When wedding season hits, Josh and Debby Rabe figure they’ll be busy.
On the docket this year are eight weddings involving players Rabe has coached during his 11-season tenure at the helm of the Quincy University baseball program. The coach plans to attend every ceremony if possible.
“It’s something my wife and I look forward to,” Rabe said.
It’s part of what has made Rabe so vastly successful at his trade.
Sure, his baseball knowledge is substantial and his ability to help players become robust hitters is unparalleled. But the connection he makes with his players, starting with the recruiting process and evolving through the years they spend in his program, creates a family atmosphere that exists long after graduation.
“We’ve had success on the field, a lot of success and it is fun,” said Rabe, who is QU’s all-time winningest baseball coach with a 319-188 record, six NCAA Tournament appearances and two Great Lakes Valley Conference championships. “All the guys who have come through here, they’re pretty darn successful off the field, too.
“I get to go to all these weddings. So it’s tough. It’s tough leaving that.”
Telling his players this spring would be his final one in the dugout was the toughest part of all.
Friday, Rabe was named as QU’s next athletic director and tabbed to officially take over June 1. He will serve as associated athletic director until then, working alongside interim athletic director and president emeritus Phil Conover while coaching the baseball team this spring.
It will be his 11th and final season, a fact he had to divulge to his players about 30 minutes before his introductory press conference Friday morning in the QU Hall of Fame Room.
“I am generally not an emotional guy,” Rabe said. “When I started in telling them this was my last year, I had to pause and I had lighten the mood a little bit because it was trending toward that direction. That’s not the way I like to go. We got through it.
“I tried to make the guys understand why this is happening and there is never an ideal time for this because there isn’t. There’s never a good time to leave.”
The benefit for Rabe and the Hawks is he’s not leaving. He’s transitioning.
He will be on campus. He’ll be at QU Stadium. He may even drop by practice a time or two. He’ll have an office in the Health and Fitness Center where his players can stop in and chat.
So Friday’s news wasn’t good-bye, clearly not with a season ahead that could be incredibly special.
“I reminded them I’m not going anywhere,” Rabe said. “This where I want to be.”
With a talented crew, featuring a deep pitching staff and a robust lineup, and Friday’s announcement by the NCAA that Division II spring national championships will go on as planned, the Hawks would like nothing better than to send Rabe out in style.
In fact, they’d like to make him wait until after June 12 to start his new gig.
That would be after the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships.
“That would be something special,” Rabe said. “I want these guys to enjoy this season as much as possible. That’s my goal. I want to go out there every day and enjoy it with them.”
Rabe’s done that for the last decade, and he will continue to enjoy every day moving forward in his new role. The entire student-athlete population, not just the baseball players, will look to him for leadership, and he will continue to instill the family mentality, just on a little bigger level.
That may mean a few more weddings to attend and a few more celebrations of what Rabe holds dear.
That’s family and Quincy University.
And no matter his role, the two will always go hand in hand.