A cop from that town recognized him in a local bar, I read, wearing the organization's jacket. The cop called the police department of the other town, asked the dispatcher whether he knew him. Dispatcher said, sure, he was the president of his son's baseball organization.
I've run into the guy a couple of times since, conversed both times, and he has seemed, just as he had back then, just like a regular Joe. That's not his name, by the way. I thought about typing it here, about outing him again here, but that would be vindictive, I think, unnecessary. His one son has grown up. He's not involved in kids sports anymore. For all I know, he's received appropriate help, and all that.
So why bring it up? Because the people of State College are being put on trial, it seems to me, about the whole sordid Jerry Sandusky affair. By people who, like me and those parents, could find out tomorrow that they've been just as negligent as they believe residents, high school coaches and administrators have been in Happy Valley.
They don't wear signs, these people. They don't climb out of coffins or have bolts in their necks. They are your neighbor, your friend, and, yes, your parish priest. They do good deeds. They seem really, really normal, or at least some of them do.
This is, in no way, a defense of how Sandusky was handled by his Penn State peers. Joe Paterno got what he deserved, Penn State president Graham Spanier, too. If this costs them recruits and alumni money, it still seems too small a price to pay for enabling this creep the way they did. I do feel a tad for the Penn State assistant Mike McQueary, though. A graduate assistant in 2002, he reported an alleged shower rape by Sandusky, and is now saying he stopped it and went to the campus police about it, as well as to Paterno.
Doesn't make him a hero. But he's no monster, either.
There was another guy I knew once, a happy, seemingly harmless heavy-set reporter I worked with at another newspaper decades ago. He was single, lived with his mom, and spoke with a bit of an affected voice, which, stereotypes being what they were in the '80s, would have suggested something far different from what he went to prison for.
A sting, with a female cop posing as a 13-year-old, nabbed him. At the time, he was the president of a local high school field hockey club.
I was shocked then, too.
One last thing: That guy at the top of this column? I first ran into him when our kids were in fifth grade. His kid was the best player on my YMCA team. He remained in the background and rarely called things out, but it was clear he knew way more basketball than I did. I asked him to help. Reluctantly, as I recall, he did, just a little at first. But the next year, he helped more, ran practices a lot. And I, the coach of record, was grateful.
Years later, when his story broke, I realized I first met him within a few months of his prison release. He was sitting in the background, keeping a low profile. I prodded him to do more.
In my defense, I saw no bolts, no coffin, no hair growing from his knuckles. He looked as normal as anybody else in the gym, and he knew his hoops. So before you hammer the good people of State College for allowing Sandusky to roam among them for decades undetected, better make sure that friendly neighbor you know so little about isn't hiding any skeletons in his figurative closet.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/SamDonnellon.