Saying farewell to a friend
In less than a month, Miners head baseball coach Buster Schwab will be moving out of state, but he will leave a large part of himself in Park City.
Schwab built a legacy in the area by creating a baseball development program six years ago, that has since become strong enough to produce a varsity baseball program that many expect to challenge for the Region 10 title in Utah high school prep baseball next season.
"Next year is going to be great," Schwab said. "The sad thing is I won’t be here to see it pan out."
Since taking over the helm of the Miners varsity baseball program four years ago, Schwab has seen his share of struggles and losing seasons, but he knows that it takes time to build a strong baseball program, and felt he took the necessary steps to make that happen. When Schwab arrived in Park City, Basin Recreation coordinator Matt Strader was running two competitive baseball programs and a struggling high school program. The two were able to come together and create a six-team developmental baseball program, that last year, expanded into to eight teams.
"The farm feeder programs have to be very strong," Schwab said.
Schwab, along with wife Emily and their two younger children, Atlee, 15, and Abby, 12, will move to Palos Verdes, Calif., on July 1. Their two older children, Amber, 20, and Andy, 18, are already living in the Southern California area.
The Schwabs, who are California natives, lived in Palos Verdes before coming to Park City and decided it was time to return home. Schwab said that he had a hard time adjusting to Utah’s cold winters and looks forward to milder year-round weather.
"I was having a hard time with weather," Schwab said.
The extended winters of Park City also made the start of baseball season frustrating, as heavy snow kept the Miners from playing a home game until late April.
"If you’re a baseball fan, this is not the climate or town to do it in," Schwab said.
He’s also looking forward to giving Atlee a chance to play baseball in California’s intense developmental system. Off-season summer leagues in California usually play as many as 135 games, and practice is year-round. Such a system will likely give Atlee a better shot at earning a spot on a college roster. Andy actually stayed behind in California when the family moved for sports opportunities. The decision earned him a college volleyball scholarship. Abby is also a volleyball player, and Schwab is hopeful that she will blossom in California.
Schwab says that the move back will be pretty natural. Abby was the only family member who was not immediately onboard to move back, but now the entire family is getting excited.
"It’s an easy transition for us," Schwab said. "Its not like coming to a new city."
Schwab says the biggest adjustment will be their absence from Park City school activities. Emily was the president of Parent Teacher Student Organization in Park City and Schwab will no only coach club level baseball after the move.
Schwab will leave behind a whole extended family of players and parents that supported him over the years in Park City. At the end-of-the-season awards banquet, Schwab said that about 10 kids stood up, unprompted by anyone, and thanked Schwab for the difference he had made in their lives. Jeff Allen and Reed Nelson, both nominated to the Utah All-Star High School Championship, called Schwab after playing in the game and personally thanked Schwab for the opportunities he gave them.
"That’s why you do it," Schwab said.
Schwab was also committed to building fine men, not just good baseball players. Schwab instilled a sense of camaraderie and leadership among his players that he hopes will continue.
"When they are going to be together for those four months, they better be good friends," Schwab said.
Schwab said that during his tenure he watched upperclassmen encourage underclassmen, making sure they felt part of the team, a quality that he felt was lacking before he started coaching.
The players will likely best remember Schwab for what was dubbed as "Christmas night." Every year on the Friday evening after team selections, the players and coaches would gather and Schwab would give the team $25,000 worth of new uniforms and equipment, all out of his own pocket.
When Schwab first started with the program and saw the stained and torn uniforms, he made the commitment to treat the team to new gear each year.
"That night is the most gratifying of the year," Schwab said. "You should see their faces. It’s better than real Christmas."
He also helped generate Park City casual gear that is worn by residents all over town.
Schwab wants to keep in touch with many of his payers and the coaching staff.
Most of the Miners’ coaches plan to stay with the program, unless the new coach decides to change things. Varsity coaches Howard Hoyt, Rob Anderson and Carl Gage have all agreed to another season with Park City. Matt Strader will continue with the freshmen/sophomore squad.
The coaches will miss Schwab’s presence. According to Anderson, Schwab was known for his leadership and keen ability to coach well during tense game situations.
"It’s inherent," Schwab said. "They [the other coaches] all know more baseball than me. It’s a God-given thing and it’s hard to teach."
Although that will be missing next year, Schwab has the utmost confidence and respect for his fellow coaches.
"The teaching and coaching is going to be great," Schwab said.
Schwab said that he will miss the personal connection with the coaches and their faith in his system. It was Strader that first believed in Schwab’s vision for Park City baseball and endorsed him to become the head coach of the high school program.
And Schwab’s legacy continues to grow. This year an unprecedented 39 kids signed up for the summer league.
"The enthusiasm is growing," said Schwab, satisfied.
And positive growth is probably the best measure of a man’s success.
"As far as a win/loss record, I failed," Schwab said. "As far as building a Park City baseball program, did I succeed?– Hell yes."
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