals baseball coaches.
Without motion-capture equipment to analyze deliveries, Stoddard takes an “old school” approach with his NCC pitchers.
“We work on mechanics as much as anything,” says Stoddard. “We do a lot of throwing.
“The biggest thing about sports is repeatability.”
While some occasionally touch 90 mph, most throw between 83 and 87.
“Then you make sure your change-up and breaking ball is working and concentrate on throwing strikes,” says Stoddard.
The coach is a big believer in communication with his players. He encourages his hurlers to come back the next day to discuss what happened in a game or practice rather than doing it in the heat of the moment.
“I like having two-way discussions so I know what they’re thinking,” says Stoddard. “I don’t want to talk at them. I want to talk with them.
“I’ve made that approach since I started coaching. I never liked it when I was told what to do. It’s the thought process of what went into it.
“I’m trying to get them to pitch more than rare back and throw.”
Stoddard appreciates the receptiveness of his players.
“They listen,” says Stoddard. “That keeps me doing this. They respect what I say.”
North Central went 38-9 overall and 27-5 in league play and led the CCIW in team earned run average (3.41) and batting average (.309).
Unique to NCAA D-III baseball is a Triple-A program (they don’t use the term junior varsity), which allows players to develop with games and practices. North Central carried 50 players on its roster in 2021.
“The only way to get better is to play,” says Stoddard. “We get all these guys an opportunity to play and get better.”
Per D-III rules which restrict the number of active weeks during the school year, North Central players practiced with coaches in the fall and have been training on their own until team activities resume again in late January.
Stoddard has been inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jake Arzumanian, who is also in the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, coached Stoddard on the diamond at East Chicago Washington and in American Legion baseball — both at Block Stadium.
“He was a great man,” says Stoddard of Arzumanian. “He treated me tremendously. He wanted the best for kids.
“He let us have fun and play.”
Indiana Basketball Hall of Famers John Molodet was Stoddard’s high school hardwood coach. Two of his Senators basketball teammates — Junior Bridgeman and Pete Trgovich — are also Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.
Another Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer — Norm Sloan — coached Stoddard, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Thompson, Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Monte Towe and the rest the NC State Wolfpack to the ’74 national hoops title, breaking UCLA’s string of seven straight championships. Sloan is a graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. Towe is an Oak Hill alum.
Sammy Esposito, a former big league infielder, was a basketball assistant to Sloan in ’74 and was also NC State’s head baseball coach. He is in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
As a 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher, he made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago White Sox in 1975 and went on to make 485 mound appearances (all in relief). He was with the Orioles (1978-83), Chicago Cubs (1984), San Diego Padres (1985-86), New York Yankees (1986-88) and Cleveland Indians (1989).
Stoddard and fellow East Chicago Washington graduate Kenny Lofton — who played 11 seasons in the big leagues and is also in the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame — are the only two to have played in the World Series (2002 with the San Francisco Giants) and NCAA men’s basketball championship game (1988 with the University of Arizona).
Tim and wife Jane reside in Rolling Meadows, Ill. They have five children together — Laura, Anne, Ellen, Katie and Dan.