Phoenix Bourgade Catholic’s baseball team is reeling after the sudden death of its baseball coach on Thursday.
Greg Henke, who had been away from the team for two weeks while battling an illness, was 52.
Henke, who came to Bourgade after graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1988, worked as a counselor. This was his 18th season as head baseball coach and 28th in the Bourgade baseball program.
Henke coached Bourgade to the 2A state championship in 2010.
Ryan Lemke, who is in his second year in the program, will take over for the rest of the season. The team is 5-5.
He said he left it up to the kids whether to play their scheduled game Friday against Glendale Joy Christian, but they voted to postpone it. That game will be made up at a later date.
Lemke said he began filling in for Henke two weeks ago while he was ill.
He said Bourgade will play its first game since Henke’s death on Monday at home against Phoenix Christian.
“Everyone is really upset,” Lemke said. “But we have a good support system at Bourgade, a great support system on the team. We have to rally around each other and pick each other up. We’ll try to move forward step by step. It seems like a hard thing to do. But we have to start those steps on Monday.”
Henke, who had heart surgery four years ago, was battling a viral infection, according to his former longtime assistant Terry Woods, who is an attorney.
“He didn’t get better,” Woods said. “He was on his way to the hospital Thursday and didn’t make it. His heart stopped.”
Woods called Henke a role model for kids.
“The thing that stands out about Greg was not just that he was a great coach,” Woods said. “First and foremost, he was an outstanding Catholic gentlemen. He is the kind of guy you would want your kids to hang around. He will be irreplaceable.”
“There was no one else like him” said softball coach JinHee Huff, who worked in the counseling department with Henke. “He was genuinely a great guy. We are playing in the Apollo tournament and we are dedicating all of our games to him.”
Henke leaves behind a wife and two daughters, one a sophomore at Bourgade and another a seventh grader, Woods said.
Kevin Woods, the son of Terry, was the pitching coach at Bourgade on the 2010 state championship team, while his father was the hitting coach.
Kevin and Terry both left Bourgade after last season. Kevin left because he took a teaching job at Phoenix Sunnyslope.
“He had a huge impact not only as a coach but a teacher and a counselor,” said Kevin Woods, a Phoenix Brophy Prep graduate. “He had a huge impact on other faculty members.”
Former Bourgade Athletic Director Shawn Gatson called Henke a mentor to young men and women with morals and ethics that were “unmatched.”
“I had the honor of being in his class, then became his assistant coach and finally I became his supervisor,” Gatson said. “Former students would come back and seek him out any time they were on campus.
“He might not have remembered all of their names but he knew exactly who they were.”
Lemke said it will be tough replacing Henke.
“He was easily one of the greatest people I ever met,” Lemke said. “That is on and off the field. A tremendous person. He was great with the kids and he had a great baseball mind.”
The family is in the process of working out funeral services.
Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert