Sam Koenig is hitting it out of the park – academically and athletically.
In June, the School of Education senior baseball player was the first student athlete in 25 years of Division 1 athletics at UWM to be named a Capital One Academic All-American of the Year– only one player-athlete is selected in each sport for that honor. Then, just weeks later, Koenig was one of three UWM baseball players selected in the major league draft.
Koenig, who plays outfield, first and third base, is spending the summer with the Burlington Bees in Iowa, a Los Angeles Angels farm team.
In his time at UWM, Koenig was a standout in the classroom and on the diamond. During his senior season, he batted .361 with 57 runs batted in, scoring 58 runs while collecting 83 hits. He led the Horizon League in runs scored, hits, home runs and total bases and was second in doubles, runs batted in and slugging percentage. In fact, with 151 total bases, he finished second all-time in UWM history, just missing the school mark of 155. Koenig was honored on the Mideast First Team after an impressive 2015 campaign that also saw him named Third-Team Louisville Slugger All-American.
Koenig capped his impressive Milwaukee career by also earning First-Team All-Horizon League honors. He batted .361 with 57 runs batted in, scoring 58 runs while collecting 83 hits. He was one of just two players from the Horizon League to make the all-region squads.
His academic achievements were equally impressive. He earned a 3.86 cumulative GPA. “It obviously starts with the Sam in the classroom,” Milwaukee head coach Scott Doffek said at the time Koenig received the Academic All-America Honor. “To accomplish this takes dedication in the classroom and on the playing field. Sam has displayed that from day one since he got here. He has been continuously improving while fighting through a lot of adversity. This honor is a result of that.”
“He was one of my students in the fall last year and is a really great young man,” said Ruth Short, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. “I am so excited for him.”
“The Academic All-America honor was definitely pretty amazing,” Koenig said. “Sometimes it was hard to get all the work done with practices and classes, but it was definitely rewarding.”
He grew up a Milwaukee Brewers’ fan, and the opportunity to play the Brewers in spring training in Arizona was definitely one of the highlights of his time with the UWM Panthers. “It was really awesome.”
“I was born into a sports family. My dad played, my mom loves sports and my brothers were always playing with me and helping me.”
At the same time, he was attracted to the field of education because of teachers who had inspired him and had an impact on his life, he adds. He decided to come to UWM because it had the only Division 1 baseball team in the state and an excellent School of Education.
Now, he’s having to make some choices between the two fields. He’s at the point in his education studies where he would need to start doing student teaching, but he’s going to defer that for now because he won’t be able to student teach and play baseball at the same time. This chance to play at a major league level is a dream he’s eager to pursue, he says. “It’s crazy, but exciting.”
Chad Pierce, the assistant baseball coach for the UWM Panthers, is excited about Koenig’s success and has had to make some of the same choices.
Pierce, also an education major and right-handed pitcher for the Panthers, was signed by the Brewers in the spring of 2011. He played for the Helena Brewers minor league team, but eventually returned to finish his education degree.
“I’m happy for Sam. I saw him when he was a freshman and I was a senior on the team. He’s a true student-athlete, and that’s what we try to instill in all of our players.”
Now, Pierce is combining his teaching and baseball skills, working with Panthers’ baseball players. “Even before I was drafted, I was interested in coaching. I use what I learned in education in working with the players, but baseball also teaches you a lot of life lessons. I played for four years before I had to call it a career, but it was a great experience. I’m not teaching in a classroom, but I’m teaching on the diamond.”
If you’d like to see Sam Koenig in action, the Burlington Bees will be playing in Wisconsin the last week of August in games against the Beloit Snappers and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Appleton). Here’s the Burlington Bees Schedule.
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