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College baseball: King joins elite in ABCA Hall of Fame

Over Wayne King Jr.’s successful 33-year career as Joliet Junior College’s baseball coach, he was inducted into the Region IV Hall of Fame in 2004, the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.

This past weekend, King again was regognized as he received one of the most prestigious honors for a baseball coach. King was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame at its banquet during the 76th annual convention Friday in Nashville, Tennessee.

The ABCA’s Hall of Fame, the highest honor bestowed by that organization, began in 1966 and includes only 20 individuals who spent the majority of their coaching careers at Illinois schools at the college and high school levels.

Only three other coaches from the Joliet area have been inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame, Gordie Gillespie in 1991 (Lewis University and University of St. Francis), Irish O’Reilly in 2008 (Lewis University) and Jim Hall in 2011 (Lockport Township High School).

King joined five others in this year’s class, John Casey (Tufts University), Tim Corbin (Vanderbilt University), Mike Kinnison (Delta State University), Mike Metheny (Southeastern Oklahoma State University) and Dennis Rogers (Riverside City College).

“It’s a Hall of Fame that shows that your peers have voted for you, and there’s a committee of retired and active coaches so it means a lot,” King said. “It’s not what you really coach for because I coached for the kids, but it shows what you’ve accomplished over the years and how much people appreciate the work that you’ve done.

“What is really humbling for me is that now I’m the fourth guy from our area. Gordie Gillespie, Irish O’Reilly and Jimmy Hall and now myself. I think that says a lot for Joliet-area baseball and what we as coaches see as the outstanding players that have come from this area. I’m very humbled to join those three guys in the Hall of Fame.”

The native of East Liverpool, Ohio, and 1982 graduate of Ohio University began his coaching career at his alma mater as an assistant coach under his coach when he played baseball there, Jerry France. King becomes the third Ohio alum to earn a spot in the ABCA Hall of Fame, joining Bob Wren and Joe Carbone, who also coached there.

After six years at Ohio, he came to JJC as its head coach in fall 1987 and became the school’s athletic director in 1996. He held those positions until his retirement earlier this year.

He had an 1,127-738-2 record with the Wolves, winning NJCAA Division III national titles in 1994, 2008 and 2012. His teams made 12 NJCAA World Series trips and took second in 1995, 2007 and 2015 and third in 1997 and 2006. JJC won 16 Region IV D-III tournament titles and seven North Central Community College Conference titles, and its stadium is named after him. In his three title years, he also was the NJCAA D-III Coach of the Year.

“My biggest influence was coach Jerry France,” King said. “He’s the one that I played for, and then he asked me to coach with him. He showed me a lot of things that you carry with you through life, like administration, how you’re going to handle kids, other coaches and umpires. I learned a lot in those years as an assistant coach at Ohio under Jerry. We made a few changes but virtually ran the same type of program for 33 years here, and it obviously was successful for us.

“I need to thank Joliet Junior College for giving me the opportunity, and I ended up just staying here for 33 years. We had a great administration and good people to work with. And I need to thank all of my assistant coaches and all of the players who played for us at the college. Those are the people who had big parts in helping me to achieve this award.”

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