When Tyler Funk takes over the Horlick High School baseball program in 2020, he will be equipped to handle more than just that sport.
If there’s any aspiring kickers or punters on the team, Funk could offer pointers there, as well. After all, he was an Associated Press Little All-American kicker and punter for the Carthage College football team who was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017.
“Anything to help out the program at Horlick,” he said with a chuckle. “Whether it’s basketball, football or baseball, whatever we have to do, right?”
The first order of business for Funk is elevating the baseball program, which has struggled in recent years. The 31-year-old Funk has those credentials, being a three-year starter in center field for Horlick from 2004-06 and coaching the Rebels’ junior varsity program the last two seasons.
As a senior in 2006, he started on the most recent Horlick team to advance to the WIAA Division 1 State Tournament. That was 30 years after his father, Dave, was a starting outfielder on the only other Horlick team to advance to the state tournament — in 1976.
Funk replaces Ryan Gavinski, who went 27-51 in four years as Horlick’s coach, including 4-19 last season. There will be some returning talent to serve as a base for Funk next spring, including T.J. Williams, who was an All-Southeast Conference shortstop as a freshman last spring, Joey Prudhom, who will be a junior second baseman, Owen Luchinske and Dylan Wolf, who will be senior pitchers, and Ajay Baer, who will be a senior first baseman.
“I always wanted to be a head varsity baseball coach,” said Funk, who is entering his seventh year as a fourth-grade teacher at Knapp Elementary School. “Even though I played football in college, baseball has always been my No. 1 sport and my No. 1 love.
“So to be able to come back and have your first varsity job at your alma mater is an honor. We struggled last year as a program, but there is a lot of talent coming back. I’m very excited to see what happens next year when we mesh some of the younger guys we have.”
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Funk plans to implement some what of what he learned about coaching from the late Tim Rucks, who was his football coach at Carthage. In fact, he mentioned it to Horlick athletic director Joe Wendt when he interviewed for the position.
“It’s the word ‘ACE — attitude, character and enthusiasm,’ “ Funk said. “To me, with baseball, it’s more, ‘attitude, character and effort.’
“There should never be a lack of effort when you’re on the baseball field. You character shows your sportsmanship and how you treat your teammates, opponents and umpires.
“Your attitude should always be positive. You’re only there for two and a half hours for games at the most. Your attitude should be locked in from the time you put on your cleats to the time you take your cleats off. You can learn more being on the bench then you can being on the field, sometimes.
“And it’s all the effort you give on the field and in the classroom. Because you can’t play unless you’re succeeding in the classroom.”
Wendt, Horlick’s baseball coach from 2008-10, interviewed four candidates for the position. What separated Funk from the others?
“I believe a lot in the Racine culture, what we have here,” Wendt said. “He’s a Racine kid, he was born and raised here, he played in our baseball system, he’s intelligent about the kids who are in our program and knowing what their potential is.
“All our candidates were great. But what really made him stand out was just his passion for Horlick and the passion to rectify the program to the point where we’re back to competing at the top half of the conference.”