In early spring, Lou Zeck, president of the Lebanon County Umpires Association, suggested to his group that something be done to recognize Tony Louwerse for his 60 years of coaching and participation in the Lebanon Valley Teener League.
The idea was quickly approved to hold a Tony Louwerse Day and rename the local VFW tournament the Tony Louwerse VFW Teener Tournament, in recognition of his six decades of coaching the Cornwall team.
On Saturday, June 26, in a noon-time ceremony between games on the Coleman’s Park diamond, the event became a reality, with a crowd of several hundred players and fans in attendance.
The Lebanon Valley Baseball League presented him with a clock that was inscribed “Presented to Tony Louwerse for 60-Plus years of dedication to the youth and the Lebanon Valley Teener League on June 26, 2021.”
The umpires also gave him an acrylic bat that read “Tony Louwerse in honor of 60 years of service to Teener Baseball”.
Zeck and Mike Hughes, President of the Lebanon Valley Teeners, made opening-ceremony comments, before Louwerse spoke. Unfortunately, the PA system malfunctioned so the following is what the guest of honor had to say about the event.
“I thought I was just coming to watch a game so this is all a surprise to me and I can’t go on without saying thanks to all the guys over the years who were part of this, especially Tom “Ace” Pierce, who has been with me almost all of the time,” said Louwerse. “There also were all the umpires whose favorite thing to say to me was, ‘one more word and you’re out of the game’ so I’m not saying another word.”
However, Louwerse did continue with, “It’s been awesome and this can never, ever be replaced in my heart and in my memory to think about this day. I have to admit there were some days I thought I was never going to see these guys any more, but here we are today.”
He closed out his comments saying, “I was only one guy but you see all these other guys and kids who know what it takes for people to have baseball so all I can say again is thank you everyone.”
Pierce admitted that the surprise worked, because no one was talking to Louwerse about the planned event, knowing that if he found out he would attempt to stop it.
“I lived in his shadow,” Pierce said with a laugh. “People probably don’t know or recall that he was actually thrown out of one game and had to go up to the buses parking lot. That was before cell phones, so I couldn’t have any contact with him and truthfully can’t remember if we won that game or not!”
Pierce had one more story to relate that had to with whether or not a batter, who wore red shoes, was hit on his foot by a pitch. “Tony was arguing against the call but when our pitcher got the ball he pointed out to Tony there was a red mark on it,” said Pierce. “Tony grabbed the ball and tossed it over the creek and when I asked him why he did that he said he was destroying the evidence.”
Tony Louwerse is a one-of-a-kind, old-school coach who had a hand in the careers of many players, some of whom reached the pro level. The Lebanon area was fortunate to have him for all these years.