Paul Stevens coached his last game at Northwestern on Saturday. It was his final chance to joke with umpires, to send runners home at third base, and to shake hands with an opponent’s coach while wearing a Wildcats jersey.
Paul Stevens came to NU in 1985, working as an assistant from 1985 to 1987 before taking over as head coach prior to the 1988 season. His nearly three-decade odyssey running the program, which saw more than 650 wins and, at one point, a run of 15 straight 20-win seasons, ended on a nearly perfect afternoon for baseball, with the sun shining on a mostly full Rocky Miller Park.
Maryland came out ahead 4-3 in the end, but the mood was mostly celebratory, if bittersweet after the game. While the school celebrated the legacy of the program’s all-time winningest coach, Stevens praised the school whose baseball diamond he watched over for so long.
“The greatest privilege I think that anybody can have is to put the uniform on representing this university,” Stevens said after the game. “I’ve met some phenomenal people here over the 31 years.”
His time at NU has not always been marked by success on the baseball field. The Cats’ visits to the Big Ten Tournament have been few and, at times, far between. Stevens’ all-time record at NU is well below .500.
Yet, it is clear that the NU baseball is more than just about wins and losses. For Stevens, the team is a family.
“You hear a lot about that in coaching now, like, oh this guy’s a family guy, this guy’s a character guy,” said Cody Stevens, Paul’s son and a senior for the Cats. “But (our coaches) actually are.”
As Paul Stevens moves on from Evanston, he says the program will always have a special place in his heart.
“It’s a part of our family. It always has been. It always will be,” coach Stevens said. “We’re very blessed and this place is always going to be extremely special to the Stevens family.”
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