One month ago, Daniel Winkler was on the mound at ONEOK Field in Tulsa and pitching for the Tulsa Drillers, the Colorado Rockies' Double-A affiliate.
Now, you'll see him on a different field, wearing a uniform he hasn't worn in 5 years, doing something he's never done before. The Effingham native is an assistant coach for the St. Anthony baseball team, for which he played until he graduated in 2008.
The Drillers' season ended on Sept. 6, the same day St. Anthony dismissed former head coach Kenny Miller and promoted assistant coach Kenny Koenig to the vacant post.
Winkler, planning to return to Effingham in the offseason, said he received a call from Koenig soon after the Tulsa season was over. During their phone conversation, Koenig said he was the new head coach and asked if the 2008 St. Anthony graduate wanted to help.
He went from simply helping out the team to the assistant coach position quickly, Winkler said, which is something he'd always thought about doing, but figured it may come after a 15-year Major League Baseball career.
“It's definitely different,” said Winkler, who will return to the Rockies' minor league team when the season starts. “Three weeks ago, I was the kid in the dugout getting talked to by the pitching coach.”
He's the one doing the talking now and he said he hopes he can teach the players a thing or two, while he has the chance — still planning a future that involves playing professional baseball for a long time.
Maybe, he said, he can help the players stay patient and responsible during an important time in their baseball-playing lives.
“I hope I can help these kids gain some insight into some things I wish I knew when I was in high school,” Winkler said. “There were some times, when I was in high school, that I wish I'd been more responsible with homework and things like that.”