The Central Michigan baseball program has competed at a championship level during Steve Jaksa's 11 seasons as head coach.
The Chippewas have won two Mid-American Conference championships (2004, 2010) and four MAC West Division titles (2004, 2006, 2010, 2011) during his tenure. Jaksa has led the Chippewas to seven 30-win campaigns a pair of 20-win MAC seasons.
Jaksa led the Chippewas to their third MAC Tournament championship appearance in 2012, as the Maroon and Gold won four-straight games after dropping the tournament opener before falling in the title game.
He owns 353 wins as a Chippewa, the third-most in CMU history, and a .552 winning percentage (353-286-1) in the Maroon and Gold.
CMU is 174-111 in Mid-American Conference play under Jaksa's guidance, finishing first or second in the West Division in six of the past nine seasons. In addition to the division and overall titles, CMU has advanced to three MAC Tournament championship games (2005, 2010, 2012).
During Jaksa's tenure, he has mentored 34 All-MAC selections, including 12 first team honorees, six all-region choices, three All-Americans, three Freshman All-Americans, five Academic All-District IV selections, three Academic All-Americans and 17 Academic All-MAC honorees.
Jaksa has served the past five 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 second season in that role.
Chippewas Advance to Majors Under Jaksa's Tutelage
The former CMU letterwinner has mentored 35 players who have been drafted or been signed by Major League Baseball clubs in his time at CMU, including Josh Collmenter of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Chippewas have had 10 players drafted over the last three seasons, including Dylan Rheault in the 19th round by the Baltimore Orioles last season.
Three hurlers from Jaksa’s tenure as CMU's pitching coach (1999-02) were drafted or signed — Mike Fawcett (Cincinnati), Chad Pleiness (Toronto) and Mike Steele (Detroit). Two more, Pete Nemeth and Lee Naplin, signed with independent teams, and T.J. Johnson (Cincinnati), J.D. Wheeler (Milwaukee), Jeff Garner (Milwaukee) and Phil Roberts (Cleveland) signed as Major League Baseball free agents.
Pleiness led the nation in strikeouts per nine innings for Division I hurlers in 2002 with 13.2 whiffs and was selected in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
Jaksa also worked with catcher Scott Pickens, who signed with an independent team before joining the Detroit Tigers as the team's bullpen catcher.
Success Leads Jaksa Back to Alma Mater
A 1979 CMU graduate, Jaksa was an assistant coach for four seasons in charge of pitching and catching before being named to replace Judd Folske on Sept. 30, 2002, on an interim basis. He was named the head coach on May 14, 2003.
During his time as the Chippewas’ pitching coach, Jaksa guided three pitching staffs to ERAs of less than 5.00. The 1999 (4.55), 2000 (4.14), and 2002 (4.86) staffs were all among the MAC leaders. The 2000 and 2002 staffs finished second in the conference in ERA while the 1999 staff led the MAC and was 17th-best in the country among Division I schools.
Jaksa spent the 1998 season as the head coach at Northwood University before joining the CMU staff. He guided Northwood to a 28-25 record, including a program-best 16-13 mark in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. While coaching at Northwood, Jaksa continued in his role as the athletics director at Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central High School—a position he had held since 1988.
He had served 11 seasons as baseball coach at Nouvel Catholic prior to taking the head post at Northwood. His teams were a combined 353-106, reaching the state semifinals five times and winning state crowns in 1990 and 1997.
Jaksa was inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000. His 1974 national champion Connie Mack team was inducted into the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. An alumni of Grand Blanc High School, he was presented with the school's "Distinguished Alumni Award" in 2013.
A two-year letterwinner on the mound for the Chippewas, Jaksa was 12-4 with four saves in his collegiate career (1977-79) at CMU. He led the team with seven wins as a senior in 1979 and boasted a career ERA of 2.76. His career ERA still ranks 10th in school history among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings.
Jaksa earned a bachelor's degree of science from CMU in 1979. He continued his education during his time as an assistant coach at Miami University and earned a master's of education in 1986.
He and his wife, Patti, are the parents of four children: Stacey, Rachel, Marc, and Kelly.