Six days a week for the past 20 years, Mike Rozsak has driven 51 minutes from his Clover, S.C., home to Charlotte Christian School, primarily for Knights’ baseball practices and workouts.
While some would consider his work a daily grind, Rozsak sees the past two decades working as a Charlotte Christian baseball assistant with Knights’ head coach Greg Simmons as a blessing.
“When you are going to a place you love, you don’t think of it as a grind at all,” said Rozsak, also an assistant coach for the Charlotte Christian middle school football team. “It’s been a total blessing for me to be a part of this program.
“Every team has been special to me. Each year, each group has made different memories together that we will never forget.”
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Rozsak, 64, met Simmons when he was watching his youngest son, Joshua, at a baseball camp at West Mecklenburg High in summer 1995.
Rozsak and Simmons, an instructor at the camp, hit it off immediately and spent a lot of the three-day camp talking baseball.
“I remember the last day, Greg told me that he lost an assistant coach, and if there was any way I could come help him he would love to have me come be assistant,” Rozsak said.
Rozsak, who was a U.S. Postal Service carrier for 30 years and is now retired, had to check with his postmaster to make sure he could juggle the responsibilities of his job and coaching.
His schedule was hectic at times – he often used vacation time for games and practices – but he made it work.
Rozsak, the outfield and first base coach, and Simmons helped transform the Charlotte Christian baseball program from a team that went 13-17 their first year together in 1996 to winning at least 20 games in each of the past 17 seasons.
The Knights also have won 12 state titles since 1999, including the past three seasons..
Simmons said longtime assistants Joey Hall (an infield/third base coach in his 12th year) and Hugh Kemp (a pitching coach in his eighth year) also played huge roles for the team.
“It’s so hard to find great assistant coaches that stick with you for this long, and I’ve been very blessed to have that with a lot of my coaches,” said Simmons, adding that Rozsak was named NCISAA baseball assistant coach of the year last season. “Mike and I have been together for so long we are more like brothers. I can ask him anything and he will give me an honest answer point-blank.
“We’ve really seen this program grow together and we’ve all bought into the same vision and had a lot of success together,” he said.
The coaches hope to add another championship run to their resume this season as the Knights look for a fourth straight state title in May.
Charlotte Christian has another loaded lineup, led by seven seniors who have already signed to play college baseball: Dillon Carpenter (Anderson University), Josh Hall (Charleston Southern), Reece Hampton (Charlotte 49ers), Heath Hawkins (Furman), Ross Kemp (Spartanburg Methodist), Jackson Kowar (Clemson) and Bailey Lewis (Catholic University).
Simmons says the Knights hope to help Rozsak notch his 500th career victory this spring. They need just seven wins to help the 20-year assistant reach the mark.
Rozsak’s players see him as an inspiration, from his wealth of baseball knowledge to his Army service in Vietnam.
“Coach Rozsak has a lot wisdom and knowledge about baseball,” said Reece Hampton, who has played under Rozsak in the outfield the past seven years, including middle school baseball. “But as much as he knows about the game he is an even better life coach. He’s been through so much in his life, including the Vietnam War. He really has a great perspective on everything.”
Rozsak, who played college basketball as a point guard for Northampton County Area Community College (Pa.), still plays baseball.
He has championships rings for winning both the Roy Hobbs World Series in Fort Myers, Fla., and the Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series in Phoenix, playing for teams out of Kansas City and Pennsylvania.
Rozsak has six grandchildren who attend Charlotte Christian, including four granddaughters: Madison (sixth grade), Riley (fifth grade), Paris (fifth grade) and Piper (second grade); and two grandsons: Joey (second grade) and Tucker (kindergarten).
While Rozsak could easily retire from coaching, he is still as motivated as ever to help his current and future teams.
“Hopefully I get to coach some of my grandkids if they are good enough to make the team,” Rozsak said. “I would love to have that experience.”
No matter how long he coaches baseball, Rozsak says, he already has enough great memories at Charlotte Christian to last a lifetime.
“What can you say, when you’ve stepped into something you’ve always dreamed of, and the dream unfolds in front of you?” Rozsak said. “For me, it’s always been about the families and the kids and building relationships. Wins are great, championships are great, but they are nothing compared to all the great relationships we’ve built together. It’s all like one big family to me and it’s something very special. That is what is most important to me.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.