FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
KALAMAZOO, Mich.- The start of the Western Michigan baseball season is usually greeted with great anticipation, but this year the team has another reason for excitement, as assistant coach Brent Alwine is set to make his return to the program, five months after being involved in a serious automobile accident.
Alwine was critically injured on the evening of Friday, Aug. 26, following an accident on I-94 eastbound with a semi. Alwine has made nearly a full recovery and will rejoin the Bronco baseball program moving forward for the 2012 season. The team begins small group workouts Jan. 17 and holds its first official team practice Jan. 27. Western Michigan also kicks off the season with its annual Leadoff Dinner, Jan. 28, at the Fetzer Center, with this year’s keynote speaker being WMU Hall Famer and former major-leaguer Matt Mieske.
“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to President Dr. John Dunn and wife Linda, as well as Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard for their support and well wishes through this time,” Alwine said. “Their genuine support is and always will be greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank the Western Michigan family and the support from around the nation, as it has meant so much to me and my family.
“From a health issue, I have been very fortunate. Vision was the biggest battle we were fighting. All of the sight in my left eye has returned, and its basically just down to my right eye, but everything else is fine. I am excited to return to the program and get the 2012 season underway.”
“Obviously we are extremely thankful to be moving into the season with Brent,” said WMU head coach Billy Gernon. “Having coached Brent for four years in college, I’m not the slightest bit surprised by his progress. We are excited to have him involved in the program again and to start working towards a MAC Championship.”
A 2006 graduate of IPFW, Alwine was also a student-athlete under Gernon, playing second base for the Mastodons and began his coaching career at IPFW while completing a master’s degree. Alwine moved on to serve as an assistant coach at Creighton for two seasons and rejoined Gernon at Western Michigan before the start of the 2010-11 school year.
Working with the Bronco infielders, Alwine was instrumental as WMU made a 14-game improvement in the staff’s first season, ranking WMU 10th best in the nation in terms of program turnaround. WMU’s defensive unit set two school records in 2011, posting 1,487 putouts and 622 assists. Its .963 fielding percentage was better than the previous two seasons and the Broncos turned a total of 45 double plays.
Also working with the hitters, Alwine helped Western Michigan implement a small ball style of play that brought great success. WMU finished the season ranked 16th in the nation in sacrifice bunts, with junior second baseman Zach Thoma being named the Division I statistical champion for sacrifice bunts per game. Despite changes in bat composite, Western Michigan hit 91 doubles, 12 more than the season before.
Western Michigan opens the 2012 campaign in Tempe, Ariz., with a three-game series against PAC-12 runner-up Arizona State, Feb. 17-19. The Sun Devils finished 2011 ranked No. 10/9 (USA Today/Baseball America) in the final Top 25 poll.