Wielbruda finds home at UNF
A journeyman. That is how one could define Joe Wielbruda and his life after graduating from Ursuline High School in 2008.
Wielbruda excelled in baseball at Ursuline. He led the Fighting Irish to the district championships in 2006-2008, regional championships in 2006 and 2007, the state semifinals in 2007 and state finals in 2006. The second baseman was sought after by many colleges to play baseball. However, he did not like his options.
“A lot of the smaller schools were looking at me,” Wielbruda said. “I didn’t have an opportunity to play at a really good college, and the scholarships, money wise, weren’t very good. I took my first year off out of high school, I didn’t attend college.”
Wielbruda went out west in January of 2009 and tried out for the Yuma Scorpions of the Arizona Winter League. If he made the team and played well, it would have been an opportunity to try and get picked up by an independent or pro team.
Wielbruda successfully made the team, helping the Scorpions to the 2009 Arizona Winter League Championship. He had the third highest batting average in the league with a .453.
After the season concluded in March of 2009, Wielbruda’s future was uncertain. That is when he and Scorpion manager, and former Los Angeles Dodger, Mike Marshall, discussed his options.
“I talked to my manager at the end of the season, he told me he wanted me to go to college,” Wielbruda said. “I got a phone call in the summer, and coach Marshall told me I’d be going to Midland College in Midland, Texas.”
With the chance to go to college in the fall of 2009, Wielbruda jumped at the opportunity.
“By not going to college after graduating high school, I didn’t think college was an option anymore. Luckily, my coached steered me in the right direction.”
Wielbruda stood out at Midland. He had a .428 batting average as a freshman and a .429 average as a sophomore. In two seasons, he recorded 165 hits, 97 runs, 26 doubles, and three triples with 52 RBI.
After two successful seasons at Midland, Wielbruda began to receive offers to play baseball at Division I schools.
“I had offers to play at places like Virginia Commonwealth, Coastal Carolina and Cleveland State at the time,” Wielbruda said. “I was kind of confused because they (college recruits and coaches) were all telling me really good things but it was really hard to trust these guys. Everyone was telling me the same thing. The teams were talking bad about each other behind each other’s back. I thought, ‘I don’t know what to do here.’ “
Facing another dilemma, Wielbruda became stressed with the situation – until divine intervention set in.
Midland baseball coach David Coleman received the perfect phone call. The call was from a friend, Raymond “Smoke” Laval, the baseball coach at the University of North Florida. UNF was losing their second baseman.
“Coach Coleman told Laval all about me,” Wielbruda said. “As soon as Coleman told me his friend from UNF wanted me to go play for him, I was all in. I trust my junior college coach with all my life.”
Wielbruda transferred to UNF during the fall of 2011 and shined in the 2012 season. He finished with a a .332 batting average, two triples, 36 runs scored and 22 runs batted in. Wielbruda also had a .373 on-base percentage. He finished second on the team in batting average and led the team with 21 multiple hit games. UNF finished the season 31-24.
With the outstanding season by Wielbruda, it earned him a spot on the 2013 preseason Atlantic Sun All-Conference team.
Wielbruda attributes his dedication to why he has had success in his collegiate career.
“I thought I was working as hard as I could. I dug down deeper, worked harder than I could ever imagine,” Wielbruda said. “During the offseason, I was working out extra hours that aren’t mandatory. Hitting in the cage, maybe even just doing something small, like tee work, hitting off a machine or having a buddy come down and throw to you. I was paying attention to detail, making sure to do every last thing right.”
The 2013 season is currently underway and Wielbruda hopes that his offseason workouts and his positive mentality can help North Florida to a triumphant year.
“We have very high expectations this year. Last year was a bit of a letdown,” Wielbruda said. “We had a good record overall, but in conference, our lack of focus let down, we didn’t live up to our expectations in those games. We have to take one pitch at a time, one game at a time and try not to get too far ahead of ourselves.
“Winning is contagious and also losing is contagious. As long as we keep winning and flush out the negative things that happen and keep moving on, that’s how we can keep winning and keep being successful.”