Call to the Hall
When I heard the news on Monday morning that Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn had passed away from his battle with cancer, it took me back seven years.
It was on a late July weekend in 2007 that a group of friends and I made the journey to Cooperstown, N.Y. to see Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. take their places among the sport’s immortals.
These were two guys that I had grown up watching and admiring, not only for their obvious talents on the baseball diamond, but also because they were good guys off the field. I once had the chance to have my photo taken with Gwynn. At the time, I was wearing the hat of San Diego’s opponent. The Padres great agreed to the photo, but only on one condition.
“Only if you take off that Phillies cap,” he said.
I didn’t know if he was joking or not, but I didn’t take the risk. Off came the hat.
So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make the trek to Cooperstown, even though that meant “roughing it” for a couple of days, sleeping in a tent and hiking up a dirt path to take a shower in the morning at a nearby campground.
As I recall that weekend at the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t seem like seven years ago that I was standing among thousands upon thousands of like-minded fans &tstr; many wearing old-school Gwynn jerseys and brown Padre hats with the interlocking orange SD &tstr; under a hot sun reminiscing about two guys who combined for 6,325 base hits in their career.
Locally, I’m sure there are a ton of people who could easily reminisce about past Warwick greats at the drop of a dime. Whether it’s someone like Jack Hurd or Meg Abele making shots look easy on the hardwood floor, John Male picking up extra yardage on the football field, Katie Gerfen weaving through defenders with the ball on her field hockey stick, Andrew Wenger bending a shot into the soccer net, Ed Nixdorf and Ganne Way crossing the finish line with State track and field gold medals, Emily Cameron dominating in the pool, Zach Shank ranging deep into the hole at shortstop or Jeff Martin scoring takedowns at will on the wrestling mat, there are so many great moments and great individuals in the long history of Warwick athletics to celebrate.
With the formation of an Athletic Hall of Fame, there is an avenue for that to happen now. How cool would it be for the stadium bleachers at Joseph Grosh Field to be packed as former greats are introduced on the field at halftime of football games? Sounds like a great time of story-telling and catching up with one another.
As Warwick Athletic Director Ryan Landis correctly noted, people have a natural curiosity about “whatever happened to” former star athletes and legendary coaches of yesteryear. Many of those individuals are surely living out of the area now, but each year will bring a new group of inductees, an opportunity to honor Warwick’s history and a chance to find out where life has led them.
This should be something for the Lititz/Warwick community to rally around, and indications are that it will be embraced with open arms. Perhaps a lot of people &tstr; when looking at neighboring schools who have already been honoring past greats for years &tstr; believe this is something that is overdue.
It was something that former Warwick A.D. Terry Kauffman worked very hard to bring to the school. Sadly, it didn’t happen in his lifetime. But kudos to Landis for spearheading this worthwhile endeavor and bringing it back to the front burner.
He talks a lot about trying to get the community involved in Warwick athletics. This, Landis believes, is a way to give back to the people who have long supported the Warriors’ programs.
On Sept. 5, as a current cast of Warwick student-athletes look to make their mark with the start of a new fall season, the process of rightfully recognizing former greats will start with the induction of the first Athletic Hall of Fame class.