SEYMOUR – All you need to hear is Yak. You know immediately. Big guy, big smile and big, big part of Seymour softball. Actually big even when repeated doesn’t do him justice. Yak goes beyond that. He is an essential ingredient in the recipe that makes Seymour arguably the best softball program in Connecticut over the last 40 years.
For the record and the really official things in life Yak goes by Jamie Yakushewich. Yak kind of works better in everyday life. His students and players like the shortened version, easier on the tongue. More importantly what is appreciated is what he has given and gives to the excellence that is Seymour softball.
Yak was honored this past spring as the Connecticut High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) Assistant Coach of the year, an honor long overdue in part because he wasn’t eligible until recently.
“To get nominated you have to be in the coach’s association and this was the first year he was a member,” explained Seymour coach Ken Pereiras who nominated him.
In Yak’s world the honor is nice but being part of the program is really what is special.
“I was little surprised that Ken nominated me and happy that I got the recognition for coaching a lot of years,” Yak said. “But, it’s surreal watching Seymour High School softball when I was younger and then becoming a part of it. It’s cool.”
It is easy to draw attention with a program bathed in brilliance. That is Seymour. When you have played in 13 state finals and won nine championships since 2000 and have appeared in 20 title games and won 12 since 1985 that kind of demands notice and appreciation. And a little frustration if you happen to be the teams doing business with the Wildcats. Throw in 22 Naugatuck Valley League crowns and a state record 78-game win streak and you have deluxe dominance.
There are legions of All-Staters that have run around the diamond through the years and a steady stream of pitching Hall of Famers that include Shelby Slie, Kim Bogen, perfect Danielle Liska (50-0), Jen D’Amato, Raeanne and Jenna Geffert .
With all the talent and performance resonating in the program through the years it would also be easy to get lost in the shuffle of the excellence. Especially if you are not on the field or calling the shots. Yet you can’t escape Yak.
At 6-foot-3 or so and about 240 lbs. Yak doesn’t exactly get lost in a crowd. He is a physical presence among the team and standing next to Pereiras who gives away almost a full head to his assistant coach.
Yet really it’s all about the size of Yak’s contributions to the program. At 44-years-old he has spent more than half of his life bleeding Seymour softball blue and gold. Blame some of it on his sister Jill.
“I was very supportive of her when she was playing softball for Seymour and we went to the state finals in 1996 (won) and that was very cool,” Yak said. “I started doing the book with coach (Bill) Davis in 1998 and when my sister won the title in 2000 it was really nice because my father had passed away in 1999.”
Yak has never left. He has coached for two legends in Davis and Pereiras and been in integral part of nine championship season rides.
“(Jamie) is very loyal and I have learned over the years that loyalty is very important,” said Pereiras who has coached the Wildcats for 18 seasons. Whatever I do he is always 100 percent behind me. “
Pereiras has seen a host of quality coaches come and go, among them Joe Musante, Neil Swanchak and most recently Dave Sylvester. Yak’s coaching car is cemented to Seymour High School. He’s a Seymour guy from start to finish. It’s home.
What does Yak do? The question needs to be rephrased – What doesn’t Yak do.
“I like to say I’m the brains and he’s the brawn,” chuckles Pereiras. “He does almost everything. He lines the field and cleans and rakes. He does the scheduling with other coaches for scrimmages. He works with the outfielders. He’s a coach without being the head coach. He sees stuff that has to be done as coach and will set his own practice schedule. “
And Yak also does scouting reports for the games and helps with the fund raising. All of the efforts are enhanced by his position in the school system where he works with special education students.
“Being in the school, he sees kids and talks to them on a daily basis which helps,” Pereiras said.
Oh yeah and he throws in a little extra special element to it all. A huge line dancing fan and participant he occasionally breaks out a few moves for the players. Word has it in basketball terms – he moves well for a big man.
Never underestimate the lighter stuff particularly in a program where expectations are so high and in Yak’s words a few losses is, “like the world is coming to an end. “ Seymour doesn’t play to make the state tournament. The Wildcats play to win the state tournament.
What Yak likes most about it all is working with the team and Pereiras and being part of a special program.
What the CHSCA affirmed this spring is that he is a special part of that special program. Assistant Coach of the Year.
P.S. Seymour has known that for long time.