To the Editor: In 1956 I had the privilege of playing for Nick Gabardina on the Central High School J.V. baseball team. Up until the very last game of the year, we had a perfect record of 15-0. Our final game of the season would involve our loading our equipment on the bus, and venture east to face the Green Wave of Dover.
Sporting a perfect record to that point in the season, we were quite confident in finishing the season with a perfect 16-0 record. Then it hit us . . . the starters were informed by coach Gabardina just before the game that the starting line up for the game would consist of all of the substitute players. The reality of a perfect season went down at the hands of a good Dover ball club.
Why, Nick? Why did you do this to us? The trip back to Manchester was not of a particularly amicable nature to say the least. Myself, along with the other starting players, were seething. Coach Gabardina was not one of our most favorable people at that time.
It wasn’t until later that we found out the reason for his decision: Coach Gabardina ultimately informed us that the reason that he started the substitutes in what was to that point the most important game in our season, was that he was of the opinion that none of the substitutes at that time would have the opportunity to play varsity baseball the following year. In that light he wanted to give them the opportunity to start and play in a game that had special significance for the team, and at the same time foster a feeling of belonging for those who didn’t have the opportunity to play a significant number of innings throughout the season.
Nick always stressed participation for all over the concept of winning. As a competitive high school athlete I didn’t understand it at the time. Thankfully maturity has helped me to understand it now. Nick was a damn good coach, and he had the ability to blend his impeccable character into the technical aspects of the game.
It is true that I didn’t quite understand why he made the decision that he did at Dover on that day, but I do know this: I am a better person today for knowing and playing for him. I’ll miss him dearly.
Ron Desrosiers of Manchester is a member of Central High’s Class of 1959.