Underneath his burnt orange and navy blue baseball uniform is a man who admired Yankees’ catcher Thurmond Munson during his youth and went against the moral conduct of baseball by finding a liking for both the Yankees and the Red Sox. This dedicated father of three runs marathons in his spare time, while upholding his distinguished coaching career. Meet John Pawlowski, Auburn University ‘s head baseball coach.
A sixth round draft pick for the Chicago White Sox, Pawlowski made his major league debut in September 1987. After playing seven years for Chicago, the Clemson University graduate spent time with the California Angels and the Baltimore Orioles before returning to his alma mater to begin his coaching career.
“It was going into the parks and into Fenway Park and seeing the history, going into Yankee Stadium and seeing the monuments,” said Pawlowski of his favorite major league memories. “I grew up in upstate New York , so I grew up watching them [the Yankees] and knew a lot about the history. I think that was the greatest thing [about playing in the majors]—having the opportunity to actually be out there and be around those monuments,” Pawlowski said.
Pawlowski’s success at Auburn can be defined by last season’s 43-21 (.672) record, marking the team’s first trip to the Southeastern Conference tournament in six years. The team not only won the SEC West, but also set a new school record for most SEC wins in a season.
“When we got an opportunity to host [the College World Series Regional] it was awesome. It was an unbelievable experience for our players, for our fans and for Auburn . It was a great accomplishment,” Pawlowksi said.
Although Auburn ‘s accomplishments are plentiful under Pawlowski, who is entering his third season, he is sure to remind his players that games are not solely about winning. In December 2007, Pawlowski’s second daughter, 16-year-old Mary Louise, was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer. Though his mind may occasionally drift from his routine duties at Plainsman Park to the health of his daughter, Pawlowski uses the battle as inspiration and reflection on the moral lessons he teaches his players.
“There is more than just winning and losing a baseball game. Life is a tremendous challenge and we all face some type of adversity or obstacle in our life,” Pawlowski said. “It is how you choose to deal with it. Everyone has a story to tell- good, bad or indifferent, and I think we can learn from each other.”
Pawlowski’s Tigers seek to improve upon last year’s commendable season by keeping their eyes set on Omaha . The Auburn head coach reminds himself each day of this goal by a simple glance at a small picture kept in his office of Rosenblatt Stadium’s imminent replacement.
“We want to win a national championship,” Pawlowski said. “That is our ultimate goal.”