For years, all Charles Bolden wanted was a chance to run his own baseball program.
After beating out 90 candidates for the head coaching vacancy at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the former OPRF baseball player is ready to seize the opportunity he has prepared his entire adult life for.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said Bolden. “Eau-Claire has a rich history with baseball and being able to build my own program is something I have wanted for a long time. It’s a rare opportunity and I am so grateful that the university chose me for this position.”
Eau-Claire discontinued its baseball program in 1995 but decided to resurrect it this year to appeal to prospective students interested in baseball (the university is also adding women’s lacrosse and men’s soccer). According to Bolden, the athletic department was looking for someone to execute its four-year plan of creating a winning culture and effectively recruiting players around the Midwest.
This was the type of opportunity Bolden had been waiting in the wings for.
After playing two years of professional baseball, he wanted to get experience coaching at all levels. He created a travel baseball program called “Midwest Havoc” and coached high school players from OPRF, Lyons Township, Nazareth Academy, Riverside-Brookfield, Fenwick, and others from around the area. He also had coaching gigs at Illinois Tech and Chicago State University.
With his connections in the area and a hunger to build his own program, Bolden was the ideal candidate to take the job at Eau-Claire when it opened up.
“There was a set of criteria that we as a search committee tried to get to find the first coach since the reinstatement [of the program],” said Eau-Claire’s athletic director, Daniel Schumacher, at the press conference introducing Bolden as head coach. “As a group, we talked about passion, the value of higher education, and the importance of recruiting great citizens of our community. After interviewing him on Skype and on-campus, Coach Bolden’s enthusiasm was infectious.”
That enthusiasm can be traced back to Bolden’s time at OPRF where he played varsity baseball for two years before graduating in 2004. He routinely stayed after practice and worked with hitting coach Wayne Wente on his swing. He credits Wente for setting an example for him to be an extra-mile coach.
“I think we had 18 guys when I played who went on to play college baseball,” said Bolden. “I was probably the player people expected the least to get to the next level. I knew I had to work outside of practice to get where I wanted to be. [Wente] didn’t need to stay and put that extra work with kids, but he did.”
Now that he has his opportunity, Bolden no longer has to work five jobs to pursue coaching on a full-time basis. Above all else, he wants to spread the message to younger people to go after their dreams unimpeded by the fear of not reaching their goals.
“I just want people to look at my story and see the value of hard work and grinding to achieve your dreams,” said Bolden. “Looking back at my time in Oak Park, I am so appreciative of all the parents, teachers, and everyone who helped me to graduate from OPRF and get to where I am today. Everything I do now, I want to send the message to kids that they can do anything they set their minds to and learn from my underdog story.”