As Air Force baseball coach Mike Kazlausky showed a recruit around the academy Tuesday, he wore khaki pants and a polo shirt.
“I’ve never done that before,” Kazlausky said. “I’ve always been in military uniform. It was weird.”
Kazlausky should have been thrilled this week. The former Falcons baseball player officially became the permanent coach at Air Force, removing the interim tag he had for a year. Instead, he was melancholy.
In order to become the full-time coach of Air Force, Kazlausky had to retire from military service, which he admits was very difficult. He retired with the rank of major. He could have stayed in the military and been stationed in South Carolina to resume his duty as a C-17 pilot, or retire and coach Air Force baseball. He had served the Air Force for about 20 years.
“20 years and two days,” Kazlausky quickly says, not counting his four years as a cadet. “There was no one prouder to wear the uniform.”
He had to trade in his flight suit to keep his baseball uniform. He points out that both had the American flag sewn on the left shoulder, and he is proud to have worn the flag on his shoulder for almost all of his adult life. So while he is excited to lead the baseball team – he sincerely says the Falcons players are as much a part of his family as his wife and two children – he had mixed emotions. However, he felt he could make a difference at the academy.
“I felt I had a bigger impact being at the Air Force Academy, not just to the baseball players but all 4,200 cadets, by being a positive role model,” Kazlausky said.
Kazlausky’s energy had an impact on the baseball program. This season Air Force won 19 games, its most wins since 2002, and the coaching staff’s positive approach was welcomed by the players.
“They’ve done a great job,” said Parker Mayo, a first baseman/catcher who just finished his senior year at Air Force.
Kazlausky is excited for the future of the baseball program, but he doesn’t want to be defined by that job.
“I want my kids, and our baseball players too, to not remember me as a baseball coach or even a pilot,” Kazlausky said. “I want them to remember me as a military officer first and foremost.”