DENVER -- Rockies radio broadcaster Jerry Schemmel will miss Monday's game in Washington to attend services for his collegiate baseball coach at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan. -- the successful and influential Steve Anson.
Schemmel played for Washburn from 1980-82, and he served as an assistant from 1983-85 for Anson, who was killed last Sunday in a tree-trimming accident at age 60. Schemmel will attend Monday's memorial at Falley Field on the Washburn campus.
Anson coached 35 seasons and compiled a 844-798-3 record, which included five trips to the NAIA national tournament. But Schemmel said Anson's impact could not be measured by that. Schemmel recalled a story from his senior year, a game that should have been a low moment for him but turned out to be a pleasing one.
"I made an error at shortstop on a routine ground ball, the run scored and we lost," Schemmel said. "When we got back to Topeka, I was standing outside coach's office and heard him talking on the phone with the Topeka newspaper. He told the reporter what happened and then said he couldn't remember who it was that made the error. He totally covered for me.
"I remember walking away after hearing that and thinking, 'Right there is a great coach, father figure, mentor and friend, all wrapped up in one man.'"
Schemmel said when he became a coach, Anson taught him a lasting lesson, one that could govern the conduct of coaches at all levels, and especially throughout amateur ball.
"When I was coaching for him, he told me something I never forgot. He said, 'Try to spend more time and pay more attention to the guys you don't play as much or don't play at all. They need it a lot more,'" Schemmel said.
Schemmel said he last spoke to Anson before Anson's favorite team, the Cardinals, were to visit Denver to play the Rockies. Anson was sad he could not make it. Two days later, he was killed.
"Last winter, he put together a fundraiser to help pay medical expenses of his grandson, who was going through treatment for leukemia," Schemmel said. "I surprised him by showing up at the event. When he saw me, he couldn't get any words out, then spent the next five minutes trying to hold back tears while he formulated a couple awkward sentences. No one I know has ever been more appreciative of other people's support than Coach Anson."