In case you haven’t heard, Tony Louwerse decided that 60 years of coaching the Cornwall 13-to-15 year old baseball teams in the Lebanon Valley VFW Teener League was long enough. That means nearly 900 boys played for him, plus hundreds more when he was either the head or assistant coach in the VFW Pennsylvania state and national tournaments.
During those years, the Lebanon Valley all-stars won eight VFW state championships (1965-67-72-77-79-81-85-88), the 1965 national championship and the 1967 national runner-up.
It all started in the early 1960s, when Louwerse moved to Cornwall from Scranton and got involved in coaching when Tom Starry, Leo Tice and Walt Long were coaching in the league, then along the way Tom “Ace” Pierce joined him and they worked together for many, many years.
“Starry was the league president for many years and he had Artie Whitman as his assistant for the Hebron team, then later on I took over as the league’s president and then Lem Landis, who coached Annville’s team, was president for some time,” said Louwerse. “The success our league had was because all of the coaches had a baseball background. Landis pitched in the minor leagues. Walt coached Cleona and I had Cornwall, but we spent a lot of time together during those years when we were winning state titles. He knew so much about the game and I learned a lot from him because he knew how the game was to be played and that’s the way he had his kids play”.
Louwerse was one of the coaches of the 1965 team that won the VFW national championship, a team that included Ted Dissinger, Mike Smith, George Ruth, Don Bowman, Rich Henning and Tim Feeman. Two years later, they finished second in the tournament with Rich Miller, Ed Bouchette, Doug Yingst and Gene Holbert in the lineup.
Over the year, a number of those kids went on to play in the minor leagues. That list includes Rich Miller, Matt Knox, Derek Fisher, Adam Keim and Brandon Naples. Ed Bouchette went the media route and was inducted into the writer’s wing of the NFL Hall of Fame, and Bob Engle won two World Series titles as an executive with the Toronto Blue Jays.
When informed of Louwerse’s announcement, Engle said, “I salute Tony for his time, energy and dedication to all the young men, families and the Cornwall community. He molded his players, not only on the field of play, but his loyalty and direction allowed each baseball experiences that could be later transferred to everyday life. Sixty years of commitment and dedication is a great example for others to follow.”
Knox, who played in the minors five years and is now the head baseball coach at Cedar Crest, admitted, “As a 13-year-old player, I was scared to death of Tony. He demanded 100 percent from his players and wasn’t afraid to be hard on you and that helped me to want to get 100 percent from myself. He was old school and wanted to win and had a way of just looking at you when he wasn’t happy with you.”
“All of that helped me become the player that I was,” Knox continued. “During my three years with him, I learned a lot about the game of baseball. The fact of the matter is that without the help of Tony, Ace Pierce and Todd Galbraith, I wouldn’t have become the player that I became. I wish him the best and thank him for his time as a coach to the many players that he has helped.”
Rich Miller, who reached the Triple-A level then spent 30-plus years as an instructor, minor league coach, manager and instructor said, “I was always glad my son got to play for him because he taught his players to play smart, play the game the right way, always hustle and run everything out, have fun but play to win, not horse around. He really knew the game inside and out and could have been a very successful coach at any level.”
It was Lyle Krall, who has also spent the last 60-plus years, some as a paid and others as a volunteer, coaching high school and American Legion baseball, who perhaps summed up the situation best.
“For 60 seasons Tony spent an immeasurable amount of time molding teenagers, not only into baseball players who later who played at the high school and college and pro level, he did it for the love of baseball and without seeking monetary compensation,” said Krall.
“Tony and I did not compete against each other since we coached different age groups, but we bonded at the Lebanon Valley College baseball camps where I saw a person who loved coaching baseball as I did,” added Krall. “I saw a coach who was a stickler for detail and wanted drills to be done precisely and was not hesitant to correct a player, and at the same time get the player to believe in his coaching methods.”
Krall then offered a suggestion that the Cornwall field where Louwerse coached be named “Tony Louwerse Field”, which would keep his name alive for what he has contributed to the lives of so many young people.
Louwerse was the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame’s recipient of the community service award in 1980 and was inducted into the chapter’s hall of fame in 2011.
“I never thought about being involved for 60 years,” said Louwerse, “but it was fun because of all the other coaches and kids that I came in contact with over all that time. I’d like to think I was a part, however small it was, and felt good about the success we, meaning all the coaches, had over the years.”
One of the best baseball minds I have ever been around! And to say he made a difference in the kids on and off of the field is an understatement. Having coached with him I was amazed at the amount of former players that would come back to a practice or a game just to see Tony and Ace. And it was almost always the same story. A kind word of thanks to them because as adults they realized the lessons they learned while playing for them they were able to take to their adult lives and thrive. Tony was a genius at teaching the game the right way. Either you played his way (the right way) or you sat on the bench until you decided to be a team player.
Thanks for all of your years of service Tony! The cycle of being a part of your world started when I was 15 at Iona and you did one of the most amazing things for me and I will leave it at that but it touched me beyond words and then to be able to coach with you and later have my son Brady alos play for you was a cycle of baseball life that I will be forever greatful for,
Tony Louwerse is a legend in Lebanon County Baseball. He taught the game properly and expected nothing less than 100% from his players and he pushed them to get it. There are few coaches today who have the kind of longevity that he had, Today a lot of coaches leave the game after their kids move on. Old time coaches like Tony, Ace Pierce, Tom Starry, Lyle Krall, Lem Landis, Walt Long, Ed Spittle, Glenn Reppert, all coached for decades. They were dedicated to teaching the game the right way and for their love of the game. Lebanon County Baseball was fortunate to have these guys. My son played for Tony and was an assistant coach. He is still involved as an umpire in the game he learned to love. I myself at 80 years young am still involved in the game. These legends were an inspiration.
Several players commented on Tony’s slow measured trips to the mound. Later, those trips became slower and more measured. Some pitchers covered their chests with their glove to soften the impact of getting poked there while getting verbally realigned by Tony Lou. He did tend to invade your personal space; while contorting an animated expression flavored by a coal cracker accent.
He could be a bit intimidating. But he got special satisfaction watching those skinny 13-yr olds develop into excellent players. His teams had many of those.
One of them, after the first practice ended, climbed into his dad’s pickup and said, “I’m never returning to that field again.” He did, of course, return and became one of most committed and dedicated players ever. Now looking at a very bright baseball future at RIT.
I had the honor of playing for and coaching with both Tony and Ace. Tradition, honor, sportmanship and grit are just a few of the words that immediately come to mind. Take care of those, and success follows more often than not. The Cornwall “pinstripes” will always represent excellence to anyone who played for or against us thanks to Tony and Ace. So much repect and admiration…
Tony Louwerse, over 60 years what more can be said. He has done so much for VFW baseball with out him there would be no VFW baseball. I have been friends with Tony for a very long time. He taught the game of baseball the right way, always getting everything out of his players. He never gave up on any player he would work with all the young men to make them better ball players and that always showed. Tony and I would talk baseball all the time on the phone and sometimes he would tell me the same story more then once but i did not care it was always fun listing to them. I have umpired a lot of Cornwall games over the years and it was always fun to go there because you never knew what would come from Tony. I love to talk to the catchers and he had some real good ones, when they would miss a ball he would let them know, one time the catcher said to me I am gone to get reamed when I get to the bench, I said no he is coming for you now and you would hear time out!! Tony will never be forgotten for all he did. Tony Thank you for being a great friend, I will always remember the good times. I only have two regrets one that I could not play for him and two I never got to throw him out of a game.