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Saturday

August 2014

23

Land O’Lakes

No one rattled Wnuk's cage

As a pitcher, one of the worst things that can happen is getting rattled. As a hitter, slumps can last forever if the negative hangover of an 0 for 4 day lingers.

For Dave Wnuk of Lannon, one of the most feared hitters in the 1980s and 90s in the Land O'Lakes Western Division, very little ever proved to be a bother.

The Land O'Lakes Hall of Fame accepted Wnuk with open arms June 25 during a ceremony at the Elk's Lodge in Waukesha. Rarely does a player get voted in at such a young age. Wnuk, a Hamilton High School graduate, is 47.

It was something he didn't expect, but ended up being quite the spectacle.

"That was really a great night," said Dave's older brother, Dan Wnuk, still a third basemen for the Stonemen. "There was a lot of support from some outstanding people. I'm happy for Dave. He deserved it. That's really an honor."

Wnuk, who played on numerous LOL Grand Championships and was named Most Valuable Player several times, hit some mammoth home runs that came in bunches. He was feared by opposing pitchers and praised by some of the area's top talents, several who played on the same team.

"He had unbelievable power for sure," said Scott Doffek, the head baseball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and longtime Lannon teammate. "What I was always impressed with was his demeanor at the plate. He could have a day where he was 0 for 4, but you still knew he was capable of changing the game. He didn't let his last at-bat bother him. If he hit back-to-back home runs, or struck out, he approached his next one the same every time. I've seen a lot of hitters affected by their next at bat from the last one. Not Dave."

Wnuk played college baseball at Waukesha County Technical College, the same place Doffek went to school prior to playing professionally in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. The two flourished, tormenting junior college pitching, and at times NCAA Division 1 programs. Wnuk hit two home runs in a game at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, putting the Trojans on the ropes in a game in 1987.

"Yeah, and if I would have made a good flip to Scott at second, we could have gotten out of the last inning and beat them," Dave Wnuk said. "That was a game where I cost us," the humble utility player said.

"Dave Wnuk could do and would do anything you asked of him. He gave 120 percent all the time," Waukesha County Technical College baseball coach Dale DeMeuse said. "He never asked questions. He was one heck of a player. Old school mentality ... I'm sure he learned from his dad (Dick Wnuk)."

Dave remembers one game at Oconomowoc in the late 1980s where then-Five O's pitcher Darrell Rupnow had his number. Rupnow, who later played for Lannon and lives in the Hamilton School District, struck Dave out on a curve ball and let him know it.

Something to the tune of, "Sit down No. 7 and quit looking at me," was what the former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater standout said to Wnuk.

"He was just a real good competitor and one guy I struggled hitting against," Dave said. "He had a really good curve ball that I couldn't hit."

They're weren't many that had No. 7's number, that's for sure.

Dave Wnuk, who also played in the Milwaukee Langsdorf League for years with Wolf's Cleaners —year-in, and year-out one of the top amateur teams in the circuit and state —was overwhelmed at the ceremony.

"I've been extremely fortunate to play with so many good players, good guys," Dave said. "I know that they're are a lot of players that deserve an honor like this more than I do. I just want to thank Bob Groth (LOL Hall of Fame President) for this. It's really something special and something I'll never forget."

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