Bob Kolb (left) and Frank Daniel coached the Park Ridge High School baseball team together for the better part of two decades, leading the Owls to more than 300 wins (Photo: Courtesy of Park Ridge Athletics)
Story by Greg Tartaglia / Record Sports
Players knew Bob Kolb as a man of few words.
When it comes to remembering their baseball coach at Park Ridge High School, the alumni themselves are anything but.
The Owls will hold a ceremony to honor Kolb and longtime assistant/successor Frank Daniel prior to Friday’s NJIC Patriot Division game against rival Emerson. Both men passed away within the last five months, Kolb on Dec. 31 and Daniel on Feb. 19 in Arizona.
“Frank Daniel’s [widow] is flying in to be there to throw out a first pitch,” Park Ridge Athletic Director Chris Brown said. “Some of our alum from back in those days are going to throw out a pitch as well, say some nice words about him, and we’ll play ball.”
That was something the Owls did exceptionally well during Kolb’s 20-season tenure (1968-87), when they went 312-157. Daniel took over as head coach for five seasons before current coach Pete Crandall stepped in.
“I was very fortunate to be part of the amazing baseball run of success that Park Ridge had during the mid-1970s,” 1975 graduate and Pascack Valley AD Tom Gattoni said in a letter to NorthJersey.com.
Kolb remains one of 11 coaches to win multiple Bergen County titles in the 61-year history of the tournament. He is also one of two coaches to guide the Owls to a state final. His 1977 squad defeated Florence in 13 innings, 1-0.
Crandall has taken the Owls there twice, in 2009 (def. Brearley, 4-2) and last spring (lost to Middlesex, 3-0). This year’s squad has won 6-of-8 since starting 3-3, and the stretch began when they gave Crandall his 400th career win by defeating Bogota, 2-0, on April 23.
Brown credited Bob Germano (Class of 1987) with helping to organize Friday’s event, which will move from the baseball diamond to the gym in the event of inclement weather.
Gattoni offered many kind sentiments about Kolb into his 500-word letter. Germano, co-owner of the North Jersey Vipers softball program, posted a blog that was nearly four times as long – illustrating the impact Kolb had, even by saying comparatively little.
“When I became a head high school baseball coach in the early 1980s, he [Kolb] would often stop by to make sure I was doing well,” said Gattoni, a two-time Bergen championship coach. “He cared about me.”
Germano recalled one of his early days playing in right field, when he misplayed a double into a triple by staying too close to the fence.
“After the game in the team meeting, he says, ‘Bobby, now you know why you have to turn and play the ball off the fence. That’s the first mistake you have made since you have been here. You will get it right on the next one. Play a little more shallow and know where the fence is. Anything over your head will hit off the fence, and you can hold them to a single. You will be fine.’ I have never forgotten that direction,” Germano said.
The words remained fresh in his mind for the rest of his playing career at Park Ridge and, later, Seton Hall. “I never made that mistake again, and I have been able to teach countless players the right way for many years,” he said.
Kolb’s words of wisdom even stuck for those who didn’t necessarily stick with the game.
Ted Geer, an All-State catcher who batted .478 on the 1977 squad was drafted by the Detroit Tigers that year. He passed on joining the pros, accepted a baseball scholarship to Seton Hall and gave up the sport to join the medical profession.
“Coach Kolb really knew his baseball,” Geer told The Record in 1990. “He didn’t say a lot, but with an occasional remark or gesture, he hit home. Anything he said was worth listening to.”