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.”
As seen in Monday’s edition of the Charlotte Sun
PORT CHARLOTTE — Purdue baseball coach Doug Schreiber made headlines this week when the Big Ten conference voted to continue studying an idea he outlined in January.
The idea would allow northern schools, which are unable to play home games in mid-February when the NCAA season begins, to play up to 14 games in the fall that would count toward the team’s overall record.
The rationale is simple. Enabling northern teams to play more home dates, 60 percent of which are won by the host home team according to the NCAA, would increase those teams’ chances of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Read More…
PORT CHARLOTTE — Ever since the Tampa Bay Rays traded James Shields for him, most of the hype revolving around the team has been based around outfielder Wil Myers.
The highly touted prospect arrived the Spring Training on Thursday, giving the organization a chance to see the newest budding star and a big part of the future of the franchise.
At least after Day 1, Myers didn’t disappoint, blasting about a half dozen homers. Read More…
ST. PETERSBURG — Though B.J. Upton was 0-for-3 when he approached the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday, the crowd at Tropicana Field gave him a standing ovation.
Upton connected on the first pitch he saw from Baltimore’s Luis Ayala for a soft blooper to left field that fell in for a base hit.
Rich Thompson went in to pinch-run for Upton, who received another standing ovation as he walked off the field.
After the game, Upton gave his jersey to the lucky fan who’d won the “Shirts Off Our Backs” contest before receiving more cheers from the crowd, causing him to tear up as he tossed his hat into the seats.
“No,” Upton said when asked if he was ever this emotional on a baseball field. “I tried to hold it as long as I could, but I just couldn’t.”
Wednesday’s game — a 4-1 win over the Orioles — may have been the last for Upton in a Tampa Bay uniform, as his contract is expiring and he has a chance to test the free-agent market in the offseason.
“This is all I know,” said Upton, who also teared up in the dugout after leaving the game. “I might not be back. Ten years with the team, I don’t know, a lot of guys don’t get to do that, and I’ve had that opportunity to be around great people — people who care about one another. If it has to happen, I’m definitely going to miss them.”
Before the game, Upton said that he hadn’t really thought about this possibly being his last game with the organization. He would be open to re-signing, but admitted, “I have to do what’s best for me.”
“I guess we’ll see which teams are out there and who’s interested,” he said. “If it is the Rays, then great. If they don’t give me that opportunity, then obviously I have to make a decision.”
Upton was taken by the then-Devil Rays as the first overall selection in the 2002 Draft, and he signed in September of that year. He made his big league debut in 2004 as an infielder, but he never found his niche defensively over the 45 games in which he appeared.
He didn’t play in the Majors in 2005, but in 2006, Joe Maddon’s first season as manager, Upton returned, playing third base in 50 games and continuing to struggle in the field.
Upton began the next season starting at second base, but halfway through the season, he was switched to center field, now his primary position, and he gradually gained the reputation of being one of the better center fielders in the game.
In 2008 he was part of the American League champion squad, who had just changed their image, and Upton’s as well.
“To go from worst to first and see this organization turn things around and become a winning ballclub,” Upton cited as his favorite memory. “Going to the World Series and winning the American League East. … I’d have to say that ’08 season.”
Over the next four seasons, Upton was a part of two more postseason teams.
“I’ve spoken often this year about how much I think B.J. has matured as a baseball player,” Maddon said. “He’s matured as a person, of course, but as a baseball player, our relationship, how it’s worked in the dugout, watching him play the game, all that stuff that’s going on there — all that stuff has dramatically improved throughout the course of this season.”
Ben Zobrist, who has played with Upton for the last seven years, thinks his best is yet to come.
“I hope the Rays find a way to keep him and we can have him in the clubhouse more and see him continue to develop as a player,” Zobrist said. “I think he’s going to continue to just get better. There’s no question seeing him this year that he’s just got better.”
Though he finished the season with just a .246 batting average, he had a career-high 28 homers, led the team in RBIs (78) and swiped 31 bases.
“It happens pretty fast,” he said of his time with the Rays. “It seems like it was yesterday.”
Evan Longoria, a teammate of Upton’s since 2008, has had his ups and downs with Upton, but appreciates what he’s done for both the organization and the community.
“Obviously, I hope that he’s back,” Longoria said. “I don’t know how real that possibility is. … I enjoyed playing with him for the five years that I did. He’s always been a great teammate to me.”
Maddon said that what he’ll remember most about Upton should he not return is how much the 28-year-old has grown as both a player and a person.
“I really enjoyed our relationship a lot,” Maddon said. “This year was truly the year I saw him blossom.”
Story via MLB.com