Notre Dame lost a giant recently, I lost a Little League coach.
Chuck Lennon, a man as known as “Mr. Notre Dame”, gave his heart and soul to Our Lady’s University as well as the South Bend community. He retired in 2011 after 30 years as the head of the Notre Dame Alumni Association. Chuck was instrumental in building it into arguably the strongest group of its kind in the world. And for a good portion of my life, he was a neighbor, and he spent a few months of my life as one of my Little league coaches.
I was not much of a baseball player but I loved the game. Chuck Lennon had lettered in baseball in the early 60s while at ND. I lacked confidence and frankly after having been hit in the face by a pitch at the age of 8, I was a little scared of the ball. I was fortunate to have someone of his caliber and credentials as a Coach.
Coach Lennon had an infectious manner about him that made you want to get better. And he made me better.
At the age of 11 I recall playing right field one game and Coach Lennon took up a position by the fence so he could talk me through an inning. I lacked confidence and I think he knew it. Sure enough a fly ball came my way very deep to near the fence. I had just gotten instructions on what to do if a ball came my way and I recall hearing his voice, “its deep find it and get to the fence!” A couple seconds later I was the most surprised person in the park when the ball hit my glove…….but then bounced out.
I gathered it and tossed it in as fast as I could and felt good holding the hitter to 3 bases. I felt good because, Chuck Lennon immediately delivered the positive reinforcement I craved and needed at that time of my life, he assured me enthusiastically that I had done a lot of things right.
I made an error, and he made me better.
I suspect Chuck Lennon did the same to thousands during his career.