Anyone who cares about youth sports as much as I do was dealt a vicious one-two punch last week.
First, Plaistow’s Dave Nye, 56, lost a three-year battle with leukemia and then Methuen’s Bill Lasonde, 62, died from a tragic car accident. Within days, two of the nicer guys you’ll ever meet, who had done so much for youngsters over the years, left us.
I’m not sure if Nye and Lasonde were acquainted with each other, but I knew both of them and they had a lot in common, most notably that they enjoyed being with youngsters and helping them mature, in a fun way, into responsible human beings.
Nye, who was the father of four tremendous children, first got involved in youth sports as a coach in Little League for his oldest son, Jon, and stayed with baseball for more than 20 years, gradually becoming one of the main forces in the Intertown Babe Ruth League.
Along the way, Nye added basketball and football coaching to his resume, with football becoming his favorite as the offensive coordinator for the Timberlane Tornadoes.
Later, he became active in youth softball thanks to his daughters Amanda and Christina (a Timberlane junior) and his wife Dianne.
“I like them all,” said Nye last year about his diverse coaching background.
“It didn’t matter, really. I just liked being around the kids.”
Whatever the sport, Nye didn’t overemphasize winning.
As an umpire, I handled many of his Babe Ruth games and, when disagreeing with a call, he was always calm and kept things in perspective.
“We had expectations we tried to reach, but it’s really about the experience, about having fun,” he explained at one point.
“I never did it to accomplish anything — it’s about the kids.
“The most rewarding thing to me is when you see a kid in right field without much skill make a big catch and you see how much it means to him. That’s what it’s all about.”
And it wasn’t just lip service. Former Timberlane High boys basketball coach Dave Kirsch, who worked with Nye in youth basketball, attested to that.
“Dave Nye ... had the ability to look at a situation and figure out what was needed and do it selflessly to make sure kids have an opportunity,” said Kirsch.
Lasonde wasn’t involved quite as heavily with youth sports but, having worked with him as an umpire, I can tell you that he had the same approach as Nye to youngsters and sports.
Unlike some umpires, who like to show that they’re in command, Lasonde got respect for the firm and yet friendly tone of his calls. For him, the game was about the kids, not the umpire.
Perhaps because he was a former catcher, I often saw Lasonde chatting with the catcher when he was behind the plate, sometimes just making pleasant conversation but other times providing a tip or two.
Working with Bill was a pleasure because you could tell that he was umpiring primarily because he loved baseball and loved being around the kids, giving them encouragement with the knowledge that sports can do so much for youngsters when presented the right way.
As an umpire and acquaintance, I’ll miss both Nye and Lasonde. That’s tough enough, but what I feel worse about is all the youngsters in the future who won’t get a boost from their positive enthusiasm and love of youth sports.