God is getting more than an earful today from Chris Stavreti; He's getting a hitting lesson on how to keep His front shoulder in and drive the ball the other way.
Stavreti, who coached baseball at Northrop for 26 years and led the Bruins to the 1983 state championship long before the tournament was parceled into classes, died Friday at 73 after a nearly two-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The disease carries the name from another baseball man, Lou Gehrig.
For the multitudes who knew Stav, loved him, played for him, played against him, and gathered in his circle of friendship for the better part of his Indiana Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame career that ended when he retired in 1997, we will forever be suffering an emotional rain delay from which the tarp will never completely come off.
So how does one begin to paint the Stavreti legacy?
We begin with the canvas, which is baseball.
At first, Stavreti didn't plan on being a baseball coach. He wanted to coach basketball. But when he was passed over for a basketball position, he put his heart and soul into learning as much as he could about baseball. And that's how he taught it to his players – with his heart and soul.
He coached it for 30 years, including 26 at Northrop, where he had 526 wins, 12 sectional, seven regional, three semistate and nine SAC championships, plus the state title in '83.
Yet despite all the victories and championships and the glorious numbers that underscore his intensity and drive, they don't define Stavreti. Stav's true legacy is a lifetime of vivid hues on this baseball-colored canvas.
He leaves behind his high school sweetheart, wife Dottie, their daughter, Sherri, and hundreds of sons wearing brown and orange, all of whom pitched and caught, hit and ran, won and wept, lost and laughed.
One of the sons is Eric Wedge, an '86 Northrop graduate who went from being an All-SAC catcher to All-American at Wichita State, to major league baseball's 2007 American League Manager of the Year, and now the manager of the Seattle Mariners.
"He's a big part of who I am, and he had a great impact on my future," Wedge said. "He's somebody I will care about and love forever."
To illustrate his devotion, Wedge called Friday evening from Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family, to talk about his old coach.
Matt Brumbaugh called from Fort Wayne, where the same passion exists.
An '85 Northrop graduate who is now the Bruins' head coach, it was Brumbaugh who coaxed Stavreti out of retirement in the spring of 2011 to make him the team's bench coach.
Stav was 72 at the time, starting to show signs of ALS. His gait was slower, his speech beginning to slur. But with his thick shock of white hair pouring from beneath the brown cap and wearing a Northrop windbreaker that billowed over his shrinking frame, he was back on the field that bears his name, talking to kids, coaching them, teaching with his heart and soul.
"It meant the world to him," Brumbaugh said. "It gave him what he always wanted, and that's to go out and teach the game; to be around the game; to be around the kids."
But Stav's personal canvas isn't complete, not by a long shot; not when the boys of the boys he coached still stand in the box, keep the front shoulder in and go the other way.