ST. JOSEPH, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s tough to be the head coach at Randy Wolken Field, especially when you’re not Randy Wolken. Larry Sparks takes over as only the second-ever head coach for SJO softball. He follows a 39-year legacy, where Wolken led the Spartans to more than 1,000 wins, and 6 trips to state.
“We’ll it’s challenging, but it’s rewarding too, obviously following Randy there’s high expectations to do well,” Sparks said. “Girls grew up wanting to play for him, wanting to put that spartan uniform on.”
But who better to take on the role than Sparks. He got his start coaching softball in 2000, as an assistant coach under Wolken. And he’s no stranger to the current team either. He coached several of the Spartan underclassman when he was the head coach at SJO middle school.
“Coming in as a freshman with Coach Wolken it was really scary cause like he’s been here for so long. But now having coach Sparks, I had him when I was in middle school. They’re pretty much the same person, they have a lot of the same qualities, so I feel like they’ll have the same legacy,” Savannah Smith said.
“We talk about culture all the time, it’s not always all about winning, its about being here, putting that uniform on, going hard,” Sparks said. “39 years of players before us that have put numbers on that fence”
And they’ll look to add 2019 to the fence. Their team motto this season is “99”, the number of miles between St. Joe and Peoria. They hope to make the drive back to EastSide for the State finals.