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Memorial Baseball Game, Barbecue Honors Coach Smoliak

April 17, 2014

Northwood University Florida Campus faculty, staff, students and alumni recently joined to remember Coach Rick Smoliak as they gathered at the Gustave G. Broberg Athletic Complex to retire his number ten, enjoy a baseball game and a postgame barbecue with his family.

Well remembered for the lessons he’s taught both on and off the field, Smoliak was a talented athlete with a passion for sports.  Drafted to play baseball for the New York Mets in 1964, he went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Minnesota, where he also played ice hockey, and later received his Master’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He was the Athletic Director and Head Baseball Coach at Stony Brook University on Long Island before taking on the same roles at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Florida. Rick also was an avid tennis player and pro, teaching lessons throughout his life.

“Coach Smoliak would remind me ‘these are the best days of your life,’ every time I spoke with him, as he did all his players. More than just a coach, he was a man of great integrity, a leader, a mentor, my Florida ‘dad’ and most importantly my friend. He will be dearly missed by his family, his Northwood family of coworkers and players, and all those who got the chance to spend time with him,” said Maria Pumarejo, a 2008 graduate, who later joined Northwood as an employee to work under coach Smoliak as an intern.

A true family man, he is missed by his loving wife of 33 years, Barbara; his children Sheri, Sandy, Scott, A.J. and Brittany; six grandchildren Justin, Dillon, Jessica, Julia, Lucas and Jacob; three sons-in-law Keith, Roger, and Dennis; daughter-in-law Sam; sister-in-law Linda; niece Meredith and her husband Luther, nephew Jason, and niece Mary. He will also be missed by his coaching fraternity, current players, and countless alumni, all of whom meant the world to him.

“As a family, we’ve always know what type of man my Dad was,” said Smoliak’s son Scott. “But, it has become so abundantly clear in the days since his passing that it didn’t end there.  The number of lives that my father has affected in a positive way goes far beyond what I could have ever imagined and because of this, our family’s hearts have been filled with so much love and joy. As an educator and coach, his first and number one priority was to have the young men and women that he saw come through Northwood University earn a degree.  Without that, everything he worked for was meaningless.  To quote my dad, “We will all experience success continuously if we believe in ourselves, work hard, have passion for what we do and we live our lives by doing what is “Right!” “I LOVE my/our FAMILY!” I think this sums my father up perfectly and I am proud to have been able to call him MY FATHER,” he said.

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