Former Tiger baseball star lends a hand 55 years later

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Author: Tim O’Donnell

Wayne Sink ’59 once donned a catcher’s mitt for Occidental baseball. Now, he uses the tools from his workshop to lend a helping hand to the groundskeeping department at Anderson Field.

The Occidental Hall of Famer has remained a significant presence around the program as an alumni, serving as a mentor to players and coaches and acting as liaison between Occidental baseball and junior college programs around Southern California.

“I’ve enjoyed the atmosphere at Occidental, as a student, player and coach,” Sink said. “I just like being involved.”

Sink came to Occidental in Fall ’57 as a junior college transfer. Although much of his current connection to Occidental exists through baseball, Sink first donned the Tiger uniform on the gridiron, playing both ways—quarterback on offense and linebacker on defense.

When the spring of 1958 rolled around, Sink got behind the plate as the catcher for the Tiger baseball team under head coach Grant Dunlap ’46.

That season, Dunlap and Sink helped guide the Tigers to a SCIAC championship and an NCAA playoff berth. The Tigers lost to the University of Portland two games to one in the group stage, but Sink remains proud of the team’s accomplishments. According to Sink, it was one of the first times a school as small as Occidental had it made it that far into the playoffs.

“We were also invited to the NAIA playoffs, but Dunlap chose the more prestigious route,” Sink said.

Sink graduated in 1959 with a .357 career batting average and a hall of fame resume, but bad knees prevented him from pursuing either baseball or football at a higher level. Instead, Sink coached Occidental freshman football and baseball from 1959 to 1963 before becoming a physical education teacher and coach at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, Calif.

Sink did whatever was required of him at Birmingham, teaching classes and coaching baseball, football and softball for 37 years. He retired in 2000, but continued to serve as a volunteer football coach for nine years.

Now, Sink has taken on the role as a mentor for the Occidental baseball program. He became more heavily involved in 2011 when he campaigned for the college to hire then-interim head coach Luke Wetmore full time. Sink usually provides Wetmore with game notes and gives insight to the coaching staff during practice. He has also come to know a few of the players personally—particularly the catchers, with whom he discusses their in-game performances.

“[Sink] shows up to a lot of our games,” catcher Victor Muñoz (senior) said. “Luckily enough for me he played catcher so he has given me advice on how to play our field and deal with the sun setting in my eyes.”

Wetmore described Sink as a friendly face and a great supporter of the program. But Wetmore’s own personal relationship with Sink goes much deeper.

“Sinker is family,” Wetmore said via email. “He has the staff over for barbecues and swimming. Martha (Sink’s wife) puts on a mean spread and won’t let you say no to multiple helpings. He helped me move into my new home and spent two weeks on a ladder helping me paint … More than that, he is a mentor to all of the members of my staff.”

Sink also provides more tangible contributions. He has a shop in his backyard, complete with welders and machinery that he has used to help build screens, repair cages and fix the pitching machines. Recently, Sink built the team’s storage shed.

“I’ve been (Wetmore’s) go-to guy,” Sink said. “Their budget is limited. The maintenance department can do a lot of good, but I’ve been able to do some things.”

Sink also does what he can to raise awareness about Occidental’s baseball program by communicating with junior college coaches and giving them pamphlets and contact information, although he does not personally recruit players.

According to Sink, he tries to get coaches to realize that Occidental is a good landing spot for junior college players, though he realizes that some of the colllege’s entrance requirements make it difficult for players to gain acceptance.

“They just realize that it’s tough to get in,” Sink said. “But the quality [junior college players] get when they leave is obvious. Just being around education like I was for 41 years, it meant something to say that I graduated from Occidental.”

Both Sink and Wetmore want more alumni to get involved with the program and to connect the current players with the strong baseball tradition at Occidental. Slowly, the alumni are beginning to do just that.

There are currently four baseball alumni who graduated after 1995 that serve on the college’s Hall of Fame Committee and several others who are scheduled to speak to the baseball team about leadership, excellence and commitment. According to Wetmore, they are fortunate to be able to follow in Sink’s footsteps.

“[Sink] is a great example of what a dedicated alum should be and I hope more follow his role,” Wetmore said.

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