Knutson takes over at Bay Port
By Rich Palzewic
SUAMICO – After waiting in the wings for 17 years, Harvey Knutson will finally get his chance to run the Bay Port varsity baseball team.
With the recent resignation of longtime head coach Mike Simoens, Knutson was hired last week to lead the Pirates going forward.
“I couldn’t be happier with the decision,” said Knutson. “I’m excited about the opportunity, but it’s also hard after working with Mike for 17 years. We had a great relationship, and I learned a lot from him. Without Mike, I wouldn’t be here, and the program wouldn’t be where it is today. If you’re talking about the game of baseball, there’s nobody that knows the game as he does. He proved that with everything he did.
Under Simoens’ tutelage, Bay Port won consecutive WIAA Division 1 state titles in 2009-10, finished state runner-up in 2012, won 10 conference titles and 20 regional titles and had 11 state appearances.
“I learned a lot more than only baseball from Mike,” Knutson said. “As a young teacher, it was a lot more about life and how to interact with people and players.”
Like any new coach taking over a program, Knutson feels he can add a few things, but his philosophy will remain much the same.
“Everyone has some different ideas and coaching styles,” said Knutson. “Everybody is different. I’m looking forward to working on that and building it. No two coaches are alike.”
Knutson, who played college baseball at UW-Platteville, also coached one year of high school baseball in southwest Wisconsin and two years at Platteville.
Knutson said he wasn’t expecting to get the job, but it was always his hope that he’d be given the opportunity.
“When I started teaching, it was always known I wanted to coach,” he said. “I was very fortunate to start with Bay Port – such an established and great program. I have a lot of experience, and I feel I have earned the opportunity.”
Fox River Classic Conference rival Green Bay Preble has made it to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in Appleton four consecutive years, but Knutson feels his Pirates will be right there next season.
“We play in a very tough conference with a lot of great teams,” he said. “We had a great year, but we graduated some key players. We will have some strong returning and up-and-coming players next season. We have a lot of depth and potential in the program.”
Like Simoens, assistant varsity coach Mark Hebert is also not coming back.
“We have a great coaching staff that has been around for a lot of years – we don’t have much turnover,” Knutson said. “The coaches are committed and have great baseball minds. Coach Hebert will be a big loss. He has coached a lot of years, and I think when Mike called it a career, Mark felt it was a good time to step down as well. I’d love to have him around – he meant a lot to our program. Mike and Mark are two of my best friends – our families do a lot together outside of baseball.”
Other returning assistant coaches are Jeff Luedke, Trent Noe, Jon Jagler, Paul Alexander, Jesse Wiltzius and Brad Klimek.