President, West Mountain Baseball Association (1980-2004)
On February 10th, 2004, our beloved Association President passed away on his 60th birthday. Gene was the ultimate volunteer. As he said many times, in 1980 when the Brown’s Park league folded, and West Mountain Baseball Association was formed, he put his hand up and became the President thereby committing himself and his family to the success of the new Association….and what a success, we are celebrating “25 years of FUN” this year.
Gene was President, Coach, Manager and as the saying goes “dishwasher” to many players and teams in the West Mountain area as well as the Southern Ontario area. In 1987, Gene’s team won the Ontario Baseball Bantam “AAA” Provincial Championship. It was off to Europe in 1989 for a successful tour of Holland, West Germany and Czeckoslovakia with his hand picked Midget/Juvenile team, which included a number of the players from the champion Bantam team. Gene was always looking for ways to improve the skills of the players in this area and in 1994, Gene hosted NY Yankee pitcher, Jim Abbott, right here at West Mountain Brown’s Park, as a guest speaker at his organized summer camp. In 1996, another “Gene” hand picked Midget/Juvenile team did so well in tournaments in the U.S., that the team was invited to the AABC Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, New Mexico…….a number of players from his teams won university scholarships in the U.S.
Gene was a Director of the Hamilton & District Baseball Association since 1980 and served a couple tenures as its Vice-President….he was made a “Life Member” in 1997. Gene then helped to form the Hamilton Wildcats Baseball Association, a program for elite players since 2000 and was also its President.
As a result of his volunteer work, Gene began to be recognized with awards starting in 1992 with the City of Hamilton “Distinguished Award” for volunteer service. In spring 2000, he received the Hamilton Sports Council “All Sport Award” for outstanding contribution to the HDBA and in fall 2000, he received the West Mountain “Cougar Award” for 20 years of service. (I can still see him accepting and saying “this all started with me putting my hand up”). He was thrilled in 2001 when he received the first ever Ontario Trillium Foundation “Community Volunteer Award” for his outstanding contribution to Amateur Sports in the City of Hamilton.
Gene was an inspirational wonder, a man ahead of his time…..he brought his vision for elite type baseball to fruition back in 1994. Ontario Baseball finally formalized Gene’s vision with an elite league in 2002 and then saw fit to ask Gene to become a league Commissioner ………..Gene relished this opportunity.
There was just so much one could learn from Gene, especially humility and courage, two characteristics that have inspired many a player, coach or colleague with whom he rubbed shoulders. Gene always said that he was fortunate to surround himself with good people and there are many of us, here today, who consider ourselves fortunate to be one of those people. He was a mentor to a lot of people, a champion of the underdog and if he believed in your cause, he was quickly at your side offering his support.
For the last 15 or more years, our Association was blessed to have great people on our Executive…all believing in Gene’s dream as “West Mountain” became more and more, a recognized force in both the Hamilton and Ontario Baseball Communities. Gene loved humour and as he put it… “upbeat people”…….he loved dealing with the funny side of situations with people and had many a chuckle over the years…..as he often said, “small rewards for volunteering”.
And now, on behalf of the Ontario Baseball Community, the Hamilton Baseball Community and most of all the West Mountain Baseball Community, I would like to say a huge “Thank You” to his wife, Pat, and his children Anthony, Bryan and Jeanine and their families for allowing us to share in the life of your husband and Dad.
Each of us will miss him in our own way…….and…..as we look back, we recognize that he did it Gene’s way……….because of his contribution as a volunteer “extraordinaire” and the love he gave to this work, a lot of the lives that he touched are now richer in many ways……….today, we commemorate this tree, monument and plaque in his memory…….a tribute to our late friend and mentor, Gene Bartolozzi.
(The above tribute to Gene was given by Guido Kelly, New President of West Mountain Baseball, at a Commemorative Dedication at Browns Park on August 5th, 2004)