Determination, integrity and honor are three words I learned the true meaning of because of two men: my dad and John Kraft.
I still remember the phone call 19 years ago that would better shape the man that I'd become. My mom asked "Guess what team you'll be playing for?"
Her response: "L.S. Fiore."
Although I was only 9 years old, I understood the tradition and responsibilities that were associated with that team. Later I'd learn that it was solely because of coach John Kraft.
During my summers with coach Kraft, I learned the fundamentals about the game of baseball - all that emulate those greater lessons of life. Those four summers were rewarded with three championship trophies, but the life lessons I learned from Coach Kraft were - and continue to be - the most important pieces I take from those years.
Often conversations arise with friends questioning, "If you could go back and relive any age, what would it be?"
Without hesitation, I answer, "My Little League years." And coach Kraft is the sole one responsible for my answer.
As mentioned in the article published in the Mirror last week, coach Kraft mentioned that "he'd see this group through." I was one of those who heard that rumor. Some 15 years later, he continues to impact the lives of children and families in the Altoona area.
Coach Kraft, for the hundreds of children you taught the game of baseball to - thank you. But more importantly, thank you for being such an influential man and teacher of life lessons. We're all better for having you in our lives.
(Editor's note: The writer played for L.S. Fiore in the Altoona Area Baseball Association from 1992-95).
Pirates lack fundamentals
I have been a diehard Pirate fan since the time I have been born.
I am one of those Pirate fans that each season believe that this is the year we get to .500, until the middle of May when we are already 10 games under. I have played baseball from T-ball through college and am currently playing in the Greater City League.
I have also been umpiring baseball for the past eight years, and never once have I seen these three things happen in any one game at any level I have ever umpired.
On July 16, the first game back after the All-Star break, Pittsburgh took on the Houston Astros. Zach Duke had Hunter Pence picked off first base, and Garrett Jones threw the ball to shortstop Ronny Cedeno, who covering second. Cedeno proceeded to run Pence the whole way back to first without making a throw, as if he thought he was doing his job by just chasing him back.
The next inning, with the Pirates down 4-1 and two guys on, Andy Laroche gets picked off second base by the catcher. Finally, and the most embarrassing, Pirate pitcher Sean Gallagher attempted a pickoff to first and faked the throw (without stepping off), and it was ruled a balk.
As I said, I have never seen these three things happen in any one game in my life. I could see if these were 13- and 14-year-old kids making these mistakes, but these are professional athletes.
This team is a joke and really an embarrassment to Pittsburgh's truly loyal fans.
Maybe it's time to pick a new team.