Area coaches return to alma mater
You always hear professional athletes talk about how they love to give back to the communities they grew up in. Many times they do things for charity to help the poverty stricken areas they might have grown up in or close to. There's not many times where a professional athlete gives back to their hometown without the general public reading or hearing about it.
Well, there are a few stories out there that the general public may not have heard. That's because these individuals that have given back aren't professional athletes and they're not famous.
Some of them were kids that just loved to play the game of baseball. They loved the feel of the diamond sand on their hands as they found the perfect grip on the bat. They loved diving in the dirt for a ground ball or sliding into home for the game-winning run. These athletes that are giving back are from right here.
Every baseball squad in TIMES NEWS area in 2013 has a head or assistant coach represented from their alma mater. Their stories may not make national headlines, but that doesn't mean they don't make a huge difference in their respective communities.
Lehighton assistant coach Don Rehrig graduated in 1999 and has been coaching in the Lehighton program for the last five years. Rehrig has always been a supporter of Lehighton athletics even after his playing days as an Indian were over and couldn't think of a better way to give back to the community that helped shape him into the individual he is today.
"The biggest thing is being able to give back to the community," said Rehrig. "We all take pride in how we coach and we're proud to say we put good, tough, smart kids out there on the baseball field. It's not just about how well the kids perform athletically, we want them to be role models for the younger kids in the community.
"We also all want to instill pride in the program and when a team comes to play us, we want them to know they're going to have to fight in order to beat us."
Marian assistant coach Tony Radocha is a 2000 Colt alum. Radocha knew at an early age that he wanted to be a coach. He was inspired by his father, who coached baseball, basketball, and football throughout the years and coaches with Radocha now at Marian.
"I knew I wanted to coach when I was in my early teens," said Radocha. "My sophomore year in college I was approached to be an assistant for a local teener league team. I jumped at the opportunity and I really fell in love with it. I remember in my playing career I always related to the younger coach and I feel like the kids really relate to me.
"Coaching at a small school is great too because I get the opportunity to work with all four grade levels. There's a different way to coach each class and I really enjoy that. The most joy I get is when a kid "gets it" and he understand what you're trying to the teach him. You can't beat that feeling."
Jim Thorpe's Jake Zurn played second base for the Olympians from 2006-08 and now that he is on the other side of the fence, he has a new found respect for coaching.
"As a coach you have a greater amount of responsibility. Also a big difference between coaching and playing is the amount of time coaches dedicate outside the practice field," said Zurn. "Coaches spend hours preparing and getting things ready so that their team is ready for game day.
"Coaches also have to worry about every single person on the team whereas players need to worry about just themselves. I always had a high level of respect for my coaches because of their dedication and desire to see us improve as players as well as young men. Now I have a greater amount of respect knowing all the responsibilities and commitment needed to be a coach."
These three individuals and many coaches in the TN area are proof that you don't need to be a professional athlete or famous individual to make a difference in the community you're from. All it takes is some knowledge, experience, and hometown pride to help an individual or community become a better place.