New leader pledges better team

Sweger plans to rebuild Port baseball into a winner

AIDEN DROTZUR (right) is expected to be contribute heavily to the success of Port Washington High School’s baseball team this season. Photo by Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press staff

This isn’t the Port Washington High School baseball team of years past.

It can’t be, said new coach Brett Sweger, who has never played on a team that finished below .500 and as a coach has helped turn teams from doormats into winners.

Sweger’s last coaching job was an assistant with the Lakeridge High School team in Lake Oswego, Ore. The team was ranked No. 7 in the state.

Sweger, a star high school player who started all four years at Beloit Turner, played at three different colleges and finished third in a junior college home run derby, has won wherever he has been.

Sweger played one year at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa, then played at Madison College in Wisconsin. There, he started in left field and helped lead the team to the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series before earning a scholarship to Creighton University in Nebraska, which competes in Division 1.

He was junior varsity coach at Beloit Memorial and helped turn the program around to advance to the 2017 state semifinal.

He once taught high school English and now balances a real estate job in Portland while living part of the year in Whitefish Bay.

When Sweger, a complete outsider, was hired for the job in Port, he did a little research.

“The records were unbelievable,” he said.

Port finished regularly last in the North Shore Conference in the last 20 years. Sweger didn’t look back any further and has been transparent with the team and administration from the start.

“This whole thing is broken,” Sweger said.

“It stops here. We’ve got to fix this. I’ve been associated with the program for three weeks and I’m embarrassed.”

Sweger has had to wait to start his repair work. He was hired last year but didn’t get to do much with the team since the season was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“You don’t take it for granted the second time around,” he said.

Now, as teams return to action this week, Sweger said the mood has already changed. A home scrimmage against Ozaukee on Saturday garnered fans, both parents and students.

“How about the energy in the ballpark?” Sweger said.

“The school is starting to buzz. We had a really good turnout for the scrimmage. The program is in a really good direction after a long time of not being in the right direction.”

When he saw Port’s records, he expected to find a team lacking talent but was pleasantly surprised. The approach, however, had to be adjusted.

“The seniors last year didn’t have a track record of success in any sport,” Sweger said. “The entire mantra for the juniors and seniors was it’s not cool to try. They tried before and lost. I don’t think they knew how to respond and get off the mat.”

He said he first has to prove to players that he cares about them. Adolescents, he said, need six positive affirmations for every one piece of constructive criticism.

“They need to know how much you care about them for weeks on end before they buy in to your program,” he said.

Sweger’s goal each practice is for every player to get 200 swings and 200 defensive reps.

He wants his players to leave at 7:01 p.m. better than when they came in at 4:59 p.m.

The plan has been working.

“We went from zero to 100 in three and a half weeks,” he said.

Sweger said he talks to senior Joe Yandry for 10 minutes at every practice.

“‘How good does it feel to know you’re never going to be in this program again and win four games?’” he asked.

Sweger already pulled one player back from leaving for another program.

“Relationships come easy to me. Leadership comes easy to me,” he said.

“I think Port Washington needed me and I needed Port Washington. They just needed someone to come in and say, ‘I believe in you.’”

Among some of the top players is Aiden Drotzur, who can catch, pitch and play other positions.

“Aiden is going to play really good college baseball,” Sweger said.

Hudson Deal, he said, has already agreed to play at Sauk Valley Community College and “looks like one of the best shortstops in the state” who is “hitting moonshots.”

Infielder and pitcher Brayden Thompson, he said, could play at a Division 2 college and has been talking about what types of schools he wants to attend.

Patrick Lippe will play center and lead off.

A host of players will take the mound.

“We have good arms,” Sweger said.

His plan is for everyone to pitch one to three innings this week before he starts to extend their workloads.

Port was scheduled to host Whitefish Bay on Tuesday. The Pirates play at Hartford at 5 p.m. Friday, at West Bend East at 5 p.m. Monday, May 3, and at Slinger at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 5.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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