Mellor reflects on 34 years as Penn Charter's baseball coach

Penn Charter's head coach Rick Mellor watches his players during a game against Chestnut Hill Academy. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)
Penn Charter's head coach Rick Mellor watches his players during a game against Chestnut Hill Academy. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 18, 2012

IF RICK MELLOR wanted to claim 476 career victories as Penn Charter’s baseball coach, it’s doubtful anyone would complain.

Well, except for Rick Mellor.

“No, no,” he said. “This year’s [23] wins are Jon’s. I don’t want them. I don’t deserve them. If I tried to take any credit for what has happened here this season, I’d be ashamed of myself.”

Pause. Appearance of an eye twinkle.

“Plus, if I was that close to 500,” Mellor said, “I’d come back for another year.”

Mellor spoke those words shortly after 6 o’clock Wednesday night, following PC’s 4-0 loss to visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in an Inter-Ac League finale.

The Quakers (23-6) will participate next week in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Tourney, but Mellor’s 34-year stint — believed to give him a share of the city record for baseball coaches; Ralph “Bones” Schneider guided Jules Mastbaum Tech from 1969-2002 — is basically over.

“It’s not really hitting me,” Mellor said before the game. He repeated that thought afterward, but did acknowledge having a rough experience during a recent Senior Day ceremony.

“I was hoping not to get emotional,” he said. “Made it to the third kid … The kids. They’re always what have made this job special. Thirty-four years of good kids. We never had wise guys. Just kids who played hard and respected the game, each other, and their opponents.”

The guy mentioned in paragraph No. 3 is Jon Cross, a former assistant at Germantown Academy, his alma mater, and the University of Pennsylvania. He and Mellor, a 1969 PC grad and a star in the three main sports, are officially considered co-coaches.

It was agreed that Mellor would remain in the picture to assure a smooth transition. Shortly into offseason workouts, Mellor knew his original master plan would go splendidly.

“I tried to get Jon to come with us [for the 2008 season],” Mellor said. “I figured he’d do a great job as an assistant and then, in time, I’d turn the team over to him. He went with Penn, which was fine, and then he decided to go back to high school ball.

“From the start, Jon has been great. As I saw what was happening, and got the positive feedback from the kids, I stepped further and further back. That’s why I don’t wear a uniform. So people know that Jon’s doing all the work. This is his team.”

Having concentrated on football at Penn, Mellor coached PC’s 14-year-old baseball squad in the ’77 and ’78 seasons before succeeding Allan Brown, who’d coached him, in ‘79. That squad, Mellor remembered, began the season 0-6 overall before the seniors were yanked in favor of promising underclassmen. The Quakers finished with a 12-3 run and earned a triple tie for the championship.

The fun was just beginning. Mellor owns 11 titles (six outright) and two of those squads (‘81 and ‘86) have been among just three to post perfect I-A records since ’79. (Malvern Prep can join the club in a makeup Thursday at Germantown Academy.)

The ’81 team featured future major leaguers in pitcher Mark Gubicza and outfielder Ruben Amaro (then a shortstop, now the Phillies’ GM), and a third player, catcher Bob McNally, had a minor league stint. The first baseman was Ed Foley, who’s now an assistant athletic director at PC and the father of junior outfielder Ted Foley. Frosh Dillon Malandro, the son of centerfielder Ed Malandro, is also on the team. The rightfielder, Ernie Barile, was Wednesday’s plate ump, and the second baseman, Brian McCloskey, later became PC’s football coach.

McCloskey stepped aside primarily to pay better attention to family matters. Mellor knows the feeling. His junior son, Brennan, and seventh-grade daughter, Macaul, are budding stars.

“Last year,” Mellor said, “Macaul played her first lacrosse game on this campus and had 10 goals. I was over here. Didn’t get to see it. Brennan used to play lacrosse, but now he’s running track and doing very well. A Mellor can run! Ha, ha, ha, ha.

“He ran in the Penn Relays and we played at Perkiomen School that day. Know where I was? Yup, the Penn Relays. It was nice to be there. And when the team has home meets, hey, the track is right up there [beyond the field’s right side]. When he’s running, I can walk over, watch that event and then come back.”

Mellor spent this one at the end of PC’s bench, sitting on a milk crate or standing with arms folded. His contributions, aside from encouragement, were mostly limited to positioning the outfielders.

While ending his journey through the handshake line, Mellor received a spirited hug from SCH’s long-time coach, Stan Parker.

“Rick always cared about two things — his kids and our league,” Parker said. “He was the dean, absolutely.”

Parker said PC’s players, mindful of Mellor’s keen observational skills and ability to, um, influence umpires, always used to tell him, “He always gets us a run.”

Parker laughed. “He got one against us one time on a catcher’s balk. Whoever heard of a catcher’s balk being called, especially in high school ball? That’s Rick. You always had to be on your toes going against him.”

Afterward, Mellor remained quiet as the team gathered to absorb pointed comments from Cross. The Quakers’ performance had been spotty, at best, especially on the basepaths (two pickoffs, one out stretching). And they’d mustered just six hits against junior lefty Matt “Squeeze” Kozemchak. Zach Jancarski, Matt Caldwell (RBI doubles), Sam Feirson and Kozemchak (two hits apiece) paced the offense against Duke-bound senior righthander Kenny Koplove, who was consistently hitting 92 to 94 mph on a scout’s radar gun.

Later, Mellor gathered them to handle good-cop duties.

“Be proud of what you’ve accomplished,” was one thing he said, mindful of the team’s youth and injury problems. “And the way you’re carried yourself.”

Lots of people would love to fire those comments right back at him.

Almost perfect

Ss. Neumann-Goretti High’s Joey Gorman, a senior lefthander who’s bound for Saint Joseph’s University, came thisclose to a perfect game Wednesday. As the Saints bested visiting Bishop McDevitt, 8-0, to win the Catholic Red regular-season title at 9-1, Gorman spun a no-hitter and faced the minimum 21 batters. He fanned 11 and issued one walk, in the second inning. He also posted a two-run double and scored three times.


Contact Ted Silary at silaryt@phillynews.com

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