Since graduating from high school, Derek Stecklein has been associated with some knowledgeable baseball minds.
From Jack Dahm and Rick Heller at the University of Iowa to Ryan Brownlee at Western Illinois and Bill Sandry at Pleasant Valley, the 26-year-old Stecklein has gleaned insight from each of them.
"I've taken everything from them," Stecklein said. "I steal a lot of (ideas).
"Coach Dahm, Heller and Brownlee were real big into the teaching of the fundamentals, particularly infield play."
Stecklein has the opportunity to apply what he's learned, taking over as PV's new baseball coach. He replaces Sandry, who stepped down after three seasons.
After being a student-assistant for four years at Iowa, Stecklein spent time working under Brownlee at Western Illinois and was an assistant under Sandry this past summer.
Given he isn't too far removed from his playing days at Oelwein High School, Stecklein can relate well with teenagers.
"We have some unbelievably high-character players here at PV," Stecklein said. "Their passion for the game rejuvenates my passion for it in how much they want to learn and how good they want to be. The kids want to be successful."
The Spartans have hovered around .500 the past two seasons — 21-19 in 2017 and 20-21 last summer.
PV graduated its top hitter in Evan Crawford and pitchers Kyle Stoddard, Will Christophersen and Bradley Melvin.
"We thought last year we had all the pieces to the puzzle," Stecklein said. "We fell short in some areas we thought we'd be able to rely on.
"PV is right there. We have kids committed to the program, committed to winning, a great culture within the program. Everything is there. It is just a matter of putting it all together."
Stecklein was an all-stater at Oelwein. He tried to walk-on at the University of Iowa, but admitted he wasn't good enough.
"I could hit, and that was about it," he said, "but I had the opportunity to stick around and be a student-assistant coach. In the long run, it worked better for me than if I would have played. I had a chance as an 18-year-old to be in coaching meetings, helping with practice and camps."
Stecklein has a degree in sports management.
His girlfriend at the time, now his wife, was the reason for moving to the Quad-Cities two years ago.
Currently, he is going back to school to get his education license and doing some substitute teaching.
When an opening came about on Sandry's staff last year, he was intrigued. He's always had a desire to teach and coach.
"I felt I was at a point in my life where I was ready to lead a program," Stecklein said, "and win a championship along the way."