Podeszwa remains an invaluable member of UConn baseball staff
Storrs - As light faded at J.O. Christian Field early Friday evening, Chris Podeszwa drove a tractor grooming the infield dirt.
Groundskeeper is just one of Podeszwa's many talents.
There's hardly anything he doesn't do in his role as volunteer coach for the UConn baseball team.
And he does it all with great enthusiasm and energy.
Head coach Jim Penders certainly appreciates Podeszwa's contributions. He made a point to thank his former UConn baseball teammate and long-time friend after recording his 300th career win against Harford on Tuesday.
"He's indispensible as far as I'm concerned," Penders said Friday after UConn's Big East doubleheader with Seton Hall. "He's a huge part of our success. I don't know where I'd be without him. … I'm blessed to have him with me every day, that's for sure."
Podeszwa, a Waterford resident in his ninth season at UConn, is quick to deflect the praise back to Penders.
"He's a great guy," Podeszwa said. "He's extremely modest ... and always gives credit to his players and coaches consistently."
They've known each other since their playing days at UConn. As freshmen, they made a pact that whoever became a head coach first, would hire the other.
When Penders took over in Storrs in 2003, he delivered on his promise.
To pull it all off, Podeszwa has become a master juggler. He's a full-time teacher at Montville High School and dedicated father and husband. His family includes wife, Isabella, and three children - Sophia, Connor, Emilia.
During baseball season, Podeszwa leaves Montville and heads to Storrs as soon as the final bell rings. He pitches batting practice, works with infielders and hitters, and even plays shortstop at times during intra-squad scrimmages.
Not bad for a 41-year-old.
"He's just a dynamo," Penders said. "We call him the energizer bunny."
Podeszwa finds a way to make most road trips. He's learned to be a quick change artist, switching into his baseball uniform during cab rides from the airport to the baseball field, sometimes arriving in time for the national anthem.
Summers are dedicated to his family and more baseball. They live on the Cape Cod where he's been an assistant coach for Yarmouth-Dennis of the Cape Cod League.
"It's a little hectic sometimes," said Podeszwa of his life. "I've got a great wife. I have passion for what I do and I love to teach and I love to coach. … I've been fortunate to be able to do it for as long as I've been doing it."
Baseball always has been in Podeszwa's blood. His career as a player and coach has taken him to Europe. Locally, he served as an assistant at Mitchell College and at UConn-Avery Point under Roger Bidwell.
He's been successful at every stop. "I always wanted to coach," Podeszwa said. "I've been doing it since I left here. I learned a ton from Roger Bidwell."
Now UConn players are learning a ton from Podeszwa, who was part of the program's first Big East regular season championship last season and first trip to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Penders hopes his sidekick sticks around for awhile.
"He says this is heaven, but I just admire him every day," Penders said. "If I ever feel sorry for myself, I look at him and say, geez. … He brings it every day. He throws the best batting practice on the planet. He keeps everyone on their toes. He's just a great coach and a great person."
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