Coach: Hey, spring sports fans -- this one's for you

  • Marv Baker

    Marv Baker

  • Jon Cohn

    Jon Cohn

 
 
Updated 4/14/2022 8:26 AM

In memory of Marv

This news is certainly near and dear to our new Deerfield and Highland Park readers, but likely of interest to all: We lost a good one -- no, make that a great one -- last week.

 

Marv Baker passed away at the age of 83. Baker was a long time P.E teacher in Highland Park, but he really made his mark with a unique take and direction in youth sports.

"Baker Ball" was well-known to a large generation of North Shore residents who were lucky enough to participate in any of the many programs that Marv Baker ran.

"Baker Ball" was really something special, with take-aways definitely relevant to the youth sports coaches of today.

Baker treated every kid in the program equally and made a point of never showing favoritism to the better athletes.

He would rotate fielding positions, and batting orders were alphabetical, or arranged some other way so that it wasn't just the elite players always batting first.

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He saw at an early age, in baseball, that too many pitchers would struggle to get the ball over the plate and the game became to slow for the kids. He got high school and college kids to pitch to the youngsters, and the games became much more action-packed.

He knew every kid's name, and through the 40 years he ran the program, kids he coached would bring their own kids into the program.

He knew the No. 1 goal of any youth sports program was to make sure ALL the kids had fun, and ALL kids had an equal chance at success.

Most of all, he did it with a genuine enthusiasm, positivity, and a love for working with young kids.

Marv Baker had a tremendous impact and will be missed by so many.

Youth coaches, by adopting some of the spirit and methods of "Baker Ball," you would be paying the ultimate tribute to this great man.

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An ode to the parents, relatives, fans, and students who come out to support the many outdoor spring sports, sung to the tune of any song you like.

Here's to you, oh ye loyal supporter,

Of all of our spring sports; much too cold for this reporter

The loyal, the trusted, the longtime family member

Who stays late at the game, even when it feels like December.

You come early to cheer, with the weather not too wrought,

But by hour No. 2, you're wearing the winter jacket you brought.

You stick around, proudly, through the thick and the thin,

Leaving early, in your mind, would be the ultimate sin.

Yes, here's to you, robust fan, who fights the dark, wind and cold,

Watching the kids play, you say, it never gets old.

Even with hat, gloves, and jacket, cheering your kids team is your thing

But wait, why all those layers, when it's supposed to be spring?

I have seen you, lacrosse parents, roaming the sidelines,

Still trying to figure out this new sport's strange, special guidelines.

But you stay there, and cheer, of your own unique choosing,

While staying warm requires you to constantly keep moving.

I have seen you too, soccer fans -- those evening games seem so fun,

Until the darkness sets in, and then, gone goes the sun.

Now the temperatures drop, and only the boldest remain,

Hoping for anything but a zero, zero game.

I have seen you, tennis parents; oh, what a loyal bunch!

Sitting near the courts, all gathered and hunched;

Watching matches and hoping for victory, but one never knows --

The only thing assured is when that biting, cold wind blows.

And I haven't forgotten perhaps the most loyal of them all:

You track and field fans who answer every call,

You stand there -- so shivery! -- as meets seem to go on forever,

All waiting to watch your kids in each chosen endeavor

I have seen you, too, baseball/softball parents, amongst the bravest of all,

Because these games last so long they might go into the fall.

Pitchers struggling to throw the ball anywhere near the plate,

While fielders, trying to stay warm, their effort -- so great.

The game can move slowly, but there you are, loyal fans!

Sitting on freezing cold bleachers, with fannies on hands.

Yes, here's to all spring sports fans, so tough and so brave!

Surely a great example of how true fans should behave

You stand and you watch, giving support at no cost;

Then get home, go inside and just try to defrost.

You have my utmost respect, as I know it can be a tough ride --

Oh -- and please, don't blame me, if I watch from inside.

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Notes from Coach: The cold days of spring

Ten years of coaching my kids in youth baseball. Loved every minute of it, but I still remember those early spring games when the moms and dads would be sitting on those cold bleachers with blankets, all huddled together trying to stay warm.

And if those games went into extra innings? Brutal for the already freezing fan.

I also remember many years of coaching girls high school softball at Maine East High School, then Marillac High School and, finally, at Loyola Academy.

At the start of our seasons, I would always tell the parents in our sit-down meeting to remember that, when you leave the house at 3:30 p.m. for the game, it will not, repeat not, be even close to the same temperature two hours later during the sixth inning.

My message was simple: You can't dress warmly enough for those outdoor spring games. Heavy jackets, hats, scarves, ear muffs and gloves -- they are all in play here.

A little later in life, I also instituted the "60-degree rule." If it is not my kid playing, I will only come to watch (friend, nephew, neighbor, etc.) if temperatures are at least 60 degrees. Anything colder? Sorry. My loyalty to attending kids' games ends when I am not able to feel my hands or toes.

• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and prep sports fan. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email jcsportsandtees@aol.com.

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