After spending the past five summers around the program as both a player and a coach, Junction City Brigade head coach Seth Wheeler has resigned from his position.
This announcement comes a couple of days after the Brigade fell to the Topeka Golden Giants in the Cowdin Cup Championship game on Saturday in Topeka.
Wheeler mentioned a desire to devote more of his time to his position as the pitching coach at Emporia State as one of the reasons that he is leaving the Brigade.
“This isn’t a spur of the moment thing. This is something Cecil (Aska, the general manager of the Brigade) and I have been talking about all summer. We had a basic understanding that this was going to be my last year doing it. The organization gave me an opportunity that I couldn’t replace anywhere else. To give me the opportunity at the time that they did kind of got me started. My role there has kind of been served. I got to continue on the tradition of the Brigade. It’s gotten to a place where I need to focus on (Emporia State) rather than taking three months off in the summer to go coach another team,” Wheeler said. “I feel like the Brigade are in a really good place right now. It’s a time where I can step away and the team won’t skip a beat. I’m also getting married in a couple weeks, so trying to convince the wife that I’m going to leave for three months out of the year to coach a team in Junction City doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”
Aska confirmed Wheeler’s decision.
“He’s getting ready to get married. I think his lifestyle is changing. We had talked about it earlier this summer that (Wheeler leaving) was probably going to be a possibility. I think the world of Seth. I really respect his coaching ability and the way he approaches the whole game. He takes a lot of the load off of me. I’m going to definitely miss that. I understand that when you get married, you’re going to have to make some adjustments. Unfortunately, we get the short end of the stick. It’s been a great run with him,” Aska said.
Aska noted that the timing of Wheeler’s decision did not surprise him.
“I always thought we would have him for about three years anyway. I expected him to be moving up to another level with his coaching. It’s just part of baseball and how things go. He’s a great guy and I wish him nothing but the best,” Aska said.
Wheeler was part of two Cowdin Cup Championships with the Brigade. He was an assistant coach on the 2014 team that brought the Brigade its first championship, and was the head coach on the 2016 team that won its second. Wheeler mentioned some of his favorite memories with the Brigade, as well as what being a part of the team has meant for him.
“I’ve been there for five years. I’m obviously extremely grateful for the opportunity that they gave me. Shane Sieben (the Brigade’s head coach before Wheeler) gave me my first coaching job ever. I was right out of college and he let me be an assistant, and when Shane stepped down, they felt comfortable handing the job to me. Coaching the Brigade has gotten me to where I am at Emporia State. A huge reason why I was hired there was the head coaching experience and the success that we had with the Brigade. Being a part of the 2014 and 2016 teams was special. This summer was about as much fun as I could have. The last two summers have been extremely special for me,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler’s exit also coincides with the exit of Brigade senior outfielder Cole Brecheisen, who has been a part of the organization for about as many years as Wheeler.
“(Myself and Cole) kind of talked about it quite a bit, especially coming down the stretch the last week or two. He’s been here for four years, and I’ve been here for five. We’ve spent a lot of time together. This has both been our last summers (with the Brigade). That last game at Rathert Stadium (a 7-5 victory over the Topeka Golden Giants) was pretty cool. It was a cool way to go out at Rathert. It was a really fun, tight, game where we made a lot of big plays and found a way to win it. It was cool for Cole and I to go through that together,” Wheeler said.
Aska noted that the Brigade hope to select a new head coach sometime before September.