I just want to make sure you are aware that this column has nothing to do with Ed O’Brien, a 30-year veteran t-ball coach in Oak Park who recently was awarded a prestigious award by the PONY League. I assure you this is not a column about O’Brien, who last week politely denied my request to write about him and his accomplishments.
“I’m really flattered and honored that you are interested in doing something like that. I read your column regularly and I enjoy it, but it’s not something I’d be interested in,” O’Brien stated in a voicemail to my office. “It’s not something I’d feel comfortable doing. I hope you’re not insulted by it or anything. I have already received more attention than I am interested in receiving.”
Either O’Brien is in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program or he’s a truly unique individual. After talking with some of his friends, I’m going with the latter.
I envy the Ed O’Brien’s of the world. There are too few. They are selfless and modest, respected and admired. They’d rather drag a ballfield than talk about themselves. They’d rather teach 6 year olds to keep their eyes open on a ground ball than talk to a reporter about why there’s a plaque with their photo and name on it hanging on the Wall of Fame at PONY headquarters in Washington, Pa.
“The President of Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball Don Stapleton, and [directors] Sheila and Dan Martinotti, the commitments they’ve made and the work that they do is unbelievable,” O’Brien went on to say in the voicemail. “They are our program. If you are looking for an article, I would highly recommend that you look into them. Again, I appreciate your interest. Thank you.”
I called Stapleton, and he wouldn’t stop talking about somebody named Ed O’Brien.
“Sometimes coaches get a little too serious and sometimes you have to tell them ‘Hey, it’s t-ball,’ but with Ed you never have to do that. He’s got a great perspective on it and he enjoys helping the kids learn,” said Stapleton, who himself has been coaching t-ball for 15 years.
Brian Fitzgerald, who headed up the cause to nominate O’Brien for the PONY award, said parents scratch and claw to get their kids onto O’Brien’s team, the Royals, each year.
“If not the highest, Ed’s the second highest requested coach in t-ball,” said Fitzgerald, who in his youth played against O’Brien?#34;Fitzgerald’s youngest son has now played against O’Brien. “He practices everyday, but it’s all optional for the kids. He’s not a win-at-all-costs coach. However, because he works so relentlessly and often, his teams are always good.”
Along with receiving the plaque on PONY’s Wall of Fame, O’Brien also won the KFC/ESPN/PONY award, where ESPN will air a segment on the coach in August.
O’Brien has spent 30 years coaching?#34;without pay?#34;6-8 year olds, who are more fascinated in the dry gum they find underneath the bench than a force out. A plaque? A little ESPN air time? An article in the local paper? It’s nowhere near enough for ?
What was his name again?