Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Fitting Tribute


As some of you know, my grandpa passed away due to cancer in December. Dad forwarded this article from the Van Wert Times Bulletin and it's pretty touching. It's amazing how long it's actually been since he passed on and makes me miss him even more.

A 50-year journey inspires weekend

Whether you call it a journey, a mission or an adventure, using sports as his medium, Don Bachman made a lasting impact on the youth of Van Wert County for 50 years. During those five decades, Bachman served as Little League coach, umpire and league official for the Northwest Conference. In December 2005, Bachman succumbed to cancer, but he left behind an enduring legacy of sportsmanship and fair play, a legacy that has been recognized by the city of Van Wert and the Van Wert Youth Baseball League.Van Wert City Council renamed baseball field #2 at Smiley Park the Don Bachman Field in his honor. Tipping their hat in respect to the veteran sportsman, the Van Wert Youth Baseball League is hosting the first annual Don Bachman Memorial Baseball Tournament beginning today and continuing through Sunday.

It's fitting that a baseball field at Smiley Park is now called the Don Bachman Field. According to Rick Bachman, Don's son, Don was the president of the Parks and Recreation Board when Smiley Park was still n the planning and construction phases. "I remember Dad coming home with plans of how they were going to build the fields," Rick said, noting that his father was concerned about things like how to best place the fields to keep the sun out of a player's eyes.Don was active in sports during his school years at Minster High School and became the school's first quarterback for their brand new football team around 1949 or 1950. After graduation he worked for a Sidney newspaper as a sports writer. Moving to Van Wert in 1956, Don coached Little League teams for his four sons, Rick, Randy, Ron and Rob.

All in all, Rick said, Don coached little league for 20 years, 14 of which he spent coaching his son's teams. As a Little League coach, Don was a positive influence in many young men's lives. "Don coached Little League for more years than I can remember," said his wife Nancy. "He's remembered with great respect by all the young men who not only played for him, but many who played in games he officiated, which included football, basketball and of course, baseball, which was his first love."Don was active in basketball and football, but Rick noted his real passion was baseball. "He was adamant about getting kids to play baseball," Rick said, noting it was Don, along with Lou Brunswick, who started the ACME Baseball Congress in the late 1960's. The congress started out with 18 teams and now has over 300 teams.

During this whole time, Don also served as an Ohio High School Athletic Association official for football, basketball and baseball. Don also served as a NCAA baseball and football official and was a charter member of the Midwest Buckeye Officials Association. He also umped at college games within a 100-mile radius of Van Wert. Beginning in 1975, Don served as the secretary for the Northwest Conference until he became too ill to continue.It was his job to assign all officials for the 12-team conference of high school sports. In 1989, he was inducted into the Ohio High School Athletics Association Officials Hall of Fame. In 2005, Don was inducted to the first class of the ACME Baseball Congress Hall of Fame. "He was such a good balls and strikes umpire, he did the Boys Triple A state finals 25 years," Rick said. "I always felt he was the best umpire in the state. My brothers would agree."Nancy recalled, "Don was very dedicated for many years in working with the youth of Van Wert county. He was always fair, not only in his coaching, but in games he was officiating."Don was also a good friend of Galen Cisco. They played baseball together on a team in Botkins, Ohio. Their goal was to make it to the big leagues, Cisco as a pitcher and Don as a catcher. Cisco went on to play in the big leagues. Cisco is speaking in the opening ceremonies at the Don Bachman Memorial Tournament. Rick noted that Don was always on a board somewhere, "He was always active. He was involved in everything all the time. That's the outstanding thing," he said.

Don was a lifelong Democrat and served on the Van Wert County Board of Elections. His biggest thrill as a Democrat, Rick said, was meeting President Bill Clinton. "Randy took him to the White House on Ohio Day at the White House and he met Bill Clinton. He was a staunch Democrat," Rick said. "He did a lot for the Democrats in town.""His is work with the Democratic party was very important to him and he took it very serious that even the Van Wert area was an important part of the political system," noted Brenda Weaver, Democratic Central Committee Member from Ohio City.Don also served on the Van Wert Planning Committee and was a long time volunteer with the Red Cross Bloodmobile, the Moose Lodge and the Knights of Columbus. And, if you stop by the I Don't Care Grill, you can treat yourself to a Bachman Bologna sandwich. The restaurant's owner Harry Warnement, was a good friend of Don's and named the menu item after Don because it was one of Don's favorites."I guess what attracted him and I together, he was a Yankees fan and I was an Indians fan and he was a Democrat and I am Republican and we argued, fussed and fought all the time about this stuff," Harry remarked. "He was a good guy, liked to be around young people. He would come out (to the restaurant) on Fridays and Saturdays and all the young people would come up and talk with him. He always had time for everybody," Warnement said. "He was just truly a great guy."

Rick also said that Don instilled the importance of supporting youth in sports in Van Wert in his four sons. This all came about during a discussion between Don and his four sons during Don's illness. The boys took it to heart and helped sponsor a new team, the Mastodons, "the Dons" for short, a nickname, which pleased his dad. Players got their uniforms last week.This weekend's events honoring Don is very important to his family. "This means a lot to us," Rick said.

In addition to his four sons, Don also had seven step-children, seven grandchildren, 12 stepgrandchildren and 14 stepgreat-grandchildren. The Bachman family is putting together a collage of pictures and articles for the opening of the tournament on Friday, which begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Don Bachman Field. Proceeds from the tournament will go to the Van Wert Youth Baseball League.

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