SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) – This week marks the opening of baseball season — not just in the Majors, but at little league fields across the country. And at one field in Santa Rosa, this season marks a milestone for Coach John Perry, this week’s Jefferson Award winner.
Young little league players dressed in bright gold and white uniforms piled out of the dugout as Coach John Perry called out their positions for the field with authority. He’s earned it – having coached little league in Santa Rosa for 40 years.
“Everybody says I’ve been here so long, they say, “You must know everything!” Perry laughed. “No, I don’t know everything. I’m learning stuff every year.”
And it’s that love of learning the game that inspires his players. Three- to five-days-a-week during the season you’ll find Perry practicing with his team: hitting, fielding, running bases. He’s the first to arrive, often lining the base paths himself when the only spectators are sheep in a nearby pasture.
League President Tim Randall says it’s Perry who maintains the field all year round.
“John really devotes not only his time, but his own personal money to make sure his team and his kids really have the best possible experience in Little League that they can,” Randall explained.
That includes Perry supplying everything from the kids’ uniforms to their bats.
“We aren’t the most affluent side of town, so it’s hard to get money and sponsors,” Perry said. “Early on, I just bought our own uniforms and equipment and stuff so the league doesn’t have to buy it.”
Perry started coaching little league when he was 22-years-old. His brother-in-law knew he played in high school, and asked him to help with a team. He’s done it ever since, all the while working at his manufacturing job on the night shift.
“I’ve been working nights 28 years,” Perry said. “I get off at 5:30 in the morning and have to get up at 1 or 2 and have practice. I get off practice at 6:30 and go to work at 8!”
Perry prides himself on teaching old fashioned baseball fundamentals. But if you ask the parents, their kids are learning much more.
“They take their hats off when he speaks,” mom Patty Wilson said. “They shake hands with the umpires and the coaches. They write letters of thanks to the parents.”
This season, Perry will coach his 1000th game. Many former players will attend to cheer the man on the field who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“This kept me going when I had bad times,” Perry said. “This is always a good time. You know, the day is bad, I show up here, and everything is better!”
So for 40 years of teaching the boys of summer the fundamentals in baseball and in life, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to John Perry.
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