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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pay (and play) it forward

Pay It Forward.
Ever see that movie? Kevin Spacey is the teacher. Haley Joel Osment is the pupil. The assignment: Think of a way to change the world and put your idea into action.
Why not repay good deeds with a brand new batch of good deeds?
Pay It Forward II. The backdrop is youth baseball in Royal Oak.
Veteran coaches Steve Weiss and Norm Johnson play the Kevin Spacey role. Haley Joel Osment’s character is played by a handful of young men who are helping Weiss and Johnson coach a travel team made up mostly of 11-year-old players.
Johnson and Weiss have done plenty of good deeds in the past. They have donated their time season after season. They have made a positive impact on kids year after year.
Coach Steve Weiss talks baseball with his 11-under travel team. (Daily Tribune Photo by Liz Carnegie)

Pay It Forward, decided the young coaches.
“Bob Sullivan called and asked I’d help Steve coach this team,” said Norm Johnson. “I told him yes, but we would have to have some younger guys helping, too. I mean, I can’t move like I used to.”
With that he laughed, and then he looked out onto the field at Worden Park where the travel team was getting ready for its first foray into tournament play. The Royal Oak squad headed to Clio Friday for a weekend event that concluded today.
Among the younger members of the coaching staff are Norm Johnson’s son, Nick; as well as Derrick Weiss, who is Steve’s son.
The other young coaches include John Harris, Andy Seidl, Matt Wilusz and Mike Cyrocki. All are in their early 20s except for Cyrocki, who just graduated from high school.
“I wanted to pass on what all of my coaches including my dad have taught me over the years,” said Derrick Weiss.
He grew up playing youth baseball in Royal Oak. It started out in the ROSL, branched off to travel baseball, and then he went on to play on some outstanding teams at Brother Rice High School.
Ironically, while both managed teams in the Royal Oak Sandlot League, Norm Johnson and Steve Weiss squared off in the World Series one season. Their sons, Nick and Derrick, played for their fathers’ teams.
“They were a dominating team, and they won the first game, but we came back to win the next two and win the Series,” said Derrick.
His father played his youth baseball in Oak Park, Berkley and Royal Oak. He later played high school baseball at Berkley High School.
“I just love the game,” said Steve Weiss. “I’ve always loved baseball. It’s neat hearing Derrick telling the players some of the same things I told him years ago. He has his own ideas, too.”
Norm Johnson’s background contains the same sort of affection for baseball. He started out playing, and has been coaching for a long time now. He first got involved in coaching T-ball when his oldest son, Adam, began playing.
“I just love being around the kids,” said Norm Johnson. “It’s exciting to see the young guys coaching.”
Pay It Forward. In this case, it’s Play It Forward.
“I remember playing tournament baseball when I was 11,” said Nick Johnson, who is studying marketing at Wayne State University. “My dad started a tournament in Royal Oak, and we played travel teams. It was great. I just like passing on the things that my dad taught me.”
Some kids playing baseball in Royal Oak now are benefitting from the expertise of some young men who used to play baseball in Royal Oak.
Meanwhile, still doing good deeds are Steve Weiss and Norm Johnson.
Who needs a script writer when real life occupies the coaches’ boxes along first and third base?


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