It was early August, a good night for Randy Mazey.
Then the recently named head baseball coach at West Virginia University, Mazey was being inducted in the AAABA Hall of Fame back home in Johnstown, Pa.
He had gone through a humorous acceptance speech that ended with a tribute to his father, Forrest, whose association with AAABA dated back a half century, when he sprung a surprise of his own, calling him to the podium and presenting him with his plaque.
Not long later, Forrest Mazey was dead, succumbing to the cancer that he’d been fighting.
“We did not know that would be his last banquet,” Mazey said the other day as he thought back on it, taking time out from preparing for Baylor this weekend and from enjoying a revenge victory over downstate rival Marshall.
Mazey’s tale of life with father is a warm one, the kind that creates not only good athletes but good people.
It wasn’t that his father lived the easy life, not as a coal miner, but he was one of those coal miners who saw that he always had time and energy to spend with his two boys, Randy and year-and-a-half older brother Brian, who both became standout players in AAABA ball as had their father.
“Every day when we came home from school, we had a pretty good sized yard and we had our little baseball diamond outlined in the yard,” Randy Mazey recalled. “When my dad would come home from the coal mines he would wash the coal dust off and come out and play with us until dark.
“Mom would call us in for dinner. We’d eat a quick dinner and we had a little rink set up down there and a ping pong table. Seems like all he did was play with us.”
And appreciated it was.
“You don’t realize at the time how hard that is, but he never took a day off,” Mazey said.
He loved his kids and was intent upon shaping them the right way, to teach them right from wrong and good from bad.
He had been tied to the coal mine, but that wasn’t what he wanted for them.
That, perhaps, is why he gave them a taste of it.
“One of the best things he ever did for me and my brother was take us down in the mine,” Mazey said. “Once you’ve been down in a mine, it’s not a place you want to revisit. It gives you incentive to get an education and try harder at sports. I’m thankful he did that for us at a young age.”
Lessons, that’s really was what it was about, life lessons.
“Hopefully what he did with me will reflect in the way I’m raising my kids now,” he said. “My little boy Weston is 6 and my little girl Sierra is 4, and I try to do the same thing with them. Any time they want to play, I try to accommodate them, even if it is after a long day of practice and you’re tired you want to put your feet up.”
But there are lessons he took from his father that aren’t only for his own children, but for the players on his team, lessons he used down at TCU as an assistant and that transfer up here.
It’s almost like they are playing with their own kids.
“When you are playing, you can’t take a day off. In college baseball these days there’s so much parity that if you take a day off in practice or give away an at bat, someone else is going to sneak up and beat you because no one else is taking a day off,” Mazey said.
“The No. 1 thing we talked about after the Marshall game was we have to have a good practice the next couple of days if we want to beat Baylor. There’s a correlation between the way you practice and the way you play. That’s the thing my dad taught me; even when it’s not game day you still need to continue to get better.”
Forrest Mazey, as an athlete himself, wanted to assure himself the competitive fires burned within his children.
“It’s just the nature of being competitive and a desire to win. From the time my brother and I were 3 and 4 years old, when we started playing anything, he never let us win. I’m guilty of doing that with my son. He challenged us to compete as hard as he could.”
And yes, losing bothers a child, but when that child finally wins, “it’s such a good feeling for him and for you to see your son win at something.”
His father, a left-handed pitcher, didn’t lose a lot.
“I wasn’t around to see him, but I have seen the newspaper articles and the newspaper write-ups. He was pitching back in 1958 in that AAABA league, and he coached well into 2000, so he had 50 years in the league,” he said. “I know he had a couple of no-hitters in the league.”
And baseball wasn’t his only game.
“He was really good at basketball, too. We had a little basketball court in our backyard, and I can remember like it was yesterday, him standing there and shooting – not free throws, but about 15-foot jump shots – and making 89 in a row,” Mazey said.
In a row?
“Yeah, in a row. I remember because my brother and I had to get every rebound and throw it back to him so he wouldn’t lose his spot on the court. That’s a record in the Mazey family that still stands today.”
Because of what he stood for, they have started the Forrest Mazey Scholarship Fund back in Johnstown.
“The recipient will be a kid who exemplifies everything we’re talking about – competitiveness, desire to win, good student, never takes a day off. It will help someone go play college baseball,” Mazey said.
Maybe even for him.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
It was early August, a good night for Randy Mazey.
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