Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Brobst keeps perspective, even in defeat

ALTOONA — Bruce Brobst has never been known to throw a curve. He’s very straightforward, honest, always positive … perhaps a little too nice at times.

And even though no one would have blamed Spring-Ford’s head coac h for being a little out of character after Friday’s setback to Canon-McMillan in the PIAA-Class AAAA state final, he still hadn’t changed one bit.

“That’s a very good baseball team over there,” Brobst said, nodding toward the first base dugout where the Big Macs were celebrating their 10-2 win.

There were, of course, plenty of sad faces. But no one — not even the coach — was offering any excuses.

“We didn’t lose this game, (Canon-McMillan) won this game,” Brobst said.

The Rams couldn’t put the finishing touch on a season that was at one time going absolutely nowhere. They were barely over the .500 mark going into the final week of the regular season and had little if any hopes of getting an invite to the district playoffs.

But then came two pivotal wins over Pottstown and Upper Perkiomen … and the Rams turned the spring into one of the most thrilling and — despite Friday’s lopsided score — most successful in the school’s 53-year history .

Mind you, the baseball program has been a hit in the past. Back in the late 50s, shortly after the jointure, there were a couple of

teams loaded with talent, but neither a league nor playoff system of any sort to showcase it. Some still remember a few teams from the 60s and early 70s that were oh so similar.

Finally, in 1988, the Rams won a District 1-AAA title and swung their way into the state semifinals only to lose a shootout in Shippensburg.

In the ensuing 20 years, more teams left their mark in the Pioneer Athletic Conference … but a small mark and, for the most part, forgettable one in the postseason.

But Brobst and his lineup of unsung Rams — as well as a few old-timers who still recall those baggy, wool uniforms, the late “Coach” McNelly pacing in front of the bench with his fungo bat and the Washington Street Field — may remember this season for a long, long time.

“(Losing) today hurts, but appreciating what we accomplished this season, that’ll come,” Brobst said. “You have to put it in perspective. We finished second in the state, and coming from where we’ve come… The memories are already created. We’ll never forget them.”

Not likely.

There were, believe it or not, better teams in the PAC-10. There were, believe it or not, better teams in District 1.

But batting averages, ratios for this and that, earned run averages, and won-loss records don’t necessarily measure up to success. There is an overlooked aspect in baseball — in all games — called desire.

The Rams, who at times this spring could’ve turned in the uniforms, enjoyed the waning weeks of the school year and looked ahead to the summer break, didn’t quit.

They didn’t quit when they were tinkering with the .500 mark back in early May. They didn’t when they fell behind game after game after game in districts. They didn‘t when they fell behind game after game after game in the state tournament.

They refused to give in … until the final out Friday.

“We never did (quit), but we just couldn’t finish this,” said senior Jason Ferrie.

“Second in the state … that’s not too bad,” added senior Zak Tupper. “It doesn’t feel good right now, but someday I’m sure it’ll be a good feeling.”

As Brobst alluded to.

“These guys have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “They worked hard, and they never once quit. It would’ve been great to win this one, but what a season.”

* * *

Brobst admitted that going out in the second inning to pull Ferrie was hard to do.

“Jason’s been outstanding,” Brobst said. “I hated to go out there and take the ball from him, but I knew I had to do it.”

Ferrie, a southpaw who finished 10-4 on the season, went into Friday’s final with a 4-1 record, just 13 walks against 47 strikeouts and 2.68 earned run average in the postseason. Some questioned why he was back on the mound after throwing six innings in Monday’s semifinal rout of Hempfield. But he had the same three-day rest as he did prior to the outing against Hempfield.

“Going with Jason was a no-brainer,” Brobst said. “(Canon-McMillan) just hit the ball, give that team the credit.”

“I felt fine,” Ferrie said. “This was a little easier coming back today (that last week on the same three-day rest) because I threw a lot less pitches on Monday.

“I just didn’t have my velocity. I had to work my spots better, but it just didn’t work out. That team just smoked the ball.”

* * *

Spring-Ford graduate Paul Gadzicki was the home plate umpire for Friday’s first game, the Class AA final between Loyalsock and Burrell. … Spring-Ford pitcher Trevor Sasek’s parents had to be feeling a little bit at home. Sasek’s father grew up near Canon-McMillan, while his mother grew up just outside Altoona. … District 7 was represented in the first three finals on Friday - Burrell in AA, Canon-McMillan in AAAA, and Carmichaels in A.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Seeley,

The real story today has to do with the question...Why isn't the Paoli Redbirds Junior Legion team (23-4) playing in one of the Eastern Regional Baseball Championships starting today in West Lawn and Royersford?

Thank you...

July 26, 2008 at 2:09 PM 

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