DE KALB, IL—Wayne Dietz, 31, a claims adjuster at Sentry Mutual Insurance in De Kalb, is a little bit too excited about the company's co-ed summer softball team, inside sources confirmed Tuesday.

Sentry Mutual Insurance claims adjuster Wayne Dietz.

"Wayne's way into that softball league," co-worker Diane Stebbins said. "I mean way into it."

Dietz, who spearheaded the formation of the Sentry Mutual softball team in 1995, has been its captain, first-baseman, manager and official record-keeper ever since.

"Who's going to be down at MacPherson Park for the big game Friday?" Dietz asked a lunchtime crowd in the company break room. "As I'm sure you're all aware, it's the long-awaited rematch against our hated rivals, Speedy Printers. And let me tell you, this time, they're not going to be so lucky, beating us on a cheap bases-loaded walk that was clearly a strike. Those clowns may have gotten all the calls last time, but Friday's going to be a whole other story."

"I've been waiting six weeks for another crack at Speedy Printers. It's payback time!" added Dietz, giving the double thumbs-up to his unresponsive co-workers before going outside to deliver the same speech at the smoker's picnic table.

During the summer, Dietz spends upwards of 20 hours a week on softball-related duties, arranging carpools to games, placing reminder calls, calculating player statistics, and writing the team newsletter, which is e-mailed every Monday to all Sentry Mutual employees.

"People really love getting my weekly updates," Dietz said. "After each game, I choose a Sentry Mutual offensive and defensive MVP. Usually, that's not so tough, although I must admit, the pickings were pretty slim in last week's 14-2 loss to Ollie's Subs. I don't know what it is, but those guys just really seem to have our number this year."

Dietz's devotion to the team is so strong that Sentry Mutual employees from departments several floors away know him as "that softball guy."

"I guess it's nice that [Dietz] goes to all that trouble for the team," billing clerk Dave Burda said. "I'd never spend that much of my free time on something that's basically work-related, but, hey, if that's his thing, what do I care?"

Despite a sub-par team batting average of .341, Sentry Mutual's current record is 8-3 in the City Of De Kalb Recreational Softball League, where it competes with eight other area businesses, including M&I Advertising, the Olive Garden and the local Fiskars scissors factory.

With four games to play, the team is just two games behind first-place defending champion McNulty's Tavern, against whom it plays its final game of the season on Aug. 20. Sentry Mutual's next two contests are against the lowly Krupke Kleaners and winless Shear Magic hair salon, giving Dietz hope that the team will be in position to overtake McNulty's come the 20th.

"We've really got a chance to sneak in there and pass those guys," said Dietz, quivering slightly. "Wouldn't that league-championship plaque look beautiful hanging in the customer waiting room?"

Added Dietz: "Maybe if I moved Rhonda [Arbus] into the clean-up spot. She's really been smacking the ball pretty good lately."