The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


July 15, 2014

A Don McCormack column: ‘Dear John’ letter brings a smile

When it comes to politics, Loyal Readers, yours truly is embarrassingly ignorant.

In fact, I’m registered as an independent, just for full disclosure.

Meaning, of course, I vote for the person, the candidate, regardless of  which party he or she is affiliated.

So when a political flier appeared hooked to the handle of my front door Saturday, it was the name, not the party, that caught my eye.

That having been said, seeing “State Representative John Patterson” on the flier didn’t take my mind to politics.

It took it to ballfields.

For my first encounters with a man who was a tremendous teacher, built a terrific, multi-time award-winning Model United Nations program and who just happens to be one of our leaders as a representative of the 99th District, came on a couple dusty sandlots in Jefferson.

When my family moved to this area from Middletown, Pa. (home of the infamous Three-Mile Island nuclear plant) over Christmas break in early December 1974, yours truly was 12.

That winter, meetings, including the first player draft, for the Jefferson Area Girls Softball league, known more for its cool acronym, JAGS, were being held in the living room of our family home.

John Patterson was there.

That summer, he was a coach for manager Sandy Chah’s Skidmore & Chah squad, which defeated the Gaul Masonry team managed and coached by my mom in dad in a terrific three-game championship series.

It should be noted, that three-game title series was played on the one field JAGS had at the time, which was located at the top of the hill, and is no longer there.

That same summer, I was a decent player on the Tigers, a team that reached the Little League championship series. Our opponent were the mighty Braves, defending champions. They just happened to be coached by, you guessed it, John Patterson.

His Braves rallied to beat us late in Game 1, me taking the loss on the bump and striking out in a key situation in an at-bat that began with me being intentionally walked — but was interrupted by me swinging at a 3-0 pitch that was three feet outside because I selfishly wanted to swing the bat, then hammered us in Game 2, 9-1.

Despite those two less-than-what-I-had-hoped-for outcomes in the softball and baseball championship series, John Patterson soon became my friend.

In truth, our friendship began the night of the aforementioned intentional walk became a strikeout at Proctor Field, which also no longer exists. After I had been backhanded, bloodying my mouth and shoved against the dugout wall for my selfish at-bat, John took the time to approach me as a sat alone with my blood... and my tears.

He made it a point to focus on the fact I was being intentionally walked because I had hit two doubles and a single leading up to that at-bat.

For me, it was the low point of my then-12 years of existence. But the only person in my corner — until I got home to Mom’s embrace — was from the opposing coach.

John Patterson.

So, Loyal Readers, forgive me for saying so, but seeing “A Message from John” on a flier attached to my front door, led to a smile running across my face.

It had nothing to do with politics... and everything to do with friendship, one which began 39 years previous.

This flier is a keeper.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at

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