PETE HENRICI HONORED
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – When Pete Henrici joined Cooperstown Central School as a student teacher back in the mid-1970s, he spent a week sitting in the back of Phyllis Jamieson’s Latin class.
He created a chart of each desk, so when he first taught the class the following week, he could address all the students by name.
That attention to detail, and consideration of the young people he guided, informed what followed: 38 years of teaching, 32 years coaching baseball and 29 in Scouting – even to Monday, Oct. 21, when he became the 25th recipient of the Clark Sports Center’s Patrick C. Fetterman Award for service to youth.
To hear him tell the story, it sounds like it was meant to be.
He came to Cooperstown in the summer of 1976 from New Jersey, and opened Baseball Nostalgia, which he still runs in the Doubleday Field parking lot (with business partner Bruce Andrews, another Fetterman winner.) He went back to Bergen County that Columbus Day Weekend, and returned the following year with more permanent residency in mind.
His wife Judi picked up a copy of The Freeman’s Journal and pointed out a help-wanted ad: CCS was looking for an economics and Latin teacher to succeed Mrs. Jamieson, who was retiring in 1977. “And I majored in both,” said Judi’s husband.
He’d been playing baseball since second grade. When his dad took him to a Yankees-Tigers game in 1959, the Detroit team won, and won the young fan’s lifelong allegiance.
He played Little League, Pony League, high school and college ball, and in the semi-pros. His speed, he realized, prevented the outfielder from aspiring to the Majors; also, a torn Achilles tendon. He explains his longevity: “I got on base a lot.”
Soon he was coaching JV, and was a natural successor when varsity coach Mark Rathbun, (another Fetterman honoree), moved on in 1983.
Thirty years before, high-school players would have learned more fundamentals early on from older players, the coach mused. Henrici tried to fill that gap: When batting, keep your weight on your back foot, he advised players. Never swing on the first pitch.
He moved on after a decade, when older son Mike, now the county’s Democratic election commissioner, went into T-Ball. Dad was taken down a peg or two: “You don’t have the experience to coach T-Ball,” he was told.
So he underwent another apprenticeship, and ended up coaching T-Ball until second son Brian moved through the program.
By then, he had joined his boys in Scouting – the Webelos, Cubs and then Cooperstown’s Troop 1254, where he participated in four of the troop’s periodic Grand Canyon hikes, sometimes accompanied by Judi and daughter Erin. (He’s planning to participate in 2021, too.)
First-time hikers are stunned by the Canyon’s vastness. He takes them to the edge and points to ant-like dots at the bottom: “That’ll be you in four days.”
He approaches the Canyon with the same attention to detail as his first Latin class: It’s desert, so the boys must have a drink every 15 minutes, and something to eat every half hour, (even though the heat suppresses their appetites.)
He spent the weekend before getting the Fetterman at Troop 1254’s camping site on private land in Westford, where he helped build a 24-foot lean-to a few years ago. First you teach safe use of knives, saws and axes, then fire safety – then the boys can light a campfire.
At Monday’s ceremony, emcee Jane Forbes Clark told him she liked his tie – appropriately, signed baseballs, from the Hall of Fame gift shop.
Looking around, there were a number of his former students and players in the audience: Cooperstown Bat Co. owner Tim Haney (’87) and financial adviser Scott Curtis (’79) among them.
And among the waiters was a particular standout: Geoff Rudloff. “He hit four doubles in one game,” said Henrici. “No one else ever did that.”