Pawnee schools superintendent and former minor league baseball player Tim Kratochvil passed away unexpectedly Saturday.
Pawnee High School principal Nicole Goodall confirmed his death in a district-wide email.
Goodall did not mention a cause of death. Funeral arrangements for Kratochvil are pending. A candlelight vigil was held at the high school Sunday.
Kratochvil, 49, formerly served as junior high/senior high principal and football coach at Pawnee before taking over as superintendent in 2020.
Before that, Kratochvil taught and coached at Genoa-Kingston and Taylorville high schools.
A multi-sport standout at Mount Olive, Kratochvil was rated one of the top 22 catchers in the country by USA Today coming out of high school.
At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Kratochvil was a two-time NCAA All-Region selection, an All-Missouri Valley Conference selection a two-time team Most Valuable Player in baseball.
In 2019, Kratochvil was voted into the Saluki Hall of Fame.
Kratochvil played two seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization, reaching the Class A level. He later played in a semi-pro league out of Chicago.
Pawnee Grade School principal Chris Hennemann said he coached against Kratochvil but ultimately encouraged him to apply for the principal opening.
"Tim and I had become very close, so (his passing) has been very tough," said Hennemann, reached Sunday. "I'm very lucky and proud to have had Tim as a colleague and a friend.
"He was a huge help to me as a new principal. I bent his ear about every day just asking him things and asking for guidance. I think he was kind of excited about how things had been going in the district (post-COVID)."
Hennemann coached Kratochvil's sons at Pawnee, Jack and Luke, both of whom have graduated. Kratochvil's daughter, Olivia, is a freshman at the high school.
— District 186 (@schooldist186) September 24, 2023
Kratochvil, Goodall noted in the email, "dearly loved the Pawnee community and worked tirelessly to enrich Pawnee and its people, transforming lives, and leaving a legacy of positive change that will continue to benefit generations to come."
District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill said Kratochvil's passing was especially difficult in the shadow of the death of Edinburg superintendent Ben Theilen in late 2022. Beardstown superintendent Michael Smith also passed away just after the new year.
"(All of the area superintendents) are very close and supportive of one another in a job where each of us gives our all in central Illinois," Gill said, via text message. "Every time I saw Tim, he would offer words of support and encouragement as a fellow superintendent. He will be greatly missed. Our hearts are with his personal family and school family during this time."
New Berlin schools superintendent Jill Larson described Kratochvil as "one of a kind" who always brought humor to the locals superintendents' table.
"We always needed that as superintendents, and I always appreciated that," Larson said.
A running joke between Larson and Kratochvil was "Mr. Salty," the district's Pretzel mascot.
"We had changed what Mr. Salty looks like in New Berlin and I have it on my (signature line) at the bottom of my email and he'd say, 'It scares me to death when I see it,'" Larson recalled, with a laugh.
Kratochvil's unexpected death, Larson said, "makes you look at each day as a gift and we have to make sure we're living now and not just waiting to live until we retire."
Kratochvil's father, Roger, was a longtime school administrator, coach and St. Louis Cardinals scout. Other family survivors include his mother, Mary, and sister, Jane.
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This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Pawnee school superintendent Tim Kratochvil has passed away