Western Nevada College baseball coach DJ Whittemore, whose Wildcats finished third at the Junior College World Series last spring, has been named a 2009 Diamond Sports Regional Coach of the Year.
Athletic Director John Kinkella said, "I believe DJ Whittemore may be the top baseball coach in (NJCAA) Division I. He has brought his team to the JUCO World Series two years out of the last three, and was the only coach in the World Series whose team was also an Academic All-American Team of the Year. By any standard, DJ has earned this honor and more".
The NJCAA Division I honor comes from the American Baseball Coaches Association, which will hold its annual Hall of Fame and Coach of the Year Banquet in January in Dallas.
True to form, the self-effacing Whittemore was quick to credit everyone else, and said he is may have to miss the trip in favor of working with his players during spring practice. But he said he is honored to be recognized.
"I am grateful to accept this award on behalf of my entire coaching staff, whom I believe to be some of the hardest-working coaches in the country. This award is extra special to me because of the great respect I have for the coaches around the West Coast."
Whittemore's team set a number of Western records for the program last season. The 2009 World Series showing was the highest the program has finished in its four-year history. Western set school records for most wins - 48; winning percentage - .774; and number of players who signed with NCAA Division I colleges or universities - 11.
Coach Whittemore paid tribute to the players who helped him win the award: "I would like to say thanks to the players on last year's team that sacrificed so much and played so brilliantly in making this award possible."
One of those players, shortstop Jay Skilton, called Whittemore, "one of the smartest guys I've ever met. He said if we did everything he told us, we'd be successful. Everything he told us turned out to be true."
Skilton is from Tacoma, Wash., a state that has an excellent baseball program and several Wildcats hail from there. Skilton's Stadium High School has one of the top high school programs in the state and came close to a state title, but that didn't compare to the Junior College World Series, which he called, "one of the greatest experiences of my life."
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