-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
In 1978, the Sto-Ken-Rox Little League Indians had a decent season and had an outside chance at making a run for the championship. I played first base. One thing stood solidly between Manager Lenny Pesce’s young team and their dreams of playoff success.
The Red Sox.
Playing the Red Sox meant facing their stout pitcher Andy Bednar. Andy lived in Presston and was a great kid. He was a friend of mine off the field, but he was no one’s buddy on the field.
If Bednar was catching, there wouldn’t be many opportunities to steal a base. He was a vacuum cleaner back there, he could throw any runner out, and, more than any other 10-year-old out there, he understood the game. He always put the ball where it needed to be, and he was the on-field manager, telling the other player where to throw a ball in play from his perch at the plate.
As a pitcher, he was terrifying. Built like a linebacker even at that age, Andy was deceptively limber.
His fastball was probably 15 mph faster than anyone else in the league, and the look on his face was plain intense.
I faced him dozens of times and got one hit in all those times. With the playoffs on the line that year, Bednar shut us down.
Andy went on to pitch through Pony League, high school baseball and then at Cornell University. He remained intensely competitive, but he also remained a terrific guy. His ball-playing days ended, and he began teaching school and coaching ball. He and his wife Sue got busy raising their three kids, David, Will and Danielle.
Fast forward a few years and all of us baseball nut friends of Andy find ourselves living vicariously through him. Most of our kids played ball, some were pretty good, but none were Major League good and their years of playing ball ended and they got on with their careers and life.
Andy’s two sons, David and Will, are Major League good. In fact, they both have contracts with teams.
David just pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star game in Los Angeles, wearing his team’s black and gold colors. The hometown kid pitches for the Pirates and is one of the best closers in baseball.
Will won the Most Outstanding Player award in the College World Series last year as he led his Mississippi team to the title, then was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the first round of the MLB draft. He’s working his way up the ladder in their system, and I have no doubt he’ll make the majors if he stays healthy.
Andy, like his kids, was raised by a coach. George Bednar was instrumental in starting our local Little League and coached for years, teaching his boys the game as they grew up. The Bible speaks of a great cloud of witnesses looking down from Heaven. I hope George Bednar is in that group, smiling as he sees his grandboys doing so well in the game he loved so much.
But Andy? I get to see his smiling mug as he watches his kids, all three of ‘em, become amazing adults with great talents and bright futures, and even watching from afar, it’s a real blessing to see it happen.
I don’t know how long David will play for the Pirates – they tend to sell off great players, and he’s certainly that – but I’ll be rooting for him and his brother wherever they play, and I’m rooting for their sister, too.
The truth is, I’m really rooting for Andy.
Great job, old friend.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.