Park baseball: McGowan gets his shot
Though it may be his first head coaching job, John McGowan isn't new to Park baseball.
McGowan, a Park graduate who has been involved with the baseball program for many years, was hired as the Wolfpack's new baseball coach last week.
"I love the game, I love Park athletics and I just want to continue the rich tradition that our baseball program has had in the past," McGowan said. "I want to carry that tradition on. I think I have that passion for Park and the community."
In the history of Park baseball, there have been only a handful of head coaches -- Granville "Granny" Smith, Bill Kroschel, Reid Tschumperlin and Kerry Ligtenberg. In addition, Park graduate Mike Walseth was a co-head coach with Kroschel. McGowan played for Kroschel and Walseth at Park.
McGowan takes over the job from another Ligtenberg, a former Major League closer and another Park graduate, who stepped down from the job this fall.
Last spring Ligtenberg was hired as the pitching coach for the St. Paul Saints and he said he plans on returning to the team this year. Ligtenberg lives in Eagan, where he also helps out with his son's youth team. He said between the Saints, Park and his family, he felt he was spreading himself too thin.
"In order to get the Park program turned around we really need someone who is in the community and that is willing to work with the traveling teams and the association a lot," Ligtenberg said. "I could have come back and coached, but I felt like I'd be doing a disservice to Park if I kept the job. For me, I like to be 100 percent involved and give things everything I have, but between the three things I wasn't really able to give 100 percent to any of them."
McGowan, a math teacher at Park, is 1990 Park graduate and has been an assistant coach in the program for the past five years. He is also the defensive coordinator for Park's football team and has been very involved in Cottage Grove Athletic Association baseball, holding the title of traveling director. Prior to coming back to Park, McGowan, who lives in Cottage Grove, was a teacher at Edina High School and coached football, baseball, and basketball at Edina High School.
"I'm honored to take the head coaching position that has been held by great, Hall of Fame coaches like Granny Smith and Bill Kroschel along with Mike Walseth and Reid Tschumperlin," McGowan said. "Those are superior coaches in the game of baseball. I'm excited to be a head coach like those guys and continue on that tradition."
McGowan's son Mikko is a sophomore at Park. His oldest son, Jordan, is a Park graduate who will be attending the University of St. Thomas and playing baseball for the Tommies.
McGowan said he's looking forward to heading the program at Park and is currently working on putting together the rest of his coaching staff.
"I have my own ideas about how I want the program to look," McGowan said. "It starts with the youth programs for sure. That's a big part of the plan. I just want to continue the good things Park has done in the past and work on improving the things we need to improve."
Ligtenberg coached alongside McGowan for two years and said he believed he'd do a very good job.
"I would've liked to have been there longer and gotten some more work done, but John will be committed," Ligtenberg said. "He does a great job with the kids and works really hard. I think John will be there a while and it'll be good to have some stability. I wanted to try and see that freshman group through, because I think they really have some potential. I would've liked to see it all the way through, but things change. This Saints thing kind of came up and I'm going to go with it. "
McGowan believes the sky is the limit for Park baseball.
"We've had great players come through the program and some great teams," he said. "I feel like we're going to continue to have great players year-in and year-out, so our goal will be looking to win a state championship."