Posted:February 28, 2019
Century College Baseball Coach Dwight Kotila was born for a life of baseball. In fact, he cannot remember a time he wasn’t passionate about baseball. As a young child who lived out in the country five miles from the town of Cokato, Minnesota, he would bike over an hour to get to tee-ball practice.
Now, after 22 years of coaching baseball – the last nine of which were spent at Century College – Kotila believes he has accomplished everything he could possibly ask for. He is retiring at the end of this season, having led Century College to four NJCAA DIII World Series, along with seven other appearances as the coach of Riverland College and Ridgewater College. Over the course of his career, Kotila has a 679-242 record.
For his extraordinary success, Dwight Kotila was elected to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Coaches Hall of Fame. The announcement was made in January 2019.
“On behalf of Century College, I would like to congratulate Dwight Kotila on being elected into the NCJAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame,” said Century College President Angelia Millender. “With an emphasis on hard work and determination, Dwight prepares his players for success both on and off the field. His legacy will live on at this great institution and in the community.”
Getting the Best out of Players
Kotila, for his part, responded to the announcement with modesty.
“To say I am humbled to be chosen for the Hall of Fame, alongside the greatest NJCAA coaches across the country, is a major understatement,” said Kotila. “This was a fantastic honor to receive as I head into my final season.”
Kotila doesn’t necessarily like to talk about himself. He is more inclined to praise the people who have helped him along the way and the students he has coached over the years. As passionate as Kotila is about baseball, he may be more passionate about getting the best out of players.
“The winning and the championships are great, but I get more joy seeing how our players grow mentally and physically,” said Kotila. “A lot of players end up moving on to play at four-year schools, which wasn’t considered a possibility for them as freshmen.”
Playing for a Purpose
Players don’t come to Century College expecting to play well – they come expecting to excel.
“Our players are out here for a purpose. They want to make it to the highest level,” said Kotila.
Likewise, Kotila has high expectations for his players. Century College’s baseball program, which he started nine years ago, reflects that. Kotila challenges players with rigorous practices, intensive weight training, and demanding schedules.
Kotila doesn’t mind that some talented high school players are turned away by the heavy workload. That means only the players who are truly committed to succeed come to Century College.
It’s Kotila’s emphasis on development that draws talented players such as Alex Evenson, a first baseman and pitcher, to Century College. Though he could have played for a four-year school right out of high school, Evenson would likely have been relegated to a bench role. At Century College, players receive one-on-one attention and the chance to compete.
“Dwight really cares – he never gives up on his players. I think that other coaches bring a lot more players in to weed out some guys,” said Evenson. “But Dwight is committed to giving all of his players time to develop, and that really makes a difference to the team.”
A Common Mission
Though Kotila’s life has revolved around baseball, he prioritizes family and academics for his players. This is something that every coach is expected to say. But Kotila clearly stands by his words.
Century College’s baseball players are subject to thorough academic oversight. They attend mandatory study tables twice a week, and grade reports go out four times a semester. When students register, Kotila personally goes over their schedules to make sure his players are taking the right classes.
With an average GPA of 3.14, it’s obvious that the team takes school seriously.
“The big myth is that the only reason student athletes go to two-year school is because, academically, that’s the only place they can go. That’s not true,” said Kotila. “We have multiple players with ACT scores over 30.”
Century College’s mission statement is to prepare, inspire, and empower students to succeed. As coach of the baseball program for almost a decade, Kotila has embodied this mission.
“The administration has been great in supporting our baseball program and our student athletes,” said Kotila. “I’m very appreciative of the opportunities they’ve given us to be successful.”