A True Baseball Unsung Hero

Saturday (Nov. 2) was a bittersweet day for me.  As I sat
down to watch the “Rolling Rally” to honor the tremendous job that
the Boston Red Sox had done this season to win the World Series, my spirits
were dampened. I received a call from one of my best friends and he told me
that the man we had worked with to help run the East Side Babe Ruth had passed
away on Friday night.  Richard Zellmer was a man synonymous with youth
baseball in this city that nobody knew, and he was ok with that.
I first came across Rich when I was eight
years old playing in the Jack Barry Little League and he was a coach of an
opposing league.  As I continued to grow up and play baseball Rich was
always there coaching a team, with his wife Judy in tow.  They were always
in it for the kids.  When his children stopped playing, he didn’t stop
coaching.  When I became a coach in 1991, there was Rich in the opposing
dugout.  We had many battles on the field, but always had each other’s
respect.
When I became an umpire in 1997 I worked many
Babe Ruth level games and Rich and I crossed paths again, and as always his
wife Judy was there to support him.  The following year Rich took over the
reigns as President of the East Side Babe Ruth league, a title he held until
this past Friday.  We always said he would die doing work for the East
Side Babe Ruth League.  I never imagined it would happen.
I was honored when Rich asked me to be one
of his league administrators some years back.  That was when Rich was no
longer a mentor but became a friend.  We had many conversations over the
past twenty plus years, some joking, some serious and some heated, but we
always had each other’s respect.
Being the President of the East Side Babe
Ruth League, or any youth league for that matter, is a very thankless job.
 That didn’t matter to Rich, he wasn’t in it for the accolades.  As
Rich’s health deteriorated over the years he became less visible at the field
and some parents didn’t know who he was.  He was the man that made that
league go, he was the man behind the curtain, the one nobody paid attention to.
Each year the league faced it’s own
viability, dealing with some players whose parents could not afford to pay the
registration fee.  That didn’t matter to Rich, that child was going to
play and the league was going to run.  He made it work every year no
matter what.  He always dealt with the Parks Department and other City
administrators to make things work for the league.  He wanted to create as
many opportunities for kids to play baseball, no matter what obstacles it
created for him.  Throughout all of these efforts was his wife Judy.
 She supported her husband in every sense of the word.
As I moved up through the baseball umpire
ranks, got married and started a family, my presence at the baseball field has
waned.  I am still part of the league but in a planning way.
 However, my friendship with Rich and Judy and their three sons Richard,
Steven and Kevin has grown stronger.  We have become more of a family
rather league colleagues.
I will miss Rich and everything we have
done together.  I truly hope the former players, parents, and coaches
appreciate what the man had done for baseball on the East Side of Worcester.
 I know I will.
 God Bless you Rich.  May you rest in
peace.

3D

If you don’t take it from me, ask my wife.

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