Every town has one. The gentleman who unselfishly coaches the Little League team, the Bantam hockey team, the Pop Warner team.
They are there day after day, night after night coaching, teaching and molding. I grew up in Swampscott and we just lost one of those gentlemen. His name was Al Duratti.
Back in the winter of 1954 there was a meeting at Town Hall to form a Little League program. Al was there and was given the task of managing one of the four teams in the inaugural season. Al was named manager of the Yankees. Again, it was 1954 and Al was still managing the Yankees this season - 58 years! Al died somewhat appropriately,while sitting comfortably in his home watching the Red Sox- Royals game.
"I love baseball," Al used to say. "It is a thinking man's game. It's
the American sport. I love to play baseball, coach baseball, read about
baseball and talk about baseball."
For 58 years Al would have custody of fifteen 9-12 year olds, 2 hours
per day, 6 days a week. You can't help but have an influence on a group
at such an impressionable age.
"What pleases me most if when kids come back and tell me how much fun
they had playing for me. I don't revel in the league championships (and
there were dozens of them), I'm glad I played a small part in their
lives and who they became."
Trust me, Al was always far too modest. He coached four Swampscott
Little League State Championship teams and was coaching this year's team
just weeks before he passed away. In 2003 Al and one of the other
original coaches from 1954, Andy Holmes, threw out the first pitch at
Fenway in honor of their 50 years of service to Swampscott Little
"One of the great thrills of my life," Al would declare later.
Why is it that we never thank people like Al when they are alive? Youth
sports coaches don't get paid. Their compensation is watching the growth
and emergence of confidence, self worth and achievement. You all have
an Al Duratti in your town. Take a minute to thank him or her before its
too late. We will miss you Al. You served well. You made a lot of kids
better ballplayers, but more importantly, better men, fathers, husbands
Al, you always gave it your all for nearly 60 years. Thank you.