The West Virginia Bears were in town last week to play some baseball against our hometown Crosscutters. The Bears are an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are near and dear to my heart. I used to love the $5 seats in centerfield of Three Rivers Stadium, where you could talk to the players as they warmed up and hit batting practice. That’s a long story for another day. I will tell you my favorite Pirate back then was Omar Moreno. One of the nicest, most genuine folks I met out there was Ozzie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals. I must mention Pirate centerfielder Andy VanSlyke, he came a little later than Omar, he also was a great ballplayer who would talk and spend time before the game with the folks sitting out in the cheap seats.
Anyway back to Williamsport, Historic Bowman Field, and the Bears. A great part of going to a Crosscutters game early is the fan interaction. On most nights if you get there when the park opens you can pretty much say hello to and have a brief conversation with most players and coaches. There is always someone signing autographs for the hometown team and usually behind the third base dugout for the visiting team.
The best part of baseball for me is the people you meet, the friends you make, traveling our great Country and talking with our fellow Americans. I enjoy that far more than the actual game. I know you don’t believe that, but it’s true. I do love America’s pastime.
I have been blessed to have two sons who do very well at baseball. Most importantly they work hard and develop the talent they are blessed with. This has taken me from sea to shining sea, literally. I must also tip my cap to their great teammates because without them you don’t go to many World Series or play in the venues I have seen.
So what’s all this have to do with the West Virginia Bears visiting Billtown? With their first pick of this year’s Major League Baseball draft the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Will Craig from Wake Forest University and Johnson City, Tennessee. He was the 22nd player taken. Will was assigned to, yep; you guessed it, the Bears. My journey to Bowman that night was twofold, take a break from reality of what was going on in the world and say hello to Will.
Will and his parents are some of those great people you get to meet in your baseball travels. When Jimmy was being recruited to Wake he spent time with Will. When my son hit the Wake Forest campus Will took him under his wing and the two became friends. They spent a lot of extra time hitting at the batting facility together long after practice time was over. Jimmy commenting to me, “Will hits like no one I’ve ever seen, Dad.” Will’s parents immediately introduced themselves to Jimmy and to me when I went down to Wake to watch their fall inter-squad World Series. They were two of the most caring, genuine folks you would ever meet. It was easy to understand where Will gets his values, caring and personality.
As I talked with Will and invited him to lunch the next day I couldn’t help but to feel so very happy and proud of what this young man has accomplished and what I believe is in his future.
It is so special to see a person grounded in values, character, and God achieve the goal every Little Leaguer hopes to reach. To see one of the good guys get the brass ring. I know full well that $2.5 million or so contract he signed won’t change him and one day he will be one of those players I talk to prior to a Pirates game. The only difference, the seats aren’t $5 bucks anymore and Three River Stadium has been replaced with PNC Park.
God Bless America.
“The Good Samaritan” – Michael Marchese, where do I start? It was great to see him at the Crosscutters game celebrating Williamsport’s 150th anniversary. He and his family have had such a positive influence on Billtown as they are definitely part of our history.
Mr. Marchese is a retired city firefighter and knew my Father well. He is a lifetime member of First Ward Fire Department in South Williamsport and shared much time and many conversations with Mr. Webb.
For over 50 years Mr. Marchese has been a leader in the community when it comes to helping folks and providing whatever is needed to whoever is in need. Food is his most common effort; he gathers up whatever may not be sold by a store, restaurant or food provider and redistributes it where it can be used.
He was active when serving the city as a firefighter with community service and education has never stopped. Mr. Marchese began his service helping Hope Enterprise with cardboard in 1960. He has provided eyeglasses, wheelchairs, books and donations for the James V. Brown Library, he is an avid contributor to our American Rescue Workers, and he has helped Lycoming College fraternities and sororities. Some of his best work is teaching fire safety and prevention. The program he began has been used in schools for over 25 years. If you want to educate children with a fire safety program, Mike is still available for his community.
He has served as a board member for the Williamsport School District, Crippled Children Society and Housing Authority. Mr. Marchese has jammed a lifetime of volunteerism and love of his fellow man into his 82 years.
The first thing that I think of when it comes to Mike is his commitment with the United States Postal Service in commissioning the Smokey Bear postage stamp. He has been honored by seven states, including Pennsylvania, as a lifetime friend and member of their Department of Forestry/Agriculture for his Smokey Bear effort.
He has recently been working on the creation of a Carl Stotz stamp to honor the founder of Little League Baseball.
Mike and his wife Christine have three children Michael, Daniel and Kimberly, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A tip of a lot of different caps to you Mike, from firefighter to forestry to baseball, you have made a difference. The most important hat has been that of the “Good Samaritan”. Keep up the great work my friend!