Belleville East administrators may not have realized it at the time, but Ryan Wiggs has been preparing for a future role as the Lancers’ varsity baseball coach for as long as he can remember.
“No joke, this is literally a dream come true for me,” said the 27-year-old Wiggs, who was officially hired as the new Belleville East coach on Tuesday by the District 201 school board. “I’ve been wanting this and working toward this since I was probably a 14-year old kid coming to Belleville East as a freshman.
“I was always one of those guys that thought he could be a better coach than a player and I always thought like a coach. I’m just excited to get this opportunity at this time.”
Former East baseball coach Todd Blomberg resigned in late September not long after being named assistant athletic director.
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Wiggs is only the fourth baseball coach in Belleville East history, following Larry Patton, Dennis Schutzenhofer and Blomberg. Blomberg had a record of 299-177 and his teams won four regional titles and reached the state tournament in 2003.
It would have been tough to stay more in-house for a coaching hire than with Wiggs. He played baseball at Belleville East and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, then did a short coaching stint at Delavan before spending the last three seasons as the head coach of the Lancers’ junior varsity team.
“His focus has always been to be the head coach at Belleville East at some point and it really showed,” Belleville East Athletic Director Mark Larsen said of Wiggs, who teaches social studies. “He’s everything you’d want as coach and a person. We’re looking forward to him taking the reins and continuing what those other guys started.”
Larsen said Wiggs’ experience, along with a positive demeanor and confident approach, made him a solid choice as Blomberg’s successor.
“Just the way he conducts himself and carries himself,” Larsen said. “He just exudes that attitude all the time, it wasn’t just in the interview or the day after the interview. It’s every day with that kid.
“He wanted to be the head baseball coach at Belleville East.”
Wiggs was an infielder at Belleville East and SIUE, playing shortstop and second base in college. He said being a part of the Lancers’ coaching staff has given him a good perspective on young players transitioning up to varsity at the same time he will be.
“It’s a unique situation and I understand completely how big the shoes are I have to fill,” Wiggs said with a nod toward Blomberg. “Not only have I coached with him the last three years but I also played for him, so I have a lot of respect.
“I’ve been a Lancer forever and that was always my plan. I’m so grateful and so fortunate and really looking forward to leading this program.”
Wiggs said he will meet with the players on Wednesday to help develop an offseason workout plan. He’s eager to put his own stamp on the program, but is also mindful of the winning tradition of those that came before him.
Wiggs is also in the interesting situation of having his father, Kevin Wiggs, on the coaching staff.
“He’s taught me everything I know about baseball,” Ryan Wiggs said of his father.
Larsen said he looks at Wiggs as being extremely mature for his age.
“He’s been the JV coach the last few years and has done a great job,” Larsen said. “He’s wise beyond his years. I always joke with people that he’s one of the oldest 27-year-olds I know.”