Joseph "Joe" Mikulik, born October 30, 1963 in Weimar, Texas, is a former minor league baseball player and the former manager of the Asheville Tourists class A minor league baseball team. The 5' 11" right-handed outfielder never rose above AAA baseball, but was a key player in the Tucson Toros' first Pacific Coast League championship in 1991. During 2007, his eighth season with the Tourists, Mikulik, who already held the team record for most games managed, became the team's all-time leader in managerial wins.
Mikulik attended Bishop Forest High School in Schulenburg, Texas where he lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track and field. He went on to play 2 years at San Jacinto Jr. College where he would earn All-American award. In 1984, he was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 9th round in the winter draft. Through the 11 year playing career, there were many great moments. One of the highlights of his career happened on September 13, 1991, the recently promoted Mikulik, playing in the Pacific Coast League for the Championship, wearing wristbands emblazoned with the words "NEVER SURRENDER", drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning in the final game of the league championship series between Tucson and the Calgory Cannons Team General Manager Mike Feder later remembered the game as "one of the best moments in Tucson baseball history."
He was again with the Toros when they won their second and final championship under that name in 1993. He finished his career as a player in Tucson in 1994, aside from one more stint in the Mexican League.
Mikulik attended San Jacinto Junior College where he was a walk-on and received a full scholarship. After an All-American sophomore season, Texas A&M offered him a 2 year scholarship but he signed with the Houston Astros after being drafted in the ninth round of the 1984 amateur draft. Mikulik’s biggest challenge came in his first year in the minors playing for Auburn Astros, Mikulik had a batting average of .200 and almost decided to quit the sport of baseball. It was Mikuluk’s friend and teammate, a center fielder of the Astros, who convinced Mikulik to stick with baseball. Mikulik’s batting average saw a sudden rise to .247. Over the next ten years he played for the Auburn Astros, the Asheville Tourists, the Columbus Astros and the Jackson Generals, all in the Astros' minor league system, supplemented with a stint in the Mexican League. From 1988 to 1992 he spent parts of each season with the AAA Tucson Toros, finally spending the entire season there in 1993. On September 13, 1991, the recently promoted Mikulik, wearing wristbands emblazoned with the words "NEVER SURRENDER", drove in the winning run, during the bottom of the ninth inning in the final game of the league championship series between Tucson and the Calgary Cannons. "It was a great thrill," he told a reporter ten years later. "I was in the right place at the right time." Team General Manager Mike Feder later remembered the game as "one of the best moments in Tucson baseball history." He was again with the Toros when they won their second and final championship under that name in 1993. He finished his career as a player in Tucson in 1994, aside from one more stint in the Mexican League, where the new environment made him a stronger man. Mikulik came very close to joining the big leagues during his 11 year tenure in the minor leagues. Mikulik finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .279, 1265 career hits, 109 career home runs, 670 career RBIs, 161 stolen bases, and 742 runs. Played on 3 championship teams, 1986 AA Southern League Champion Columbus Astros, 1991 & 93 AAA Pacific Coast League Champion Tucson Toros.
After Mikulik retired from baseball he realized that he wanted to help other men achieve their dreams of reaching the major leagues. In 1995, Mikulik coached the Canton-Akron Indians, and rose to the position of manager with the Burlington Indians in August 1997. He became manager of his previous team, the Asheville Tourists, in 2000. Among his motivational tools for the latter team was a video called Running With the Toros, which is about the Toros' first championship season. Mikulik won his 800th game with the Asheville Tourists on May 17, 2011 against Lexington (Ky.) and becomes the all-time leader in victories and games that he has managed. Mikulik is currently in his 12th season in Asheville and as of May 17, 2011 has posted a record of 800-757 (.513). Mikulik is a member of the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame and a three-time SAL Manager of the Year (2001.’07 and ’08) leading the Tourists to three playoffs. Tourists assistant general manager Chris Smith was quoted in the Asheville’s Citizen Times “Joe winning 800 games with Asheville is an amazing accomplishment that we are all proud of. Him being in Asheville for that long is so rare in minor league baseball, and it’s a testament to how much the (parent club Colorado) Rockies believe in Joe’s ability to develop young talent.”
In 2012, Mikulik lead the Tourists to the South Atlantic League Championship.
Meltdowns on the Field
Mikulik is well known for embarking on a lengthy tirade after being ejected from a game against the Lexington Legends on June 25, 2006. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Mikulik got into an argument over a Legends player, third baseman Koby Clemens, called safe after a close call at second base. Having had enough, the umpire proceeded to eject Mikulik from the game. Mikulik then went on an extended rant, pulling up the second base and throwing it into the field, throwing bats from the dugout on to the field, then finally pouring water on home plate before eventually leaving for the clubhouse, where he continued his tantrum unseen, toppling water coolers and a chair in front of the umpire's locker room. The Legends went on to win the game. Afterward, Mikulik made several unapologetic comments, including the claim that "I could get two mannequins at Sears and umpire better than what I saw this whole series." As a result of his actions, Mikulik was given a seven-day suspension and $1,000 fine; Mikulik's antics were shown on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, SportsCenter, and MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. The meltdown was also profiled in the 2011 documentary film Legendary: When Baseball Came to the Bluegrass. Mikulik has described his coaching experience as, “Lots of trial and error, just like life”. His career record stands at 868-838, a winning percentage of .509.
Mikulik threw a similar tirade in a game against the Charleston RiverDogs on July 27, 2012. In the bottom of the first inning, Mikulik came out of the dugout to dispute a call that a base runner was safe by eluding a tag during a rundown. After a heated argument, Mikulik was ejected by an umpire after he kicked dirt and reenacted the play. Infuriated, Mikulik went back to argue with the umpiring crew and even removed third base before giving it to a fan. Mikulik left the game tipping his hat to the crowd as he received mixed applause.
Chris Iannetta—MLB catcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
When asked about his former coach, major leaguer Chris Iannetta described him as someone who “treated and handled players well and motivated through his positive energy all year.” Iannetta believes his strongest qualities as a manager are his “energy, passion, and care for players”.
Simon Ferrer—Minor League Pitcher for the Modesto Nuts Ferrer describes Mikulik as the best manager he has ever had and was fun and enjoyable to be around. “Playing with [Mikulik] is a blessing, [he] showed me a different way to look at baseball and how you can attribute it to everyday life. He loves teaching and spending times with others and brings out the best in his players. He motivates as well as knowing the game”.
Ian Stewart—MLB Infielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Ryan Spilborghs –MLB Outfielder for the Colorado Rockies
Aaron Cook—MLB Pitcher for the Boston Red Sox
Mikulik has two children, son Dawson and daughter Susan who is married to Ian Stewart who has two children, Ellsi Gray and Mila Rose and is currently engaged to Candy Conway.
- "Joe Mikulik AAA". Retrieved 2008-02-03.[dead link]
- "Mikulik could have record year - Jan. 4, 2007". Retrieved 2007-01-20.[dead link]
- Devine, Dave. "Toro! Toro! Toro!". Retrieved 2 June 2011.
- Jarrett, Keith. "Joe Mikulik wins 800th game with Asheville Tourists". Retrieved 2 June 2011.
- "Manager meltdown in Charleston - Jul. 27, 2012". Retrieved 2012-07-28.