!PLANET EXCLUSIVE! AFTER 30 STELLAR YEARS OF SERVICE, ARE PETTY POLITICS FORCING COACH BOBBY MOYNIHAN OUT AS PHS BASEBALL SKIPPER?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, JAN. 29, 2014) — When you mention the phrase “Pittsfield baseball,” many names might spring to mind — Art Ditmar, Gene Hermanski, Tommy Grieve, and Mark Balanger, to name a few. It won’t take long before you get to the likes Chuck Garivaltis, Larry Bossidy, Tony Ferdyn, Carl Boteze, and Buddy Pellerin. We could go on an on. Then, you realize, after 30 years at baseball coach at Pittsfield High School, you have to include Bobby Moynihan.
THE PLANET remembers Moynihan the player, a non-stop shortstop whose scrappy, peppery style won our admiration, a Nellie Fox-type spark plug who always hustled and played hard. When he took over at PHS a generation ago, Moynihan established a no-nonsense style that became a characteristic of his ballclubs. His teams played hard, respected the game, and always represented the school well, in alrge part because Moynihan insisted upon it.
Several years ago, Moynihan was asked by a reporter, “How long would you like to coach?” Moynihan, then in his 24th year, answered: “As long as I can go, as long as they’ll let me. There are some guys who are retired [from school] who are still working. There’s no time limit.”
Moynihan should have added: “There’s no time limit as long as the game is being played on a level field.”
As the school gears up for spring sports, evidence suggests that, after a generation of unblemished hard work, Moynihan might have stepped on a tilted pitch. Is the fix in on Bobby M? Here’s what THE PLANET has learned.
Under a new provision passed last year by the school committee whereby all school sports coaches must re-apply for their jobs each year, Moynihan re-applied to coach the PHS baseball team for the 31st year. No decision was made on Moynihan’s application. Inside political forces rallied against Moynihan, who then filed a grievance with the school committee. That grievance will be heard behind closed doors today (the state’s Open Meeting Laws allow boards to go into executive session when discussing personnel matters).
Multiple sources tell us that school committee member Jim Conant was the force looking to oust Coach M. Sources say that Conant got upset at Moynihan because the coach the cut two of Conant’s sons from the PHS squad, the last occurring in 2013. In response, sources says, Conant “started using his power and began a petition to remove the coach.” We also learned that “other parents” complained to Moynihan when their sons were cut from the team. They joined Conant’s closet-job efforts, apparently putting pressure on school administration to fire Moynihan “or else.”
Welcome to the age of helicopter parents, an obnoxious species of homo braggadocio who exclusively breed geniuses of superability found otherwise by the rest of us only in comic books and movies. Their children compose their first symphonies in pre-school. These Moms and Pops — no June and Ward Cleaver, to be sure — use computers to make calendars with pictures of the Lil’ Darlins’ on 12 months of the year. You know the type. They use Facebook. A lot. To tell us how perfectly perfect their kids are.
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Of course, one of the biggest decisions for any coach in any team sport is selecting the roster. We’ve known coach Moynihan for a lot of years, and we can only say that based on our experience, if he cuts kid, it’s because, in his judgment, (a) the kid is not good enough, (b) he’s good enough but has a bad attitude and isn’t a team player, (c) it’s best for the kid, (d) it’s best for the team, or (e) some combination of (a) through (d).
Conant, responding to THE PLANET’s request for comment, told us, “Just a bunch of rumors here. We have moved on. I wish coach the best. Dan, I’m sure you know that SC members have no power or input with school personnel matters. This could be PPS policy issue and is private to the party involved. I do not know. We should have confidence that what ever the out come, it will serve the best interest’s of PPS policy and students. Your comment about some rule changes, I know nothing of that. Perhaps this is a policy or contract matter.”
One source tells THE PLANET, “Conant was behind this. His first son a few years ago as well as a second last year were cut. This combined with his belief for a number of reasons that Bob should no longer be coaching. Bob is a good man with high moral character and deserved a better fate than this. We should celebrate his 31 years. I hope when my day comes I am met with a better fate.”
Sources say there have been “numerous letters supporting Moynihan sent to the mayor and school committee.”
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Meanwhile, we received this Letter to the Editor from a parent with a son on the PHS baseball team:
“Coach Moynihan Should Be Allowed to Return”
“Here are a few thoughts I have on the PHS baseball team and Coach Moynihan. I am not leaving my name as my son is currently on the PHS team.
“I can only comment on the last 2 years (2012 & 2013) as my son has been with PHS baseball program for 2 years now. So far he has had a positive experience and we appreciate the time and effort that ALL of the coaches put in for the program and the boys. I’m inclined to think that Coach Moynihan should be allowed to return as I don’t think his performance warrants his removal and I am not aware that he has done anything improper that would require his removal. Over the last 2 years the varsity record is 23 and 20 (11 and 11 in 2012; 12 and 9 in 2013). In both years they qualified for the Western Mass tournament. In 2012 they won their first playoff game and lost the second. In 2013 they lost their first playoff game. Could the results have been better? Sure. But what is the minimum criterion for judging a successful season? I would say it is qualifying for the playoffs, which requires 10 wins, so by that standard he has been successful. Also, Pittsfield has had to play in Division 1 all these years so when they get to the tournament the competition is a lot tougher than most of the other Berkshire county teams have to face.
“The ‘chatter’ among some of the player’s parents is that given the level of talent on the team, the results should be better so it must be the fault of the coaching in general and specifically the head coach. Well Coach Moynihan doesn’t bat, field or pitch during the games so it seems to me that more blame for game results falls on the players. Just because Pittsfield youth leagues, such as South Little League, have a history of All Star success doesn’t automatically guarantee the same success at the High School level. There are 2 public high schools in Pittsfield so the talent gets somewhat diluted in all sports when the kids get to 9th grade. Perhaps we are just not as good as we think we are. Has Coach Moynihan made some questionable decisions related to in game strategy, playing time and discipline? Of course he has. What manager hasn’t? Usually the “bad” decisions are forgotten if you win the game and magnified when you lose. And what parent, whose kid is sitting on the bench more than they are playing doesn’t think the coach has it wrong?
“The letter from Attorney Ferris, which was reported in the Berkshire Eagle seems to have it mostly right from my perspective. The (now former) school committee member who led the charge to replace Moynihan is Jim Conant. His son Josh, now a senior, played on the team his freshman and sophomore years. He was cut during tryouts in 2013. Was it because his dad was trying to get Coach Moynihan fired? I’m sure that had a lot to do with it but I also believe there were also other reasons related to Josh’s attitude being less than team first. Apparently this wasn’t the first time the Conant’s have had issues with Coach Moynihan as Josh’s older brother had a similar experience when he played for PHS last decade. Is this primarily a personal vendetta by a connected local politician?
“Whatever ends up happening, the PHS baseball team will be under a spotlight this season whether Coach Moynihan returns or a new head coach is named.”
THE PLANET RESPONDS: Anonymous asks: “what parent, whose kid is sitting on the bench more than they are playing doesn’t think the coach has it wrong?” ANSWER: Any parent that cares about their son and wants the best for him. “Budinsky” parents who harass coaches because their kids aren’t playing enough are doing their children no favors. In Moynihan’s case, without addressing any specific situation, we would posit that if Coach benches a player, he has a valid reason. Let’s face it, parents. You’re kid most likely isn’t the next Ted Williams or Cy Young.
“Yesterday the fields were only grey with scattered snow, / And now the longest grass-leaves hardly emerge; / Yet her footsteps mark the snow, and go / On towards the pines at the hill’s white verge.” — A Winter’s Tale,” D.H. Lawrence, (1915).
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.