Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — Before the start of every Demon baseball game, Washington head coach Nathan Miller takes a moment to think about how fun it was to play and how great it is to coach baseball on Dick Sojka Memorial Field.
Richard “Dick” Sojka graduated from Washington High School in 1965, then the University of Iowa in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in history. Sojka was highly connected to baseball in the Washington area.
Sojka was the president of Iowa Bridge & Culvert from 1997 until his death. Among many local activities, he was the Community Y Board president, on the Washington City Council from 1992-1999, Washington Finance Committee, Pool Committee and served as a volunteer project manager for the Washington Family Aquatic Center.
Sojka started the Washington Area Baseball Council with the goal to get kids involved in the sport. Sojka organized the East Division, Heartland Senior Babe Ruth Baseball where he was president for five years. He coached in two Babe Ruth World Series. He coached four years at Midwest Regional Babe Ruth Tournaments. Sojka coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball for 14 years where Miller played for Sojka.
“Dick was always smiling,” Miller said. “He wanted the best out of everyone. He was always helping with every part of the game and challenged us to grow.”
Sojka was 58 years old when he died in 2005 from injuries suffered in an automobile accident. The field was named in his honor shortly after that.
“His support was important to me, and he always stayed in touch even through the time I was in college,” Miller said. “He did that to everyone.”
A lot of renovations to the field have been supported by the Washington Area Baseball Council and the Booster Club, both of which helped get the indoor facility built in 2010. The clubhouse was added in 2017.
Miller’s and the Demons’ most memorable moment on the field may have been the defeat of Williamsburg, 5-1, to advance to the state tournament in 2012, the year the complex was renovated. Tanner Knupp, a sophomore second baseman at the time, went 2-for-3 in the victory. Current assistant coaches played a large part in the milestone game as seniors. TJ Rausch, playing shortstop, went 2-for-3. Jared Henry pitched all but the last out, scattering seven hits, walking two and striking out five.
Until 1992, Washington teams played at Green Field, where youth teams still play. Sojka was instrumental in changing fields. A high school-size field was needed and ground was broken in 1991 to build the new field, which did not have a name until 2005.
“We are able to do things because he helped pave the way,” Miller said.
The field was constructed through 1992 and the first season was 1993. Miller played on it until he graduated in 1998 and returned to coach on it in 2008.
The efforts of parents and community members has had a tremendous impact on our program,“ Miller said. ”Dick helped nourish baseball locally which helped get more kids involved and improved their play.“
Every coach impacts every player in some way and a part of themselves remain with their players.
“The field being named for him reflects his love and passion for the game,” Miller said. “He had a great impact on our community.”
Sojka’s contributions to Washington baseball are what led to success on and off the field. Those victories were the result of Sojka’s help in the development of the program.
“The teammates I had when I played on it, so many players that I have coached are all part of this field,” Miller said. “As the coach, I’m fortunate that I have had the privilege of 12 years taking care of the field and all that goes with it.”
Mowing, landscaping, applying chemicals, fertilizer, trimming are all things that Miller does as part of his job as coach at Washington. An excellent facility helps provide the best possible experience for kids.
"Dick is one of main reasons why the field exists,“ Miller said. ”His vision made it happen. Everyone that supports Washington baseball, including parents, are part of Dick’s legacy.“