Most 19-year-olds wouldn't think twice about giving up their summer to coach youth baseball. In fact, the choice between Ocean City and coaching baseball would be no choice at all.
Without hesitation, it would be off to fun and sun on the other side of the Bay Bridge for most 19-year-olds.
"No, it's not too often a 19-year-old guy would give up the summer to work with a baseball team, but that's what Jerry has done," said Tut O'Hara of rookie coach Jerry Mills.
Mills ran the Arundel/Mayo Juniors Babe Ruth and Joe E. Brown League team for Arundel High School area 15-and-under kids this summer and led them to an overall 35-8 record. Under the young coach, the Mayo Juniors won both the local Babe Ruth and Joe E. Brown 16-and-under American League titles.
The Mayo Juniors are fledgling prospects for the Mayo Post No. 226 American Legion 18-and-under team coached by Arundel baseball coach Bernie Walter. O'Hara ran the younger team the last few years but when he decided to assist Walter this year, a replacement was needed.
Bob Cilento of Crofton, baseball coach at Springbrook High in Montgomery County, originally was going to take the Mayo Juniors with John Vermillion of Gambrills-Odenton as general manager. Vermillion stayed, but when Cilento changed his mind, Walter and O'Hara turned to a former player.
"Jerry has played for me since 10th grade and knows how we like to do things," said O'Hara, who coached Mills on the Arundel High junior varsity a few years ago. "It's important that things be done like our system, and Jerry knows it well."
Vermillion will attest to that.
"We had instructions to coach the Arundel system, and Jerry stuck to it," said Vermillion. "Not everyone does what they're told in life, but he did, and I think he did a super job. The kids really enjoyed him and related to him well because of his age."
There is no doubt that playing at Arundel under Walter and O'Hara is a blue-ribbon education, and Mills put it to work.
Mills graduated from Arundel in 1990 and was named Anne Arundel County Sun second-team All-County pitcher after going 6-2 with two saves for the Wildcats.
After an unhappy semester at Anne Arundel Community College because "I didn't get to play," Mills withdrew from the school and did not attend any this year. He went to work full-time for O'Hara's lawn-scaping company, but intends to enroll at Catonsville Community College this fall and pitch again.
"With Tut moving up to the legion team with the older guys, they asked me to coach the younger team, and I decided to give it a try," said Mills. "It's been great for me, because I've learned a lot and definitely a lot about pitching. I'm still pitching, and this coaching should make me a lot smarter."
Mills has thrown on his off-nights with the Linthicum-Ferndale 20-and-under team this summer and recently impressed one of the top teams in the county in that age division enough that they asked him to go to a tournament or two with them in August.
The Reagan's 20-and-under club has asked Mills to pitch in a Youngstown, Ohio, tournament and Catonsville Community College has promised him the opportunity to pitch there.
"I'm definitely not through playing, and coaching has got to help me," said Mills. "I tell the guys that I can see now as a coach that if you don't hustle, you are not going to be successful at this game.
"When the players I coach don't hustle or work hard, I remind them that I used to be like that, and that it's not the way to play. I was in the same situation a couple years ago that they are in now."
Left-handed pitcher/outfielder Andy Vermillion, John's son, says that the players can really relate to Mills.
"We can talk to him about anything. He makes us feel relaxed, but knows when to be tough," said Vermillion. "Everybody likes playing for him."
Mills has been able to draw on the knowledge of the game imparted by Walter and O'Hara.
In addition, the young coach has been wise enough to draw on his players' experience and not be so proud as not to ask their opinion.
"I've run into situations where I have asked them their advice as to how we might do something the Arundel way," said Mills. "Being able to communicate with them has been important and the reason we've done well."
The Mayo Juniors won the local Babe Ruth League with a 15-5 record and the American Division of the Joe E. Brown 16-and-under League with a 20-3 mark. Mills' coaching and handling of the team has impressed more than a few people, even the umpires.
"I think Jerry has done a great job with the Arundel team, and it's good to see a young guy like that get involved," said veteran lTC umpire Jim Stromberg, who is considered to be one of the premier arbiters in the Anne Arundel Umpires Association.
The Babe Ruth people were obviously impressed, too, because when Ed Gibbs, the Annapolis coach who had been selected to coach the 15-year-old All Stars, could not take the team, Mills was chosen.