Northwestern Press

Thursday, August 22, 2019
PRESS PHOTO CHUCK HIXSONNorthwestern’s 1989 District 11 championship baseball team was honored before a recent Tiger varsity game. Members of the team who attended are (back row, left to right) head coach Len Smith, John George, Brian Green, Steve Loch and Jason Mengel; (front row) Jason Hlavac, Joe Fatzinger, Bill Miller and Jan Budman. PRESS PHOTO CHUCK HIXSONNorthwestern’s 1989 District 11 championship baseball team was honored before a recent Tiger varsity game. Members of the team who attended are (back row, left to right) head coach Len Smith, John George, Brian Green, Steve Loch and Jason Mengel; (front row) Jason Hlavac, Joe Fatzinger, Bill Miller and Jan Budman.

1989 baseball team honored

Friday, April 19, 2019 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

Last year’s Northwestern Lehigh baseball team won the school’s second ever District 11 championship.

That team – and this year’s team – drew inspiration from an earlier team that won the school’s first district championship back in 1989. That team was recently saluted prior to Northwestern’s game against Bangor, honoring the accomplishment that came 30 years ago.

The tribute brought together eight members of the team along with head coach Len Smith, who coached for 35 seasons and recently returned as a volunteer assistant coach. For Smith, the honor of seeing the team saluted and honored with a sign that will be posted at the Northwestern baseball field was an event to remember.

“They deserve the honor that they got today, it’s well deserved,” said Smith with his familiar broad smile on his face. “We had players who scrapped. There were some good athletes on that team and they played together as a unit. We had great pitching, mainly from two guys and we came together and we played together as a team and enjoyed winning. We got hot at the right time and took advantage of the situation.”

The reunion of the team members wasn’t the first time that many of them have seen each other since their glory days. Jason Mengel, who played shortstop for the team, noted that the players have a definite bond that has remained to this day.

“This group of players that we had played together since we were nine-years old, we won a Biddy championship, we won a knee-high championship and we were multiple-sport athletes and were very athletic,” said Mengel. “It was a good group of kids and even today, there are nine or ten of us who still hang out together.”

Smith too is still held in high regard by team members.

“It was awesome playing for Lenny,” said out Mengel. “The guy knows the game in-and-out. He’s a great baseball mind.”

Looking back on the 1989 season, Smith recalls that the team was pretty close and showed signs of being able to make a deep run into the postseason. He also remembers them as a team that pretty much went about it business and didn’t let things distract it.

“Sometimes you can pick out different things from different teams, but that group really just came in, did their job, packed up and went home,” said Smith. “They were a great group of guys and it was great to see them here. It really was.”

Smith is highly regarded at Northwestern after a long career not only as a coach in baseball and football, but as a teacher. He stepped aside as head coach following the 2015 season, but has returned as a volunteer assistant coach.

“I always say, this is not about me,” insisted Smith. “This is about the young men here and hopefully they become a better ball player while they’re here at Northwestern and become better individuals and citizens while they’re here.”