Disabato: Andrew to name baseball field after Frank Ganser
When you think of Andrew’s baseball program, what comes to mind first is Frank Ganser.
That’s how it should be — and always will.
Ganser was the face of the program, and with his shiny silver hair and bright blue eyes, Andrew could have fared far worse.
Ganser transformed a little-known program that played its first varsity game in 1979 into a respected and feared powerhouse.
While doing so, he also turned a glorified cow pasture into the region’s first Field of Dreams.
Ganser’s blood, sweat and tears remain ingrained in that field — along with many of the greatest moments in the school’s rich history.
So it’s appropriate that before Andrew’s home game at 10 a.m. Saturday vs. Bolingbrook, that field will be named after Frank Ganser.
“I really didn’t expect this,” said Ganser, a 1963 graduate of Mendel Catholic High School. “It’s quite an honor. I’m humbled by it.”
An honor, for sure, but a well-deserved one.
Up until his retirement in 2007, Ganser, 68, was the only coach in the program’s history. He won 684 games, including the 1992 Class AA state championship, and advanced five other teams downstate.
In 29 years, only three of his teams finished below .500. Every team over the final 23 years of his career finished with at least 22 victories, and nine finished with more than 30. A remarkable resume, for certain.
There was a time when Andrew’s baseball program was the envy of all others. The sharp uniforms, the intense pregame infield while music blared from the press box speakers and, of course, the success.
Andrew was way ahead of a curve that today is commonplace.
The program’s trademarks under Ganser were that it executed all the little things necessary to win close games and never beat itself. The greater the pressure, the better Andrew seemed to perform.
Andrew, under Ganser, was the first to raise the stakes, so to say, in the early 1990s.
Today’s players probably don’t realize this, but not every high school field was the neatly manicured, pebble-free surface that today is the norm in the Southland.
When opponents stepped off the bus and walked toward Andrew’s field, it was a glorious, yet imposing, site. Dozens of parents, players and supporters devoted hours volunteering their time to make the field what it is today.
Andrew coach Dave DeHaan made it a point to invite all members of the Andrew family to come out Saturday. The ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m., with a barbecue after the game.
A 1991 grad, DeHaan played for Ganser and has stepped into his mentor’s spikes with grace and class.
“There’s no one more deserving of this honor than coach Ganser,” DeHaan said. “He did so much for the school, the community and the baseball program. It was an honor to play for him.”
While DeHaan pioneered the tribute, Andrew’s administration and school board deserve applause for green-lighting the distinction.
District 230 hasn’t bestowed such an honor since naming Sandburg’s football field after former coach Tom Seliga more than 10 years ago.
Such a designation should remain relatively exclusive and not watered down. Longevity should be rewarded — with a wristwatch. A distinction such as this requires much more on the resume, namely running run a clean, first-class program, a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty and to achieve success, both in the regular season and playoffs.
It requires the status of a legend, which Ganser certainly qualifies.
“The parents have talked to us about doing this for a while now,” Andrew athletic director Rich Piatchek said. “We developed a procedure to allow this to occur, if, in fact, something deserved to be named after someone.
“The longevity of a coach, a successful record, regional and sectional championships. It’s all a part of the process. For Frank, it’s well deserved. He spent more time and effort on that field than anyone. He’s top five in the state in wins. Plus, he’s a great person.”
Ganser already had his No. 13 retired and a plaque placed on a wall near the home dugout to celebrate his career.
This designation, however, is the icing on the cake.
“I had the best job in the world, at the best school and a wonderful administration,” Ganser said. “I had great players and loyal coaches. I had wonderful parents who volunteered their time.
“I wanted to build a tradition, and Dave has done a great job continuing the tradition. I wanted a nice facility to play on and the kids to look good.
“The field, uniforms, equipment is a part of your program. I wanted us to have a mental edge as soon as the other team got off the bus and walked to our field.”
A field, that on Saturday appropriately will be named Frank Ganser Field.