Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Remembering “Mr. Incredible” Tim Kratochvil, Saluki Hall of Famer and Pawnee schools superintendent

Kratochvil, 49, played for SIU baseball from 1993-96
Tim+Kratochvil+accepts+his+Saluki+Hall+of+Fame+enshrinement+on+Oct.+18%2C+2019+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.
SIU Athletics
Tim Kratochvil accepts his Saluki Hall of Fame enshrinement on Oct. 18, 2019 in Carbondale, Illinois.

Tim Kratochvil was, above all else, a Saluki.

The Saluki Hall of Famer and longtime public schools administrator in Pawnee, Illinois, died unexpectedly on Saturday, Sept. 23. He was 49.

According to Alex Morell, a 2022 Pawnee graduate, it was rare that a day went by that Kratochvil wasn’t supporting the Salukis.

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Morell said, “If you didn’t see him wearing something that had to do with the Pawnee Indians, he was wearing something like SIU… he was very proud to be a Saluki.”

Kratochvil’s love was rooted in his standout baseball career. Ken Henderson, a former SIU baseball coach who helped recruit Kratochvil in the early 1990s, described him as a top prospect.

“To get him to commit to SIU was a big get for us,” Henderson said. “He was one of the premier hitters in the Missouri Valley for his entire time here, and that was his thing. He could really hit.”

Gene Green, a retired athletics media relations worker and radio announcer for the Salukis, as well as associate director of the SIU Alumni Association, remembered one Kratochvil blast in particular.

“He hit the longest collegiate home run I’ve ever seen… the ball went out of the stadium in Wichita State, across a four-lane highway and landed in a field across that highway,” Green said. “I could not believe watching that ball go.”

Kratochvil’s career statistics prove why he’s a Hall of Famer. He stands second in career RBI, sixth in career total bases and ninth in career home runs. Kratochvil also finished with two first-team all-conference nods and two team MVP finishes.

Tim Kratochvil is recognized at Saluki Stadium during the weekend of his SIU Hall of Fame induction Oct. 19, 2019. (From Saluki Athletics)

Kratochvil also was in the Boston Red Sox farm system for two seasons before moving into education. Once in education, he immediately became known as someone who cared deeply about his students and who was always able to make them laugh.

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Claire Oliver, a 2023 Pawnee graduate, thinks he was especially good at getting smiles.

“Just the goofiest guy you could meet,” Oliver said. “He was just absolutely hilarious and just found any way to put a smile on somebody’s face or make their day better.”

Oliver also noticed how present Kratochvil was in students’ everyday business.

“Every passing period, he was in the hallway, yelling somebody’s name or messing around with his kids,” Oliver said.

Many of his other students feel the same; Morell said Kratochvil’s office doors were always “wide open,” and he was in the hallway every morning with his cup of coffee and jokes at the ready.

Kratochvil, or “Mr. Incredible”, as he was known by the Oliver family, due in part to the difficult pronunciation of his last name, was also involved in people’s lives and loved outside of the classroom.

“That’s why it’s had such an impact on the town… he’s not just the superintendent. He’s more, because he’s a dad to a classmate. He’s a coach,” Morell said.

Former Pawnee athletic director Steve Kirby first met Kratochvil while coaching on opposing benches. Kratochvil eventually joined Kirby at Pawnee, where they worked together for 12 years.

Kirby fondly remembers the banter he would share with Kratochvil.

“We would haggle each other all the time,” Kirby said. “He would always somehow get to you. Every time he talked, he always found some way to make you laugh… there’s never a dull moment with him.”

Kirby also remembers how supportive Kratochvil was.

“There’s times he would look at me and say, ‘You’re the athletics director, make the decision, and I’ll back you 110%,’” Kirby said.

Abigail Landrey, a 2020 Pawnee graduate, remembers running into Kratochvil while in Carbondale.

“It was fun to catch up with him and still feel welcome and accepted by him as both a student and friend, even though I didn’t get the privilege to see him as often as I used to,” Landrey said.

Henderson saw this in Kratochvil. Beyond his relationships with former students, he also maintained relationships with teammates and friends from his playing days.

“He always struck me as extremely loyal,” Henderson said. “He came back every year for our alumni events. Never missed.”

Green also talked about Kratochvil’s continued support of Saluki athletics, going above and beyond the typical alumni.

“A lot of guys get elected [into the Saluki Hall of Fame], and they come back for that ceremony when they’re going in, but you don’t see a lot of them for years,” Green said. “They’re all invited every year. A lot don’t show up. Tim came back every single year after he was elected. He wanted to support the other people going in.”

Kratochvil, beyond having fierce loyalty to SIU, was also a great recruiter for the school.

Morell recalled Kratochvil reading off of her student of the month information; when he saw that her “college of choice” was blank, he immediately launched into a pitch for SIU, complete with a “Go Dawgs” chant.

Morell finds this connection between them to be very special, saying, “I’m very proud to say that I’m a Saluki and to share that in common with him.”

Landrey has a similar story; “[Kratochvil] is one of many reasons I chose to attend this university,” she said.

“He and the other teachers all told me to take the leap and attend SIU. It meant so much to hear positive feedback from someone I’ve always looked up to,” Landrey said.

Kratochvil was always supportive of his coworkers, and always wanted to put the students first. But, the kids that ultimately went first were his own.

Kirby said, “His main objective: kids first, family first.”

Henderson, whose relationship with Kratochvil spanned more distance, was still able to tell what kind of a parent he was.

“Tremendous from my view, tremendous father, who had great passion for his family,” Henderson said.

Morell, who was around the same age as several of Kratochvil’s kids, was able to closely see how he cared.

She said, “Whenever I think of him, I just think about how important his family is to him… I know how close he was to his kids, and he was always family first.”

Green mentioned how he is impressed by former athletes when they are able to succeed in the “real world”, in business and as parents.

“Tim was off the charts in those roles,” Green said.

Visitation will take place on Friday, Sept. 29 from 5 – 8 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church in Mt. Olive, Illinois. A second visitation will take place on Saturday, Sept. 30 from 12 – 2 p.m, with the funeral service at 2 p.m. Interment will follow at Union Miners Cemetery in Mt. Olive.

More information on the visitation, funeral service and memorial can be found at the obituary page hosted by Becker and Son Funeral Home in Mt. Olive.

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    Daniel SchwabSep 28, 2023 at 10:14 pm

    This is a detailed piece. Kudos to the reporter on this piece of a great person and Saluki who passed unexpectedly.

    Reply