The Red Devil Hall of Fame will add five more baseball greats on Saturday with a golf tournament beginning at 9 a.m., at the Allen County Country Club and a banquet beginning at 6 p.m.
The honorees are Don Jahnke, Rudy Garcia, Eric Wilner, Scott Leon and Kevin Farmer.
Don Jahnke made a name for himself in Kansas baseball circles by playing American Legion baseball and leading his Post 400 team to a state championship in 1977.
“At the time, Topeka didn’t have high school baseball, so we would spend our summers playing Legion baseball,” Jahnke said. “The exposure just wasn’t there though.”
One baseball man that Jahnke’s talent did catch the eye of was Red Devil coach Val McLean and McLean recruited the Topeka-native to join his program at Allen County Community College. The decision proved to be a good one for McLean as Jahnke had a huge impact as soon as he stepped on campus.
“It worked out for the best for me,” Jahnke said.
In 1978, Allen had the best winning percentage in team history with a 33-6 record. That season, Jahnke hit .367 and had a 1.35 ERA.
Jahnke finished his Red Devil career in 1979 by hitting .415 with a 1.48 ERA and leading his team to a second-straight conference title.
Jahnke continued his career at Vanderbilt University and helped the Commodores win the SEC Tournament during his junior season. Arm injuries forced Jahnke to give up the sport after his senior season at Vanderbilt.
Jahnke lives in Topeka with Valerie, his wife of 34 years.
Rudy Garcia is another player that McLean was able to discover playing American Legion baseball.
Garcia is originally from California, but moved to Oklahoma at 16 and began playing for Liberty Mounds High School and Jenks American Legion in Tulsa.
McLean recruited Garcia to Iola and he announced his presence in a big way in 1980.
Garcia went 7-0 with a 2.36 ERA during his freshman campaign and followed it up with an 11-1 sophomore season.
During his sophomore season Garcia struck out 115 batters in just 78 innings.
After his career at Allen, Garcia signed with the University of Arkansas. He finished his career at Arkansas with a 9-1 record, but had his career cut short by shoulder injuries.
Garcia continues to be
involved in athletics and has been the head boys basketball coach at Union High School in Tulsa for the past 21 years. Garcia has a 445-122 record and three state championships in his years at Union. He has been named the Oklahoma State Basketball Coach of the Year three times and was one of eight finalists for the National High School Basketball Coach of the Year in 2014.
Garcia has been married to his wife Tammy for 27 years and the couple currently resides in Bixby, Okla.
McLean’s connections in the American Legion baseball world paid off for him again when he received word from a friend of his with Legion baseball, Jim Senske, about a player he was coaching in New Ulm, Minn.
The player was Eric Wilner. Wilner starred for the Post 132 Legion team in New Ulm, Minn., as well as the New Ulm Brewers amateur team. He has been inducted in to each team’s hall of fame.
“Val recruited me out of high school when I wasn’t recruited by very many others,” Wilner said. “Val is such a great teacher and great mentor.”
Wilner’s great career at Allen culminated in the college’s storied 1983 season that saw the team take third place at the Junior College World Series.
“It is still fresh in my mind,” Wilner said of the World Series trip. “The actual season was kind of a weird one. We had a lot of rainouts and reschedules… With a lot of rain, we made the best of things and it all seemed to come together right at the end.
Wilner earned All-Conference, All-Region and All-American honors that season.
“We had a great college and town that just stood behind us,” Wilner said. “It was a great Midwestern-atmosphere and coming from the Midwest in Minnesota, I don’t think you can ask for much more.”
He continued his baseball career at Wichita State University. He also played two summers in the Alaska Baseball League, where he earned All-American honors.
Wilner and his wife Vicki have been married for 11 years and they currently live in Cleveland, Minn.
He is looking forward to being inducted into the Red Devil Hall of Fame for the second time.
“I was actually very surprised and it is certainly a great honor,” Wilner said. “Our team went in a couple years ago.”