NORTHFIELD, Ill. – Mike Napoleon didn’t want to talk about ‘the number.’
“My sons always kind of knew about it. My wife, Melanie, she goes ‘Okay. How many is it? 14 more? Or 15 more?’ I’m like, ‘Stop!'”
951 was taboo for the New Trier head coach – the number of wins unparalleled in Illinois high school baseball history.
But the reality was Coach Naps, who started his career in 1985 at Notre Dame Prep, was on pace to break the record this year.
“I did all my research the night before, looking at all the wins going by coaches,” explained Trevians senior third baseman Graham Mastros. “It’s pretty spectacular what he did.”
On April 27th, the Trevians shut out Glenbrook North, lifting Napoleon alone atop the record books.
“I’m super competitive and the kids know that. Hopefully, that runs true throughout all the teams I’ve ever coached. That they’re competitive, but they also play the game right. They win with dignity. They lose with dignity. I think that is why a lot of opposing coaches admire the teams I’ve coached.”
“951’s a lot of games. It’s a big accomplishment for him,” Mastros added.
The wins kept coming.
Now, he has his team two more victories away from their third state title a year removed from Napoleon’s only losing record in 27 seasons at the helm.
“He would trade all 951 for state championship number three,” noted Pete Drevline, Napoleon’s assistant of 21 years. “No doubt about it.”
Kerry Wood knows a thing or two about playing in big games. The former Cub is Napoleon’s volunteer assistant coach.
“I drive by the field all the time so I just kind of found out who the coach was and was like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you need any help or not, but I’m around all the time. I live a mile from the field, so if you have any interest, I’d be willing to come by and hang out.”
“I told him, ‘Listen, I can’t pay you.’ He kind of laughed at me. I said, ‘You’ve got to take some tests.’ He goes, ‘This will be the first test I’ve taken in a long time.'”
Wood gets to coach his son Justin and his players get to pick the brain of a 14-year MLB vet.
“He always has something good to add to the conversation,” Mastros remarked. “Throughout the game, he knows what’s going to happen – what pitch is going to be thrown, the hole in people’s swings. It’s just amazing how he knows so much about the game.”
“Every once in awhile, I’ll tell our assistants or I’ll tell a kid, ‘Hey, you know this is something special that you’ve got,” added Napoleon. “This isn’t going to happen every year, you know?”
“I think they are kind of over the hoopla of me being whoever I was. I’m just another guy in dugout.”
Wherever they look for advice, the Trevians are in good hands.
After shutting out Stevenson 2-0 Monday, they now face Brother Rice in the semifinals. Even if they finish the weekend with a state crown, don’t expect Napoleon to ride off into the sunset.
“Bottom line, I love doing what I’m doing and going to continue until someone says not to.”