Fitzko to be honored for illustrious career

Swartz Creek coach John Fitzko will be honored by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame this coming summer.

Swartz Creek coach John Fitzko will be honored by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame this coming summer.

FLINT — The thought of a personal honor never crossed John Fitzko’s mind when he got into coaching.

But after 19 years and 335 wins as a baseball coach at three different schools, Fitzko will receive an honor he never gave a second thought.

Fitzko will be inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in June. The banquet will be held at Zaccaro’s County House in Chesterfield Township.

“When you get into coaching you don’t really think about it,” Fitzko said of being selected.

Being chosen for the Hall of Fame isn’t the only honor he’s received. Fitzko has been named District Coach of the Year three times and Regional Coach of the Year once.

He holds the record for career wins at both Bendle and Carman-Ainsworth.

Fitzko began his coaching career at Bendle. He spent the first 10 years of his tenure as the Tigers’ skipper.

Fitzko had a number of quality teams at Bendle. His clubs won four district titles, made four appearances in the regional finals and finished ranked in the top 10 in the state four times.

Bendle lost two of its four games in the regional final by just one run. All four of the Tigers’ losses came to either the state runner-up or the eventual state champion.

There was only one little hurdle Fitzko and his teams at Bendle couldn’t clear. They could never unseat Goodrich for the top spot in the league.

He had a number of battles with another future Hall-of-Famer, Goodrich coach Bob Foreback. Bendle came in second to the Martians four different times.

“(Goodrich) was the top team in our league,” Fitzko said. “We always had great games against each other.”

But despite all those hard-fought games, the two developed a lasting friendship. Fitzko and Foreback still play against each other every year.

When Fitzko took the job at Bendle he was 6-23 his first year. His final two years at the school he was 64-10.

“I think it shows if you’re willing to work hard enough and are passionate about something you don’t let anybody tell you you can’t be successful,” Fitzko said.

Fitzko then moved on to Carman- Ainsworth to accept a counselor’s position at the school. A couple years later Fitzko took over as the coach of the Cavaliers.

He ended up spending the next eight years coaching Carman-Ainsworth. Fitzko left his coaching position at Carman-Ainsworth to watch his son, Ryan, play at Swartz Creek.

Little did he know at the time that he would soon take over the Dragons’ program. Fitzko is entering his second year at Swartz Creek.

Over the years Fitzko has posted some impressive numbers and garnered some important individual awards. But the most important thing to Fitzko is all the kids he has coached.

“All the relationships you build with the kids is the real satisfaction,” Fitzko said.

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