MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

Allegany College of Maryland announced this week that the campus baseball field, affectionately known as The Rock, will formally, officially and forever be named Steve Bazarnic Field on Sunday, April 23.

And it’s about time.

Though, in fairness, I understand Steve Bazarnic is not the easiest person in the world to work or deal with when it comes to bestowing accolades upon Steve Bazarnic.

For instance, in 2019, on the occasion of his retirement after 48 years of service to Allegany College of Maryland, the Allegany County Commissioners declared a day in the county to be Steve Bazarnic Day, and I wondered in print how they were able to trick Steve into attending the ceremony to commemorate this day.

Likewise, I wonder how long it took somebody to get Steve to agree to go along with naming the ACM baseball field after him. Because for Steve, it was never about him; it was about his players, and it was about everybody in the world not named Steve Bazarnic.

He never poured his care, his talent, his knowledge and his heart out there as he did for the sake of Steve Bazarnic; he did it for the sake of everyone else.

That includes creating, improving, getting up to standard, maintaining and treating that impossible rock of a baseball field on the Allegany campus with roughly the same attention, detail and care that you might provide your own child; which, in a very true way, the players under Steve Bazarnic’s guidance and responsibility were like his children and he tirelessly prepared that field, usually by himself, to make sure they had someplace to practice and to play.

The college will hold the dedication ceremony on Sunday, April 23 at 11:30 a.m. prior to Allegany’s noon doubleheader against Anne Arundel, and it will be open to the public.

Steve Bazarnic is simply an extraordinary human being, which is important, and one of the greatest baseball coaches in the world, which is incidental.

The first baseball coach in school history, Steve devoted 48 years to Allegany College as teacher, athletic director, one of the greatest baseball coaches in America and the guy who filled any position in the interim if he believed the college and the students needed somebody to do so.

From the moment Steve and his family arrived here for the first time from State College, Pennsylvania in 1971, it seemed as though they had never left. It seemed as though they had already been here forever because they have always made everybody else feel so comfortable, so welcome and so at home. They are who they are because they live their lives with kindness, courtesy and decency.

Steve coached his baseball teams to over 1,400 wins, at one time leading the nation in career victories. He’s sent six guys to the big leagues, 54 to professional baseball and countless more to four-year schools.

Most importantly, he sent his players on to the rest of their lives with the foundation of honesty, care and treating others better than you treat yourself — not by lesson planning or lecture, but by example.

Steve Bazarnic is an NJCAA Hall of Famer; in fact, he was in the Hall of Fame in the very prime of his career. He won countless championships, took teams to nine NJCAA World Series, has been named Coach of the Year as many times as some of us go to the market, and has been honored twice by the Dapper Dan Club of Allegany County for being the person to bring our area the most national recognition through athletics.

Yet he’s never understood what the fuss is about, which, of course, is precisely what the fuss is about.

The first time I met Steve was in May of 1984 when I covered the Trojans’ doubleheader sweep of Brookdale, New Jersey, in the District Tournament championship, which sent them to the World Series for the first time. The stars of the day were two local pitchers, Robbie Russell and J.R. Perdew, who pitched complete games and silenced the mighty bats of the Jersey Blues and bested their heralded pitcher, Jim Hunter.

It was a grand and glorious day on The Rock, and it still brings a smile to my heart, as I had never been so happy for anybody I had just met as I was for Steve Bazarnic that afternoon, for I had never met a more gracious or humble person in my life up to that point than Steve Bazarnic. Thirty-nine years later, I still haven’t.

Steve Bazarnic had us at hello.

Naming the baseball field at Allegany College of Maryland after Steve Bazarnic is, of course, a tribute to one of the greatest baseball coaches, leaders and teachers in America. Yet I find it to be a just and fitting tribute to the man himself, who is a far better person, neighbor and friend than anybody in the world at the top of their profession is at being a person at the top of their profession.

Steve Bazarnic Field. I like it. And it’s about time.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT