Experiences and personal relationships in high school sometimes shape the person you become later on in life.
Fortunately, that’s the case for new Seton LaSalle baseball coach Mike Wagner.
Wagner overcame personal adversity early in his life and has gone on to become one of the leading businessman in Pittsburgh. The 1997 graduate of Seton LaSalle is hoping to return to his school to be a role model and give back to a school and community that still remains very close to him.
The school hired Wagner as its new high school baseball coach and he immediately announced that he was bringing back long-time Seton LaSalle coach Chuck Rutter, who retired from coaching back in 2007. The 77-year old has been a life-long friend and mentor to Wagner and someone who he credits to getting him to where he is today.
Where is that?
Wagner is the owner of Target Freight Management, which is one of two Pittsburgh companies to make the top 100 of the recently published 2017 Inc. 500 list. The multi-million business was named #71 on this exclusive list. The success of his company led to Wagner earlier this year being named Pittsburgh’s Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.
Despite all of this professional success, Wagner wanted to return to the place that shaped him and hopes to have a positive and life-changing influence like Rutter had on him.
“I’m so fond of that school. It did a lot for me. It’s just truly exciting. I feel like Coach Rutter and my other coaches mentored me so much that I want to go back and do that for kids that are there now. I’m so busy with my companies all around the country but I try to take time to coach kids in sports. I’m involved in AAU Sports and I try to get kids to use sports to learn things that they can learn later on in life, I truly believe that kids can learn about life through the game,” said Wagner.
It was very evident from our conversation that the person that influenced him the most in his life was Rutter, a person that was a life saver for Wagner.
“He was like a father to me. I didn’t have a father, he was gone before I was born. I grew up in a single-parent home and my mom had her share of issues as well. When I got to Seton, I was in a lot of trouble in middle school. He heard I was a pretty good baseball player and he took me under his wing. He gave me some tough love at first. He assumed a father figure role for me even though he had three children of his own,” said Wagner.
“He told me from day one that you’re going to do something great in life even though I was in trouble and getting a .5 grade point average in school. Also, Seton LaSalle the school never gave up on me either.”
Wagner has put together a staff of Rutter along with Brian Vogel (Seton LaSalle grad) and Eddie Nassan to lead the 2017-18 team. I asked Wagner what will him and his staff be stressing to their first team.
“I guess what I tell even my AAU kids is strive to be great, do something great in life, take chances, go for it. If you want something in life and you’re willing to work for it then go for it. That’s just the way I live life. I didn’t want to be the guy that wanted all those things but never gave it a shot,” said Wagner.
“I think I’m living proof considering where I came from it you do give it a shot and work hard it can work out. It doesn’t mean it will work out but at the end of the day, if you never take a chance or push yourself to those limits, then you really know where or how far you can go. That’s what I try and stress to kids.”
“If you want to play for a top program then go work hard. Do things in your life to make yourself great and enjoy life because you’ll regret it if you don’t.”