School Baseball: Anderson goes out on top
Sabres' coach to spend more time with family
Bob Anderson enjoyed some wonderful moments this spring as his Schalmont baseball team won game after game, but he missed out on some, too.
His son, Ian, was making a mark as a pitcher with the Shenendehowa varsity, and another son, Ben, was handling the Plainsmen’s junior varsity staff as a promising catcher.
“This year was tough. I was missing out on a lot of things,” said Anderson, the father of four boys. “They need my attention, and I want to support them like they’ve supported me.”
Anderson stepped down this week as the lead man with the Sabres, a spot he held for 20 years. Last Saturday the Schalmont and Siena College graduate guided his final edition to the state Class B championship, with those last two wins leaving the Sabres at 26-1.
“I’m just going to be a fan and watch the kids play. Spend time with my wife [Karen],” he said.
Anderson said he’s anxious to follow his baseball-playing sophomore twins, and their younger brother, fifth-grader Isaac, who is an emerging swimmer. Older brother Robert III is an architecture major at Pratt Institute.
“It’s time for me to be a dad,” said Anderson. “It’s time. You can’t get it back.”
Anderson departs with a Schalmont-record 325 victories, his last two coming against Clinton, 14-6, and Rye Neck, 3-1, in the state final four. Those 26 victories and 22 in a row to cap the season are other all-time highs for the Sabres.
“We didn’t have a group of individuals. We had a team, and it was a close team,” said Anderson. “They all had their role, and they played their role from start to finish. I’m very proud of how they kept their cool as the season went along and got it done.”
Schalmont’s season started with Anderson’s 300th win, against Watervliet, and the Sabres’ regular season included Colonial Council Patriot Division and Bruce Bouck Memorial Tournament titles. Schalmont followed with sectional victories over Cairo-Durham, Albany Academy, Johnstown and Fonda-Fultonville, and beat Ogdensburg Free Academy for its first regional championship.
Schalmont had lost to OFA in a 2013 regional final, and returned most of its lineup for this year’s fantastic push.
“Special group of kids. Great group to be around,” said Anderson, whose team was led by Colonial Council co-MVP Greg Musk and league first-teamers Matt Capovani, Nick Bird, John Pascarella, Dom Toma and Joe Wignot. “They showed dedication to the program. They wanted to win, and they made sacrifices.”
Winning was the norm at Schalmont during Anderson’s run, with only one of his groups finishing below .500.
“We didn’t beat them too often. When we did, it was special,” said former Mechanicville coach Tom McBride. “We got them in my last year , and that was the highlight of the season.”
Two of Anderson’s teams won 20 games, two others notched 19 victories and another logged 18. His winning percentage was .686 (325-149).
“I wanted to establish some consistency and a winning attitude,” said Anderson. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my lower-level coaches for getting the players ready.”
The Schalmont baseball staff is big on fundamentals, and in the week leading up to the state final four, Anderson’s players fielded bucket upon bucket of grounders and flies in preparation.
“No errors. That’s the first thing [19-year volunteer assistant coach] John Casso noted after we won the state title,” Anderson said. “We talked to the kids before the sectionals, regionals and final four, and each time we told them, ‘We’re going to see good teams. We can’t give them extra outs.’ ”
Wignot at shortstop, Pascarella at first and catcher Anthony Yezzo anchored a defense that made only 25 errors this season. The pitching staff, led by Musk and Capovani, surrendered 38 runs, 28 earned, and had a combined 1.04 ERA. Schalmont batted .324 as a group, led by Toma, Musk and Pascarella, and finished with 79 stolen bases in 82 attempts.
The Sabres also put up big numbers in the classroom, and for the second year in a row earned New York State Public High School Athletic Association scholar/athlete team status.
“It starts at the top. He’s passionate about what he does and he has those boys prepared,” said McBride. “He loves working with kids, and that’s paid off.”
Anderson heard from several of his past players including the school’s career wins leader, Joel Middleton, and its career home run leader, Mike Ostrander, following Schalmont’s state final four success.
“I was getting text messages. Emails. Phone calls,” said Anderson. “It was nice to see guys still follow us.”
Anderson served as a volunteer varsity assistant at Schalmont for a year, and led the school’s junior varsity for four years afterward before his move up. Anderson led the Sabres’ varsity to the first of five Colonial Council championships and a runner-up Section II Class B finish in just his second year in 1996.
“Going back to 1995, we were one, two or three in the league. Over the years we’ve had good players,” said Anderson, whose past teams featured such stars as Corey Osinski, Dave Viscusi, Zach Ingalls, Bryan Wotherspoon, Kyle McKelvey and Joe Amorosi. “That doesn’t happen without good players.”
Though calm and poised most of the time, Anderson would fight for those players if he disagreed with a call. He’d also get on those players when he saw the need to do so.
“He picked his moments, either with his kids or an umpire,” said McBride. “You do it all the time, and there’s no effect.”
Schalmont twice finished second in Section II under Anderson, and won the area Class A crown in 2006 before its back-to-back Class B titles.
“I’ll still show up and throw BP. I won’t go cold turkey,” said the sixth-grade math and science teacher. “My dad taught me the love of the game, and I’ve tried to give that over to my boys. It’s a big part of our lives, and hopefully, it will continue to be.”