|Organization:||Lewis University (IL)|
Former Lewis University head baseball coach Irish O’Reilly is the distinguished recipient of the 2018 ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award. O’Reilly is widely recognized for his leadership within amateur baseball as a longtime member of the ABCA Board of Directors, longtime chair of the ABCA NCAA Div. II All-America Committee and a nine-year term on the NCAA Div. II Baseball Championship Committee. In addition, O’Reilly is recognized by his peers for his decades of mentorship of other baseball coaches, particularly at the NCAA Div. II, Div. III and NAIA levels.
In 38 years as a head coach at the collegiate and high school levels, O’Reilly’s teams amassed a 1246-916-8 (.574) record. The dean of Great Lakes Valley Conference baseball coaches, he compiled a record of 982-771-8 (.558) in 29 seasons at Lewis University, retiring as the eighth-winningest coach in NCAA Div. II history.
Thirty of his 38 teams enjoyed a winning season. In 29 seasons at Lewis, his teams reached NAIA or NCAA Div. II postseason play 14 times.
In his first two seasons at Lewis, which were the program’s final seasons as part of the NAIA, O’Reilly coached the Flyers to back-to-back NAIA Tournament appearances. They finished the 1980 season as national runner-up and won a school-record 61 games. That season, O’Reilly was named NAIA Area Coach of the Year.
Under O’Reilly’s leadership, Lewis placed among the top five at the NCAA Div. II Championship five times, capturing third place finishes in 1988, 1990 and 1994. His teams also won six Great Lakes Valley Conference titles, including a stretch of three straight from 1985-87.
Throughout his career, O’Reilly earned six GLVC Coach of the Year honors (1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1992 and 1994) and was named North Central Region Coach of the Year on five occasions. He coached 41 All-Americans and 51 players who signed professional contracts.
Before arriving at Lewis, O’Reilly served four years as head baseball coach and Director of Athletics at Kankakee Community College. He compiled a 130-66 (.663) record and guided his 1974 team to the NJCAA National Tournament. O’Reilly also amassed a 134-79 (.629) record in five seasons as head coach at his high school alma mater, Bishop McNamara (formerly St. Patrick Central) in Kankakee, Illinois.
O’Reilly was a star left-handed pitcher for Illinois State and went on to play in the Boston Red Sox organization.
O’Reilly was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame in 2008, the Illinois State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983, the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1988, the Bishop McNamara High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Lewis University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2014, Lewis honored O’Reilly by retiring his No. 14 jersey.
Named after the great Lefty Gomez, this annual award is presented to an individual who has distinguished himself among his peers and has contributed significantly to the game of baseball locally, nationally and internationally. The Lefty Gomez Award is sponsored by Wilson Sporting Goods.