Feb. 25, 2013
The Fourth Pillar
So many of our former players are either at spring training already, or are heading there this week. It is bittersweet for me. I've already had to bid them adieu from the team once, and it is tough to say goodbye again each February. However, I'm so grateful for the pro guys' presence on campus. More than a handful trained here all fall and winter. Dave Fischer, Mike Olt, Pierre LePage, Pete Fatse, Nick Ahmed, John Andreoli, Elliot Glynn, Greg Nappo, Kevin Vance, Matt Barnes, George Springer, Jeff Fulchino, and Scott Oberg all got work done in Storrs during the past few months. They all have made a positive impact on our program, and they continue to come back and give back. The fourth pillar of our program - giving back to it after leaving is the one I get the most emotional about.
Measuring our academic success (Pillar 1) with diplomas, and our winning with championships (Pillar 2) are simple tasks. Our guys either get the sheepskin and rings, or they don't. Making them better leaders (Pillar 3) than they were when they got to Storrs is a bit more difficult to make tangible. Yet, we've always measured our effectiveness there with whether or not they give back. If we're real educators, that's the true barometer. I've never believed that if we just help them graduate, and win championships, they'll necessarily invest their time, energy, and/or money to help us perpetuate the vision of the program. We have to go beyond providing tutors, proctoring study halls, teaching them how to stay back on breaking balls, and getting w's.
The giveback comes in many forms. Wedding invitations, birth announcements, Christmas cards, and good luck texts are so nice. Volunteering with us for service projects, working our camps, visiting us on the road, and giving alumni pep talks in the huddles are really affirming. How about filling in to run bases during our practices like Elliot Glynn did this offseason, or stuffing envelopes like Kevin Vance, or becoming first-time Dugout Club members like John Andreoli, Dennis Accomando, Matt Barnes, Scott Oberg, Glynn, and Vance all did this offseason? That's all great stuff.
I caught Scotty's last bullpen session on Thursday morning before boarding the bus to the airport. He wished us all well and he handed me a check for UCADF-Baseball Stadium before we pulled out. I don't know who was prouder - the check writer who could barely walk a couple of years ago, or the receiver with the sprained left thumb (the sinker is ready, Berg)!
Kevin Vance spent the whole offseason interning in our baseball office to finish his bachelor's degree in Coaching/Administration. He gave us way more hours than required, and it was especially difficult to watch him head out to Arizona for his third year with the White Sox. The master of "feel" did so much to help the coaches and our team this year. He was fun to be around, and will one day - hopefully a long time from now, make a great coach.
Several of our former guys don't seem to be dissuaded by my long hours and longer forehead, and have become colleagues over the past few years. Dennis Accomando, Ryan Fuller, Ted Hurvul, Matt Untiet, and Tim Norton all begin new coaching jobs this spring with UMass, Quinnipiac, Washington College, URI, and the Yankees respectively. They'll join dozens of former Huskies as mentors of young baseball players, and give us new teams to root for (except for when they play against their alma mater). They're also giving back to our game every day with every life touched.
My first recruit, Brian Esposito is the newest coach. Espo caught my attention as a strong-armed and equally strong-mouthed catcher out of Staten Island way back in the mid-90's. He committed late in his senior year at Staten Island Tech, and starred for us from '98-'00. After the Red Sox drafted him in the 5th round, he enjoyed a thirteen-season pro career in the minor leagues with eight different organizations, and got two cups of coffee in the bigs with the Cardinals in '07, and the Astros in '10. Brian hung up the spikes for the coaching turf shoes last week, and I got goose bumps when he took the time to text his old coach to let me know he was joining the Pittsburgh Pirates as a coach.
I have no doubt that he'll be a great one. He knows how critical that fourth pillar is in holding up the entirety of a successful program or organization. Some of our guys don't really get it until long after they're gone, but whether it be this spring, next spring, or a spring thirty years from now, I hope each of them realizes not only the impact that they've had on our program, but also the one it has had on them.