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From South Korea to Australia, former Marine Reardanz took the long road to coaching in Rochester

Mark Reardanz credits the USMC for helping him find himself and giving him the skills he needed to thrive as a coach. He's putting those skills to use this summer with the Rochester Honkers.

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Honkers Pitching Coach Mark Reardanz watches a game from the dugout on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at Mayo Field in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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Mark Reardanz remembers it like it was yesterday.

The current Rochester Honkers pitching coach was taking an exam in his second year at NAIA Judson University and was more than confident that it was not going well.

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A poor student by his own omission, he was thinking this would be the last straw for his baseball career.

“I just wasn’t a mature kid. School wasn’t for me,” Reardanz said. “I knew I failed it. I was like, 'I’m not going to play this year.'”

After the test, he walked straight into the armed forces recruiting office. He’s not quite sure why he did it and he’s not quite sure why he picked the United States Marine Corps. He does know it proved to be exactly what he needed.

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Around six months after he walked out of the recruiting office, he was deployed to boot camp in California.

The next four years brought Reardanz around the world as an infantry team leader in the Marines, challenging him physically and mentally. His stories are nearly endless: Jungle training in South Korea when it rained every day for two weeks, desert training in the 118-degree Mojave Desert, cold weather training on Mt. Fuji and deep ocean training off the coasts of Australia, which unfortunately for Reardanz and his comrades came after they watched the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

Although he underestimated the amount of swimming involved, Reardanz said he wouldn’t trade those years for the world.

“It made me a stronger person, mentally, not only physically, too,” Reardanz said. “I have a set schedule, the way I do things, like I make my bed in the morning. There's things that I do still that mentally is ingrained in you in those little things that I do. It changes who you are, and that's why I'm glad I did that route. I'd be a totally different person. I wouldn't be as organized. I wouldn't be as structured as a person if it wasn't for the Marines.”

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Honkers Pitching Coach Mark Reardanz talks to the team from the dugout on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at Mayo Field in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

When those four years were done, Reardanz knew it was time for the next chapter of his life.

The Marines paid for him to return to school and finish school at Eastern Illinois University, where he graduated with a degree in history. While finishing school, Reardanz then reached out to a baseball coach he knew at one of the local high schools and it turned out they had an assistant coaching spot available. He was a volunteer coach that spring, but discovered his calling in the process.

“I was like 'maybe this is something I want to do but just at a higher level,'” Reardanz said.

He explored that opportunity, living out of his car as he looked across the country for a college coaching job.

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He found one at NAIA power Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., as a volunteer assistant under Hall of Fame coach Woody Hunt.

It was the foot in the door he needed.

He was then offered the assistant/pitching coach position at Rend Lake College — a Division I junior college in Southern Illinois — where he has been since 2020. Last summer, he was an assistant for the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks — a college summer ball team based out of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada that played in Grand Forks, N.D., a summer ago due to COVID-related restrictions on international travel.

He has turned out to be a natural, utilizing the organization, preparation and communication skills he learned as a Marine. He’s been a great fit with the Honkers.

“Mark is incredibly talented,” Honkers manager Andrew Urbistondo said. “He’s super strict on his schedule. It’s funny because we do postgame meetings and stuff and he never says anything to the team, but all throughout the game, he is on it. He’s pulling kids to the side and talking with them.
"He’s really good with his time and organizational skills, which is awesome for us. He’s done a great job of building relationships and he’s been awesome pitching-wise as well. Mark’s been great for us.”

Reardanz has been loving his time in Rochester. Though not a fan of cold weather, he admitted he’s happy to be here in the summer. He loves the size of the city, the diversity of people in it and has been a fan of the golf courses so far. An avid golfer, he tries to get out when he has the chance and has enjoyed Soldiers Field Golf Course. He’s hoping to get on to the Rochester Golf and Country Club before the summer ends.

But of course his No. 1 goal the next month and a half is to do his best to develop this crop of talent that is the Honkers. It's something he looks forward to even more than golfing.

“I love this level, I love the summer ball and that it’s every day, because at some point in my career, I'd like to get to the professional level,” Reardanz said. “Try to get to like rookie ball, Single A — early minor leagues, because I love the development part. That's why I like the junior college level because it's just helping guys get to their dream school, or because they weren't as good out of high school to help them become better players to go off to that four year school.

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"I would like to do that at a professional level, get these guys in that lower professional level, if it's independent ball, and help them develop to get up to that higher level. That's probably my favorite part of the game is just helping guys get better. That's why I got into coaching.”

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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