Kevin Stangel is facing a crisis of time.
He coaches high school students in baseball and is president of Wisconsin American Legion Baseball. He is an attorney with Salutz & Salutz LLP, Manitowoc. He is the father of three young children.
There’s not enough time to go around.
Baseball has been in Stangel’s life the longest. His father owned and operated a sporting goods store in the Manitowoc and Two Rivers area for about 42 years, Stangel said, and playing sports was a part of growing up.
“My dad played fast-pitch softball until well into his 50s, and we were always at the field,” he said. “Baseball was just a sport that always fit well with me.”
When it was time to choose a college, Stangel also found himself wrestling with where his time would be best spent. He had to choose between attending a college at which he could continue playing baseball or a more academically rigorous university. He opted for the latter with the University of Minnesota.
While he was in Minnesota, he found his first volunteer baseball coaching gig.
After graduation, he joined the university’s Athletic Department, where he spent time with people involved in the NCAA Compliance Department. That was when he saw the potential for a career in sports law.
And that led him to Marquette University because of its sports law emphasis.
It also led him back to Wisconsin’s baseball diamonds. Stangel started coaching almost immediately after joining the firm in 2001.
He now logs thousands of hours on the field and in the Wisconsin American Legion Baseball offices. It’s an intensely busy coaching season, starting with practices in late May. Teams then play 30 to 35 games from mid-June though July.
But the league’s administrative work is nonstop. The statewide organization oversees 223 teams and more than 3,000 players. Raising money is the central task, both for scholarships and to make sure no player is denied for financial reasons.
Winning isn’t as important, Stangel said, as making sure the kids have positive experiences.
“Baseball generally is a great sport to teach life lessons, as long as you’ve got a coach with the right perspective and approach,” he said. “You can maintain relationships with the kids and their parents, long after they’re done, while watching the kids go on to succeed with college, jobs and families of their own.
“I take pride in their successes, even though I know I probably played a little part in it.”
Stangel has coached kids whose parents are divorcing, who come from troubled families or who have a parent dealing with cancer. He tries to help them stay upbeat and learn coping mechanisms.
But at 38, he now has kids of his own. And, like most lawyers, he puts in long hours.
“It’s become a difficult balancing act,” Stangel said. “I suspect I’ll stay involved with baseball in some capacity, maybe just at the state level in the administrative part and probably easing my way out of coaching so I can be more present at my own kids’ activities.
“That’s probably the direction I’m heading, until at some point I can jump back in and get back into the dugout.”