EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

July 11, 2007

No small achievement for Hall of Famer Wennik

It's a daunting task to find a single press clipping out of the pile that Paul Wennik empties out of his briefcase that does not contain the words, "little" or "tiny" in describing the former UMass Amherst standout lefty.

"UM's Little Paul Wennik Has An Amazing 0.35 ERA," screams one headline from the spring of 1961, his senior year.

Given that the 5-foot-5, 140-pound standout from Andover was putting the finishing touches on a terrific three-year career with the Redmen, as they were then known, it seems appropriate. But by the same token, the adjectives fall way short of describing the mammoth impact the gregarious 70-year-old has had on the institution, and so many others, on and off the field.

In tribute to those on-the-field contributions, Wennik will become just the sixth baseball player inducted into UMass Athletic Hall of Fame this fall (11 others played baseball and at least one other sport).

Lifetime pitchman for the Minutemen

Officially, Wennik stepped off the mound for UMass in 1962, but in reality he has never stopped pitching for his beloved school. Wennik figures he makes upwards of 40 trips annually from his home in Salem, Mass., to Amherst.

He has been recognized by nearly every board and committee at the school for his dedication in terms of fundraising, service and volunteer efforts. In 1992 he was honored by the UMass Alumni Association for his distinguished service.

"UMass is just an amazing part of my life," says Wennik. "I am very grateful for the way they took care of me. I easily could have gotten lost there, but they made sure that didn't happen."

Learned from 'Mr. Andover Sports'

Wennik played for a slew of coaches in a career that started in the sandlots in Andover in the late '40s and came to an end in the Boston Park League in the mid '80s when he made a brief comeback at the age of 52. He, however, is quick to note that just one stood out.

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