Steve Jaksa has continued the tradition of Chippewa baseball competing at a championship level since he returned to his alma mater and took over as head coach in 2003.
CMU, the winningest Division I baseball program in the Midwest since 1972, has won three Mid-American Conference regular-season championships (2004, ’10, ’15) and five MAC West Division titles (’04, ’06, ’10, ’11, ’15) during Jaksa’s 14 years in charge of the program.
Jaksa has amassed a 447-363-1 record (.551 win percentage) at CMU and has led the Chippewas to 10 winning seasons including nine in which they posted at least 30 wins. In 2005, the Jaksa-led Chippewas finished with 42 victories, the fourth-highest total in program history and the most since a 47-win campaign in 1988.
Jaksa’s record in the MAC is even more impressive, as he has led the Chippewas to a 225-138 mark (.620 win percentage). He has twice been named MAC Coach of the Year (2004, ’15), and the Chippewas have finished first or second in the MAC West nine times under Jaksa’s guidance. He has guided the Chippewas to the MAC Tournament championship game three times.
Jaksa’s 447 wins rank third in program history behind a pair of legends: Dean Kreiner, who won 516 games from 1985-98; and Dave Keilitz, who led CMU to 453 victories from 1971-84. Jaksa has won more games against Division I competition than any coach in program history. Including a year as the head coach at Division II Northwood, Jaksa’s career record as a collegiate coach stands at 475-388-1.
While at CMU, Jaksa has mentored 46 All-MAC selections, including 17 first team honorees, three MAC All-Defensive Team picks, one MAC Player of the Year winner, Two MAC Pitcher of the Year winners, one MAC Freshman of the Year, and one American Baseball Coaches Association Rawlings Gold Glove winner, eight all-region picks, three All-Americans, and six Freshman All-Americans.
The program has excelled as well on the academic side under Jaksa, claiming four CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, seven CoSIDA Academic All-District IV selections, 41 Academic All-MAC honorees, and eight MAC Distinguished Scholar-Athletes.
Jaksa has served the past eight seasons as one of 31 Division I coaches to vote in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 poll. He also is one of just eight coaches on the ABCA All-American Committee and is entering his fourth season in that role.
CMU a pipeline to pro ranks
Jaksa has mentored 42 players who have been drafted or been signed by Major League Baseball clubs during his time at CMU, including Josh Collmenter of the Atlanta Braves.
The Chippewas have had 14 players drafted or signed over the last five seasons, including three who went in the 2016 draft: left-hander Nick Deeg, San Francisco Giants, round 30; right-hander Sean Renzi, Chicago White Sox, round 32; and infielder Zach McKinstry, Los Angeles Dodgers, round 33.
Success leads Jaksa back to alma mater
Jaksa earned two letters while compiling a 12-4 career record with four saves and a 2.76 earned run average at CMU, from which he received his bachelor of science degree in 1979.
He led the ’79 Chippewas with seven victories, and his career ERA still ranks 11th in school history among pitchers who logged at least 100 innings.
Jaksa worked as an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio) while earning his master’s degree in 1986, then coached for 11 years at Nouvel Catholic Central High School in Saginaw, compiling a 353-106 record and winning state championships in 1990 and ’97. He also served for 10 years as the school’s athletic director.
Jaksa coached at Northwood University in 1998, leading the Timberwolves to a 28-25 finish, then joined coach Judd Folske’s staff in 1999 and served as an assistant, overseeing pitchers and catchers, until 2002. Jaksa’s 1999 Chippewa pitching staff led the MAC and ranked 17th nationally in ERA.
Jaksa, a native of Grand Blanc, Mich., was inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2004, he was inducted into the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 1974 national champion Connie Mack team, and in 2013 he received the Grand Blanc High School Distinguished Alumni Award.
Jaksa and his wife Patti have four children: Stacey, Rachel, Marc and Kelly.