College Baseball: Pioneers Share Special Bond
PORT CHARLOTTE — A different kind of fraternity exists at Marietta College.
The service it does is more than helping the community, though there is plenty of that.
There are no Greek letters associated with it, and it’s about the exact opposite of the stereotypical fraternity from the movie “Animal House.”
This is a tight-knit group of current and former Pioneer players, coaches and staff that keeps its members involved.
“Once you’re in, you’re in for life,” Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster and former Pioneer Kent Tekulve said. “They don’t just send letters out to you when they ask for money. They always keep you posted on what’s going on … 95 percent of what you get is keeping you informed and how they’re playing on the field.”
“The fraternity” was a product of former coach Don Schaly, who coached the team for 40 seasons. During his tenure, the team dominated with a .814 winning percentage and three Division III national titles.
Off the field, the Pioneers were equally impressive in serving the local community, which was equally invested in them.
One of the members is former Colorado Rockies manager, the 2009 National League manager of the year, Jim Tracy, who was on hand Saturday at the Snowbird Baseball Classic.
Tracy, who was relieved of his duties with the Rockies after the 2012 season, is a resident of Lakewood Ranch. He said he will spend much of his free time watching Marietta play.
“You never lose touch with this school,” Tracy said. “(Schaly) saw to it that it would be that way and remain that way. It’s as unique a fraternity at a school that you’d ever want to see.”
Though Schaly passed away in Venice in March 2005, Tracy said he and the rest of the fraternity are still very close with the Schaly family, including Don’s wife, Sue.
“We always try to see what Sue’s up to, and all of their sons are very successful in the game,” Tracy said. “He’d be very, very proud. I guarantee he’s looking down today and is extremely proud of the legacy this school has maintained and continues to maintain.”
Tekulve said that when he was at Marietta, the Schalys became his second family after the coach took a chance on him.
“So much of who I am and what I’ve done is tied to the Schaly family,” Tekulve, the closer for the 1979 World Series champion Pirates said. “The recruiting letter I got in high school was the only letter I got. I had a lot of growing to do before I was ever going to be in the big leagues. … They were teaching you how to play baseball, but the real lessons were larger than that.”
The fraternity torch has been passed on to Brian Brewer, the coach for the last 10 seasons. A former Pioneer himself, Brewer has won back-to-back Division III championships.
“For him to have played for (Schaly) and understand what he was all about and how to represent the school, he filled a very big pair of shoes,” Tracy said. “He’s picked up from where Don Schaly left off so he deserves a heck of a lot of credit to replace an icon. That’s probably one of the more difficult things to do in coaching.”