July 6 - Most coaches who don’t work in the school system have to make sacrifices each spring.
For Washington-Lee assistant Bill Wykoff, that has for the past several years included rising as early as 4 a.m. to put in his hours at his construction business before reporting to the field to work with Generals players. He did it one last time this spring, helping to bridge the transition between former longtime head coach Doug Grove and new skipper Kevin Healy before stepping away from coaching after nearly three decades.
“Coach Wykoff did everything he did 100 percent and with the hope of helping out the program in any way he could,” Healy said of the 1980 graduate of the Arlington school. “He preached the ‘competitive spirit’ as something to aspire to at all times. And he led by example, whether it was grabbing a fungo, a rake, or taking a pitcher to the bullpen.
“He's not looking for any kind of recognition, but certainly deserves it. I love that guy and wish I was able to coach longer with him.”
Wykoff joins a group of Nine Assistants that were nominated by head coaches and magazine staff. Also named are Brentsville District’s Lou Buzzi, Battlefield’s Shawn Camp, Patriot’s Keith Howell, Briar Woods’ Ric Nickerson, Potomac’s Dan Raley, Annandale’s Kevin Rudd, South County’s Jim Sullivan and Lake Braddock’s Ray Zdancewitz.
The magazine’s Auxiliary Nines are part of our NOVA Nine Team series honoring the top players from Northern Virginia. The series is sponsored by The St. James in Springfield.
Here’s a look at this year’s selections:
Lou Buzzi, Brentsville District - The Tigers’ pitching coach oversaw a staff led by Jake DeLisi and Vince DiMauro that led the Nokesville school to a second straight Region 3B title and appearance in the Class 3 state semifinals. “Has made my job so much easier with the pitching staff. He has brought a wealth of experience … has helped develop Vince and Jake into who they are today as well as guys like Mickey Haynes and others from the JV team who will contribute in the next few years.” - Brentsville coach Brian Knight
Shawn Camp, Battlefield - In his fifth and final season as the Bobcats’ pitching coach, took on an even bigger role as the club’s first base coach and stepped in as interim head coach when Jay Burkhart had to miss two playoff games. Developed several Division I pitchers while helping the Haymarket school become one of the area’s top area programs. Took a new position last month as the pitching coach at George Mason University.
Keith Howell, Patriot - In his first season with the Pioneers, added tremendous experience and perspective to head coach Josh Steinberg’s staff, which already boasts a wealth of knowledge in the form of pitching coach Sean Cheetham. The former longtime coach at Osbourn, where he led the Eagles to 260 victories and three district and region championships over his 19 seasons.
Ric Nickerson, Briar Woods - The Falcons’ pitching coach helped the Ashburn school win the Potomac District championship, overseeing a staff that compiled a 2.43 ERA while holding opposing pitchers to a .220 batting average after losing one of the area’s top pitchers in Wilson Ayers to graduation the previous year. “Coach Nickerson had faith in the pitchers, challenged them on a daily basis, and is a valuable piece to our success,” - Briar Woods coach Rob Sikora
Dan Raley, Potomac - The longtime hitting coach and third base coach on Mike Covington’s staff, Raley played a key role in the Panthers winning the Cardinal District title as well as the emergence of NOVA Nine Team member Braden Mack and outfielder Ben Thomas, who was one of just four area players to hit over .500. “Danny is an excellent instructor in all phases of the game. He is a mentor to the players and helps me with field maintenance, strategies, etc.” - Potomac coach Mike Covington
Kevin Rudd, Annandale - The Atoms’ pitching coach oversaw a staff that showed tremendous improvement from the previous spring. His hurlers cut their ERA from 8.22 to 4.88 and their WHIP from 2.66 to 1.91 while issuing 30 less walks. “On top of these stats, Rudd was clutch in field prep and maintenance. He devised his own drainage system where he sucked multiple hoses to create a drainage system on low spots. He also mixed a sand and topsoil to fill in our low spots. As the season went on, we were able to play when many other places were having to cancel.” - Annandale coach Chris Bagot
Jim Sullivan, South County - After a decade as the head coach at West Potomac - with Scott Nelson as his top assistant - the two coaches switched roles in their first campaign with the Stallions. Sullivan “helped guide a young team starting five freshman or sophomores to nine wins in one of the area’s toughest districts.” - South County coach Scott Nelson
Bill Wykoff, Washington-Lee - After nearly three decades as a youth, travel and high school coach in the area, Wykoff is stepping away from coaching after helping the Generals’ transition from former coach Doug Grove to new skipper Kevin Healy. “Coach Wykoff was typically waking up at 4 or 5 a.m. to get his hours in with his construction business to allow him to get to Quincy Park in time for practice. An incredibly positive man, Coach Wykoff loved the competition and loved helping out the young men.” - Washington-Lee coach Kevin Healy
Ray Zdancewitz, Lake Braddock - An assistant during Bruins first-year coach John Thomas’ stint as the skipper at McLean, Zdancewitz joined his staff this season and helped lead the Burke school to the Region 6C and Class 6 state championships. “Guy is just a machine. I had him working with infielders this year, which I’m not sure he's ever done before, but of course he was outstanding. Pick any position on the field and Ray is a fountain of knowledge about it. He's my right hand guy in every way. He was my coach when I was a kid, and he's stuck with me through some very rough times in my coaching career. I can't really imagine coaching high school baseball without him. I am so proud and happy that he's getting a state championship ring. We never would have won it without him and no one deserves it more.” - Lake Braddock coach John Thomas
Sponsor: This year’s NOVA Nine Team and Auxiliary Nines are sponsored by The St. James Sports, Wellness and Entertainment Complex in Springfield. For more information, visit www.thestjames.co.
Photo of assistant coach Bill Wykoff courtesy of Washington-Lee Baseball