By Beth Church
“Old school” coach and “baseball dad” Jerry Baumgartner was honored Saturday by the Rossford School District with his own diamond at the Glenwood athletic complex.
The retired Rossford High School baseball coach and math teacher was surrounded by more than 60 former players for the ceremony that added the Jerry Baumgartner Diamond to the Myron Brick Long Field.
“This is for your success, your time and your dedication with our student-athletes on the field, in the classroom and in the community,” Superintendent Dan Creps said.
Coach Baumgartner served as head varsity baseball coach from 1969 to 1993.
He achieved 353 wins, nine NLL titles, 12 sectional championships and four district championships.
“Coach Long was the founding father of Rossford baseball, and Coach Baumgartner continued the winning ways of the program,” RHS Athletic Director Ken Rosplohowski said.
The athletic director recalled basketball coach John Wooden’s advice to “be more concerned about your character than your reputation because character is what you are and reputation is what others think you are.”
“We are here today to celebrate Coach Baumgartner–who truly lived by this quote. His character is flawless and so is his reputation.”
Mr. Rosplohowski described how Coach Baumgartner’s baseball program “had a strong sense of family.”
His wife, Pat, kept the scorebook, his son Jeff, played on his team, other son and daughter Jamie and Jenny served as bat boy and bat girl, and his parents attended most games.
His players recall fun trips to Tiger Stadium with “their baseball dad.”
“He fostered a sense of family within the program,” Mr. Rosplohowski said. “His players didn’t know it as high school kids, but he was setting the table for them to have a lifetime of memories.”
Coach Baumgartner emphasized fundamentals, stressing “keep your head down, stay balanced, don’t bail out, and hit the cut-off,” Mr. Rosplohowski explained.
“His players loved his famous 3-0 take sign–all simple, straight forward and old school. His players loved that style.”
Coach Baumgartner thanked his wife and family for their support, and acknowledged the nearly 200 varsity and 100 junior varsity players he coached.
“You don’t stay in coaching for 25 years without some success–and you don’t have success without players,” he said.
The coach had many fond memories to share with the more than 100 Bulldog fans, students, parents and community members attending.
He recalled his first team–with only two seniors–and their success playing City League schools and defeating DeVilbiss in sectionals at Ned Skeldon Stadium.
The coach noted achievements of past players, including Matt Vidra pitching a seven-inning game at districts and the next day pitching a nine-inning game.
“What was I doing?” he said, with a laugh. “Well, he was our best chance to win.”
Clyde Alexander desperately wanted to bat .500, but only hit 49 of 100 and just made it to .490.
Denny Santus was the only freshman who went on to play four years for the coach.
And a Perrysburg player–whose name he cannot remember–hit three home runs against Rossford at the marina ballfield.
“We didn’t play there next year,” the coach added. “It was not a good place to play once aluminum bats came into play.”
Coach Baumgartner shared several humorous recollections as well.
At a game in Lima, the Bulldogs forgot their bats.
One of the players asked him to drive the Cadillac–that the coach had just inherited from his father–back to Rossford to retrieve the bats.
“Obviously that didn’t happen,” he said. “We won that game with borrowed bats.”
The coach remembered a season when the Bulldogs played at the marina ball field, hooking a chain up to the school van to drag the diamond.
Another year, the team sold 1,000 Gillette travel packs to raise funds to buy a pitching machine.
They also spent time in winter batting practice in the basement of the old Walnut Street school.
The coach also made note of five of his players who have passed away: Rick Kovach, Tim Stahl, Dan Roman, Steve Verbosky and Gary Zajac.
“They have the best seats in the house now,” he said.
Coach Baumgartner was presented with a framed photo of his RHS first team, and his former players told him, “It’s a photo of when we were a lot, lot younger.”
The athletic director thanked the veteran coach for “teaching not only the fundamentals of baseball, respect for the game and sportsmanship, but also fostering team camaraderie benefitting student-athletes for 25 years.”
“This dedication serves as a testament to your immense positive impact on the tradition of Rossford High School baseball,” Mr. Rosplohowski said.
“The school district, former coaches and especially your former players say ‘thank you’ and express our sincere gratitude.”
Coach Baumgartner then threw out the ceremonial first pitch to open Saturday’s doubleheader of RHS vs. Swanton.
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Rossford lies at the heart of the Crossroads of America, an area experiencing tremendous economic growth, located at the crossroads of Interstate 75 and the Ohio Turnpike. The city's population of approximately 6,000 is primarily a mix of descendants of Polish, Czechoslovakian, German and Ukrainian workers who came from Pennsylvania to work at the glass plant, now Pilkington.
Rossford was incorporated as a village in 1939 and as a city in 1971. The City is a municipal corporation which operates under its own charter and is governed by a mayor and seven-member City Council. Rossford is served by full-time police and part-time fire departments, dispatched from the neighboring Village of Walbridge.
The City maintains a Community Recreation Center and three parks, one of which,Veterans Memorial Park, features a seasonal marina along with picnic areas and diamonds and courts for baseball, tennis, basketball and volleyball.
Rossford has three elementary schools, Glenwood, Indian Hills and Eagle Point, a junior high and high school and All Saints parochial school for grades pre-kindergarten through eight.
The city boasts a public library and many service and community organizations such as the Rossford Business Association, Lions Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Its Rossford Community Service League sponsors annual activities such as a Valentine's Day Dance, Easter egg hunt, Halloween, Memorial Day parades and their Christmas tree lighting.
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