June 26, 2010
Tobin leaves CHS dugout
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland High baseball head coach John Tobin will be giving up his favorite perch outside the Reilly Field dugout at Beaudry Park, having resigned after 15 seasons of guiding the successful Purple Tigers program.
Cortland High baseball games will have a strangely different feel next spring.
John Tobin has resigned after 15 seasons as the Purple Tigers’ head coach, which came after two years each with the junior varsity and modified programs. He will continue on at Parker School, where he has been a teacher for the past 16 years.
Tobin cited back problems as his reason for leaving the coaching ranks.
“It didn’t allow me to do the things that need to be done by a head coach,” he said. “I tried to get by the last couple of years by delegating, but didn’t feel it was working out the way I wanted it to. It would be better for the program to have someone in the position who is better able to carry out the duties involved.
“In resigning, I said that I would be able to help out and would be a friend of the program, doing what I can for the new coach. I told the kids after the last game this spring, and the assistant coaches a couple of weeks before that,” he added.
A successor has not yet been named.
Tobin compiled a record of 166-137 in his 15 varsity seasons, winning a league championship in 1999. “Our best teams were in the mid-2000s,” he said. “We went to the sectional finals twice (2003 and 2005) and the semis three times, and in 2009 made the semis again.”
Tobin, 56, has been involved with the Cortland Youth Bureau for some 42 years, and has been program director for its football and basketball programs since the mid-1990s. He has coached summer baseball teams, starting when he was 14, at the Tee-Ball, Pee Wee, Grasshopper, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack and American Legion levels, the late Dave Guido responsible for getting him involved at the latter two levels in the mid-90s. He also coached junior varsity basketball at CHS for 10 seasons.
Tobin graduated from Cortland High, where he played baseball, in 1971, after having attended St. Mary’s (where he played baseball, football and basketball) prior to that school year. He has taught both fifth and sixth grades in his time at Parker School.
A conversation with his father, Ken Sr., in the early 1990s, helped get Tobin, a salesman at the time, back into teaching and, as it turned out, coaching. “We were also talking about coaching and the time you put into it, and he said to me, ‘I’ll bet you’d coach for free.’ And I would have.
“Teaching is what I do, and I love it. There hasn’t been a day that I’ve gotten up and said to myself, ‘I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.’ Coaching has just been a bonus. I’m going to miss it, but I’m staying on as the Section 3 Class A baseball chairman, which I’ve been for the last couple of years, and as our league representative. I’ve loved coaching against the guys in the league; they’re good competitors and gentlemen. It’s been lots of fun.”
Among the coaching influences and friends that Tobin cited were Jere Dexter at St. Mary’s and, at CHS, John Pilato and Mick Lowie. “Jeff Johnson has been a very supportive athletic director, someone I could always talk to about things, and before that Mason Morenus, who was my baseball coach at Cortland High in 1971,” he said.
One of Tobin’s peers was John Baden, the long-time coach at Homer Central who retired in 2002, whereupon Tobin took over as league rep. “John dedicated his life to kids and coaching,” Baden said. “He was very professional with them, and coached in the summer, too. It was a natural fit when he became a teacher.
“As a fellow coach I always respected John, and he always fielded good teams. He’s always for the kids, a pro-child and pro-young adult person. It’s good that he’s going to continue as a teacher; as a coach, he will be missed.”
“John has always been a guy I could talk baseball with, and I loved to compete against him,” Tobin said of Baden.
“John has done an excellent job with the program, and has worked extremely hard at developing the overall program,” Johnson said of Tobin. “He dedicated a lot of time to creating off-season opportunities, like summer camps and an American Legion team, for kids to improve their skills. He has always been student-centered and done a great job working with and developing a solid program.
“He’s really a class individual, and an excellent coach who always put the athlete first and was a valuable member of the coaching staff. He’ll be hard to replace; we’ll begin a search and hopefully have someone in place by January.”
In summing things up, Tobin said that “Overall it’s been a great ride, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. People ask me why I’ve volunteered for things outside of school over the years; it’s because there were people when I was young who volunteered and helped me, like teachers, coaches and my dad, who always had the time to play catch with me after work. And we were lucky enough as kids to have friends who were big sports fans.
“I feel very blessed; everything fell into place. I have a job with the district I wanted to work for, right in the neighborhood, and was able to step in and coach awhile.”
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