An end of an era.
After nearly 30 years as part of the Legion baseball program in some capacity, Johnny Kirchner is ready to hang up his hat.
Kirchner was a Legion player in 1991 through 1993 with his time on the field highlighted by winning the State Championship in 1993. It was Lennox’s first State Legion Championship since 1943. Kirchner remembers that time well and remembers his coach, Tom Bendt, playing a big part in the team winning that title.
In 1994, Kirchner himself got bit by the coaching bug, serving as the assistant Legion coach. He then stepped away from the coaching position in 1999, taking time to play amateur baseball and time to be with his two little ones at home.
But Kirchner didn’t stay away from the game long, returning in 2004 to the Legion team, this time serving as head coach. Kirchner has served the last 17 years as head coach and made the decision at the beginning of the season that this would be his last.
“It’s gonna be tough to walk away, but it’s time to move on,” said Kirchner. “I love this town, I love this team, I love every kid I’ve ever coached and I love my family!”
Kirchner’s love of the game stemmed from when he was just a young kid playing in the back yard.
“We had a big group of my classmates…the Rops triplets, Bill Koerner, and others…that just loved playing ball everyday,” said Kirchner. “Plus,” he added with a smile, “I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t strong, so baseball was a good fit.”
Kirchner’s dad, John Kirchner, was also a big influence on his love of the game. John coached Johnny until he was 12 years old and for the past three years has assisted Johnny on the field coaching.
“We think a lot alike, Johnny and I,” said John. “I have been so fortunate. It has been really special that we had this time together.”
John has been coaching in some capacity for the past 55 years but has decided with his son leaving, he too is closing the book on his coaching chapter.
“It’s been a good run,” said John. “Through the years I have touched a lot of lives and I hope I have made them better young men.”
When Johnny had a son of his own, JD, the love of the game continued into another generation.
While Johnny was coaching the Legion, his dad, John coached JD.
JD basically grew up at the ball park. When Johnny was playing amateur ball and when he started coaching, his wife Missy and his two kids, JD and Shaelyn would be there to support him.
“We would spend 4-5 days a week at the ballpark,” said Kirchner. “Every weekend in June we were gone somewhere. Our vacations were usually spent at the ball diamonds.”
Coaching has been a huge time commitment for Kirchner but one he does not regret. He had the honor of leading the 2019 team to the State Championship title and Kirchner has the distinct honor of knowing that the Lennox Legion has won State three times in its history and he played a big part in two of them—one as a player and one as a coach.
LOGIN to read the complete article and more local news.