In previous years, the familiar sight of Ed Meier instructing players on the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School baseball field for the start of preseason practice in early March was a natural part of the school calendar. It meant that spring was right around the corner.
But this week it was different.
For nine years, baseball and McGann-Mercy had gone hand in hand for Meier, a former player at the school himself. After nine years as the team’s coach, though, he resigned in 2014 for “personal reasons” during a tumultuous period of change in the McGann-Mercy athletic department. While Skip Gehring and then Vinny Punzone coached the Monarchs the past two years, Meier was out of baseball. That is, if you don’t count his volunteer work as an assistant for a T-ball team two of his three children played for (“I think we tied every team we played,” he said).
But change has come to McGann-Mercy again. Meier is back wearing Monarchs green.
“Hearing the baseball sounds and just the feel of it all, it’s nice to be back,” he said during Tuesday’s practice. “It’s easy to transition back into doing this.”
“Yeah, I missed it,” he continued. “You do appreciate it. I think just like anything, you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone, and then it’s fortunate that I get to do it again and really appreciate the time I spend with these guys out here.”
McGann-Mercy went 108-90 and won two league championships under Meier. For him to return to his old post seems like a natural fit to athletic director Melissa Edwards.
“Mercy baseball makes sense when a Meier is in charge,” she said. “Honestly, it’s the best of everything having him back here, what he brings with his knowledge of the game, his love and passion for the game, and the kids honestly just adore him.”
“He is a Mercy baseball boy,” she continued. “You talk about bleeding green, I think Eddie Meier is the epitome of that. It feels like home to him, I think.”
Two seniors who will play an integral part of the team, Nick Kneski and Jack Pavelchak, were freshmen on the junior varsity team the last time Meier coached the varsity Monarchs.
“I love it,” said Pavelchak, who can play any of the corner infield or corner outfield positions. “I didn’t really get to experience most of him when I was in ninth grade, but I’m happy to have him. He likes to get work done. He likes to condition. He knows a lot about baseball.”
Asked how he would describe Meier as a coach, Kneski, a shortstop, said: “In one word, probably just successful. I mean, he knows how to win and he will do anything to win.”
The Monarchs could use that, coming off a rough 1-19 season in 2015.
Picking up wins is one of the challenges Meier faces. The other is dealing with small numbers. By Tuesday the Monarchs had 27 players combined for their varsity and junior varsity teams.
“We’re the small guy in this league, numbers-wise, everything-wise, so that’s a challenge,” he said.
Meier said he has changed as a coach over these past two years. Instead of doing everything strictly by the book, he said, he is more mindful of handling the people part of the game.
“I think I appreciate more the human element now, just the little things, the telltale signs, you know, if someone is not with it that day,” he said. “… I’m more in tune with, I guess, the individual now as a I grow older. When I started, I was that rigid guy, you know, everyone’s got to do this and that, very black and white, but as I have moved on, there’s a lot more gray.”
And for Meier, another familiar color: McGann-Mercy green.
Photo caption: Ed Meier, who resigned as Bishop McGann-Mercy’s coach two years ago because of “personal reasons,” is back in charge of the Monarchs again. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)