Man recalls coaching Little League with Alex Trebek in heartfelt tribute

Trebek helped coach his son's team during a season that proved incredibly rewarding, according to one of the other coaches.
/ Source: TODAY

He may have been the beloved host of “Jeopardy!,” but Alex Trebek was also a devoted family man who coached his son in Little League like thousands of other fathers.

Mark Wallengren, who served as a longtime morning show radio host on KOST in Los Angeles, recently shared a Facebook post in honor of the late “Jeopardy!” host, who died Sunday at age 80. The tribute included a throwback picture of them and the team that they ended up coaching together in 1999.

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Wallengren explained in his post that he was coaching his then-8-year-old son’s Devil Rays team with a friend named John, and the team just so happened to include Trebek’s son, Matt, now 30.

“I remember Matty was a natural. Good throwing arm, he could hit a ball well, but when his dad was watching games or a practice from the stands, like so many parents do, he would shout out critiques,” Wallengren wrote.

“Many times it would adversely affect Matty's play and that worried John and me. We discussed how to approach the situation and what Alex's reaction might be. But Alex couldn't have been more gracious.

"What I discovered was that Alex, like all parents, just wanted to help. He wanted to be there for his son. He was openly receptive to our comments and then asked John and I if he could actually help coach our Devil Rays team.”

Alex signed on as one of the coaches, who all agreed they wouldn't criticize their own sons.

“The three of us worked so hard with our kids that spring. We taught through encouragement, basic fundamentals and always kept it fun. Alex was a huge part of that and his son Matty exploded!” Wallengren wrote.

Trebek and wife Jean were also parents to daughter Emily, now 27, and Trebek had another daughter, Nicky, from his first marriage.

“We started as complete underdogs but week after week we scratched our way to the championship game," Wallengren continued. "It ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as a dad and being part of a group working towards the same goal. I can say, observing first hand, that Alex loved his son Matty and his beautiful daughter Emily.”

Wallengren, who had interviewed Trebek over the years on his radio program, reiterated how gracious the "Jeopardy!" host was when he and his assistant coach spoke to him.

“We had this big conversation between of the three of us and determined that we would want to make sure that the coaching was going to be about fun,” he told TODAY.

“We ended up having a fantastic time together and ... had remained friends," He said. "My wife and his wife remained closer than both Alex and I."

Wallengren also gushed about Trebek's grown children.

“While Alex's pain is over, for me, it's, despite the fact of the fame and the wealth and whatever, you've got some very, very special people," he said. "Alex and Jean's kids are just such great kids."