Titan Softball Family

The ‘circle of life’ for Tinley Park softball

By: Tony Baranek Chicago Tribune Daily Southtown

Worried? Nah, that’s too strong of a word.

Let’s just say I was a tad concerned about the future of Tinley Park softball after longtime coach Wendy Podbielniak resigned in June.

I’m not concerned anymore.

Tinley Park athletic director Mike Mongan couldn’t contain his glee when he called to tell me former player Annalisse Scott was hired as the head coach and former player Jenna Moravec Schulz will be joining her as an assistant.

Podbielniak gave the hirings her own stamp of approval during a fun visit in the dugout on a warm, sunny Tuesday afternoon.

She even cleared up a misconception I had about Scott.

I told Podbielniak that I remembered Scott having a very quiet personality.

“Annalisse was very stoic on the mound, which is how she was raised by myself and her pitching coach,” Podbielniak said. “She was very reserved and calm so as to not show too much emotion and get herself out of rhythm.”

So I was right about her being quiet?

“No, she was not quiet,” Podbielniak said, laughing. “She was a goofball. She would crack jokes and laugh and play around. But when she stepped on the field, it was all business, intensity and focus.”

Now that’s a nice combination for a future head coach.

Scott made her mark at Tinley Park during a four-year varsity career. As a freshman pitcher in 2013, she was 12-1 and appeared in the Class 3A third-place game. She went on to be an all-area player and also had three successful college seasons at St. Xavier.

Her playing career ended, like so many other college seniors, when the pandemic struck in March.

“We had our spring break in Florida, and after our last game we got the call that our season was over,” Scott said. “It was really hard for us.”

After graduating from St. Xavier, Scott was hired as a third grade teacher at Mount Greenwood Elementary School. She was attending a track and field fundraiser this summer at Tinley Park when a chance meeting with Mongan led to him offering her an interview.

 “I was pretty shocked at first,” Scott said. “I didn’t know that it was something I could do. I called both my parents, and I had to check in with ‘Pod’ first to ask how she felt about it. She was really supportive.

“They kind of talked me into doing it. I think it’s something I’m going to enjoy.”

Moravec Schulz, a 2010 graduate, was a senior at Tinley Park during Podbielniak’s first season as coach.

It was not only a game-changer for her, but an attitude-changer.

“‘Pod’ teaches you determination,” Moravec Schulz said. “She was the most influential coach in my life, even though I only had her for one year.

 “That one year, she made such a difference in my game, my mentality, and how I approached everything.”

Moravec Schulz is the student learning center coordinator at Tinley Park. She was a softball coach on the lower levels at Richards for the past three seasons under Julie Folliard.

Leaving Folliard had to be tough. But when you’re going home ...

“It was a hard decision, but it has always been my dream to coach at Tinley‚” Moravec Schulz said. “I talked with ‘Pod’ a couple of years ago about how my goal was to eventually make my way back because that’s where my heart lies.

“When Mongan called me, I was actually running contact days at Richards. I knew of Annalisse, and I was super excited when I heard we could be coaching together.”

For Podbielniak, the choices couldn’t have been better.

“It’s like having two of my daughters coming back,” Podbielniak said. "They are going to take what I started here, continue it, and do way greater things.

“That’s the circle of life. That’s the way it’s supposed to happen.”

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