It has been an exciting past several weeks for Tony Louwerse, since announcing his retirement from coaching Cornwall teener baseball, after 60 years of service. First, there was the June 26 ceremony that renamed the Lebanon VFW Tournament as the Tony Louwerse VFW Teener Tournament.
Then on Saturday, July 10, he was treated to a lunch at the Quentin Haus restaurant, where players, coaches and long-time friends, many of whom he had had not seen for several years, feted him.
During those six decades, in addition to coaching the Cornwall teener team, he was the league president and either a head or assistant coach on the highly successfully Lebanon Valley All-Stars teams that won a National VFW title in 1965 and finished second in 1966 and 1967.
Leading up to those championships, Lebanon Valley won nine Pennsylvania titles in 1965, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1985, 1988 and 2014.
One of the luncheon attendees who made the trip from Florida was former Cornwall resident Bob Engle, who had a lengthy career as a Major League Baseball executive that included two World Series victories with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I played teener ball in the early 1960s when Ed Miller was the coach and Neil Grimes was the coach of the Lebanon Valley All Stars,” said Engle. “Tony was coaching midget baseball in Cornwall at that time, so I knew about him, but unfortunately never played for him.
“My father was in the Army, so we moved around a lot, but intermittingly we would come back to the Cornwall area and spend time with relatives,” continued Engle. “I finished my high school education here and played teener and legion ball here, then went in the military. It was just great to see so many familiar faces today, a lot that I have not seen for many years.”
Engle has always had a special admiration for Louwerse.
“Anyone who has spent 60 years doing anything these days – and to do it his way – is an incredible feat for the hundreds and hundreds of players Tony had contact with during their teenage years,” said Engle. “To see what he has done consistently, not only winning games and championships, but all the other things you have to deal with in life, has helped them over the years. I’m sure he has had players come back and thank him for that help at some time.
“He is part of the fabric of this country and it’s very hard to replace someone like him,” added Engle. “I just hope that those who follow use his model as they structure themselves in working with kids using baseball as a means to get things done.”
Ed Bouchette, who made the trip from the Pittsburgh area commented, “He taught us the fundamentals that stuck with me beyond baseball and I think Rich Miller said it best today saying he taught us the right way to do things. It was something that we carried over into other areas in our lives.”
“For me and many others, Tony taught us the right way to deal with players and coaches, that I’d use over my years covering the Steelers and Pirates,” Bouchette continued. “The fundamental things you learn playing sports teaches you the fundamentals of life, and Tony was excellent at that. The thing I recall the most about him was “the look”, and he would raise his voice but he really wasn’t hollering at you, he was just trying to get his point across. A final important thing is I never heard him swear and those things are the reason he lasted 60 years.”
As for the guest of honor’s thoughts when it was all over, Louwerse said, “I couldn’t believe Bob and Ed came from Florida and Pittsburgh for this plus all the others who were here made it unbelievable and is something I’ll never forget. I just want to thank everybody who took the time to be here because it was awesome and I’ll never be able to forget it.”