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A DAY ON THE FIELD WITH JOHN PERRY

JOHN PERRY

Fathers coach their sons in Little League. Then their son moves on and so do they. It's a ritual as old as the organization itself (founded 1939). Makes sense. It can't be near as much fun coaching someone else's kids, kids you don't know, kids you never even met. Right? And then you hear about John Perry and you are dumbstruck into silence.

Perry, 70, has been coaching the Westside A's for 49 years.

Perry coached his 1,000th Little League game May 30, 2013.

Perry is childless.

One thousand Little League baseball games. Repeat that sentence fragment again, and again, and again. It becomes more impactive, thicker with history, each time you say it. One thousand Little League games over five decades. And 212 players and none of them were Perry's.

"It's about the kids. It's always been about the kids," Perry said.

Now it's about Perry. The Oakland A's asked Perry to throw out the first pitch before their April 29 game against Baltimore. Sure, Perry said, I'll do it, but I have to have my kids out there on the field with me. Wouldn't want it any other way, the A's replied.

If a Major League Baseball team knows of Perry, would anyone outside the region? I was on the phone Friday with Chris Downs, spokesman for International Little League in Williamsport, Pa. I identified myself and ... that's as far as I got.

"John Perry is a remarkable example of what Little League is all about," Downs said. "To teach values that can be carried into adulthood, to do that for all those years, to be a volunteer all that time, it's a testament to his love of the game and the kids."

"But I never mentioned John's name," I said.

"John has been on our radar for a while," said Downs, in his ninth year with Little League. "As far as I know, no one I am aware of has managed 1,000 Little League games. He is unique."

Unique only begins the description of what's behind all those years, games and kids. If the past 40 years were just about baseball for Perry, he would have been gone a long time ago. Let's face it, the thrill of giving the bunt sign to a 10-year-old can only take you so far. It was never just a game to Perry. Perry used baseball as an instructional manual, not so much as how to play but how his players should present themselves to the world.

Randomly he will ask, "How many of you thanked your parents today for giving you a ride to the game?" By the end of each season the boys write their parents, thanking them for their transportation. Each year just before Mother's Day his players go to Perry's front yard, clip roses from his bushes and then give them to their mothers. His players remove their hats when he speaks to them. His players are responsible for the equipment Perry loans them.

"If a player loses a jacket," Perry said, "the player pays me back. He doesn't ask his parents for money. I'll wait. I just had a player give me the $50 for a jacket he lost. He took a year and half before he saved up enough money. No problem. I'll wait 10 years if that's what it takes."

When he hands out uniforms every year, he gives it to the kids on hangers.

"When I was in Little League," said Perry, a 1970 El Molino graduate, "the day they gave out uniforms the coach just threw them at us. I thought that was disrespectful to the uniform. So I hand them out with hangers and, you know what? I get most of them back with hangers."

Back in the day Perry would instruct players how to wear the uniform. Not anymore.

"My 12-year-olds teach the younger ones how to dress," said Perry, who has a 592-393 career record.

His kids don't wear their pants down to their ankles. They wear stirrups as big league players once did, with a white sock showing under a colored stirrup.

"I don't want my kids," Perry said, "to look like they are wearing pajamas."

Perry tells his players they should go out there and have fun.

"I tell them they are having the best time of their life, and they don't even know it," Perry said. "When they want food, it's in the refrigerator. When they get to be adults, food doesn't just show up in the fridge. They have to go out and make money to buy it."

Perry only has two rules. Play hard and go to practice.

"Everyone plays three innings unless they miss practice," Perry said. "Then I can't guarantee anything."

Before each season Perry hands out a baseball test to each player. It's five pages, 71 questions and is graded.

"I bet some of my players know more about how to play the game," Perry said, "than some high school kids."

The league provides the hats, the kids own their cleats and gloves. Perry provides everything else: a practice hat, practice pants, two sets of game jerseys, catching gear and bats. He bought three pitching machines. He has $1,800 worth of bats in his garage that can't be used, victim to ever-changing Little League safety rules.

AWARDS

JAMIE WHITE AWARD:  Good Teamwork -Awarded to the
player who demonstrates excellent teamwork
throughout the season.

BRET CALLAN MEMORIAL AWARD: 
Respectful and Responsible Players - Awarded to
the player who demonstrates respect to his/her fellow
teammates, coaches and all league personnel as well
as exhibiting a superior level of responsibility in all 
aspects of Little League Baseball.  

Korey Murley Character Award: 
Courage and Character - Awarded to the
player who exhibits courage in the face of
adversity and displays excellent character
in all circumstances.

Aaron Willis Good Sport Award: 
Good teamwork, Good Sportsmanship and
Good Character - Awarded to the player
who exhibits good teamwork among his/her
teammates, displays good sportsmanship and 
excellent character in all circumstances
throughout the season.



RECIPIENTS

2021 -
Bret Callan Memorial Award:  
Major A's - Patrick Seau

Korey Murley Character Award: 
Junior A's - Ethan Lorenz
 


Aaron Willis Good Sport Award: 
Major A's - Patrick Seau

2020 -
Bret Callan Memorial Award:  

Korey Murley Character Award:  

Aaron Willis Good Sport Award: 
Major A's - Ethan Lorenz


2019 -
Bret Callan Memorial Award: 
Major A's - Patrick Seau

Korey Murley Character Award: 
Major O's - Caleb Smith

Aaron Willis Good Sport Award:  

2018 -
Bret Callan Memorial Award:  
Major National's - Malikai Webster


Korey Murley Character Award:  

Aaron Willis Good Sport Award: 
Major Giant's - Caleb Smith

2017 -
Bret Callan Memorial Award:  

Korey Murley Character Award:  

Aaron Willis Good Sport Award:  


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