Wauwatosa East's new baseball coach is familiar with what the Red Raiders have gone through the past four seasons because he has had a first-row seat in the dugout.
Brian Karas, the Red Raiders varsity assistant the past three years, was named to head up the struggling program and try to pull it out of its recent doldrums it has found itself.
Karas replaced Matt Dahlstrom, whose career record was 38-90, a .297 winning percentage, which included going 21-62, a .253 winning mark, in the rugged Greater Metro Conference. Dahlstrom designed to spend more time with his family.
Being familiar with the program was important in Karas' hiring.
"I think it's most important in building relationships and trust with the kids and parents," Karas said. "It will make the transition much easier, especially with the seniors who know me and what I'm about."
The Red Raiders will have nine seniors coming back and junior Ben Carpenter, perhaps their top player.
Karas hopes to draw on some advice from football coach Jake Wolter.
"The first step I learned from Jake Wolter," he said. "Get some excitement and enthusiasm back, then build on fundamentals and competitiveness. At all levels, we need to bear down and work on the fundamentals of the game. Get these kids to be more competitive, learn how to compete and how to win."
Karas wants to meet with the three feeder programs - the Jr. Raiders, North Central Little League and the Tosa Baseball League and let them know that he is available and ask what he can do for them.
The Red Raiders best season the past five years was 2010, when they finished 7-13 in league play and 15-19 overall. This past season they were 5-18 in league play and 9-21 overall.
The personable Karas has 11 years experience as a high school baseball coach, beginning in 2001 as a varsity assistant at St. Francis High School. He then moved on to Shorewood High School from 2002-05 where he was an assistant varsity coach. In fact, in 2004 he wore two hats, coaching the JV as well as assisting on the varsity level.
He moved on to St. Francis High School where he was a varsity assistant (2006-08) and then came over to Tosa East the last three seasons. This past year, in addition to his varsity duties, he also coached the JV for half the season.
Karas has also coached different sports.
He was the head coach for St. Francis girls freshman basketball team from 2004-2005 before moving on to coach boys basketball from 2005-2010 at Shorewood High School, being the head freshman coach (2005-06). He then was promoted to varsity assistant (2006-10).
"I've coached, and still do, for some really knowledgeable people," Karas said, "but spending those five years coaching for John Hoch at Shorewood, and continuing the great friendship we have to this day is a huge reason of why I'm where I am now - not only as a coach, but as a person.
John and his wife, Lori, have helped me in so many ways and I'm forever grateful to them."
He was the JV basketball head coach from 2010-11 at Tosa East and a varsity assistant. He was also the statistician for the Red Raiders football (2010-present) and softball (2009-2011) teams.
Karas graduated from St. Francis High School and at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he majored in psychology and minored in athletic coaching.
He played two and a half years of varsity baseball at St. Francis, being a two-time captain of the Mariners. He was also an All-Parkland Conference pitcher in 2000.
He holds the school record for lowest ERA (1.51) and fewest walks per game (1.3) in the "aluminum bat era."
One of the things that Karas would like to see the younger kids start doing is use their whole body when pitching.
"In Little League, most pitchers pitch only with their upper body," Karas said. "They do not have a lot of lower body drive."
In the off-season workouts Karas want to work on helping the kids break their bad habits.
He also has an important hitting philosophy.
"We need for the kids to understand where they are in the counts and then looking for their pitch," he said. "Know what you are looking for so you can sit on a fastball."
Karas is thrilled to get the job.
"It's something I've wanted my entire life," he said. "Some kids want to be cops. Some want to fight fires. I want to be a head coach. I work here and I love it, this is where I want to be."
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