Milestones possible for 2 coaches Arundel's Walter nears 400th win

Pitt could move into 2nd in victories

Anne Arundel County Baseball Preview

March 21, 1997|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

A couple milestones could be reached this high school baseball season by two veteran coaches and former University of Maryland players who have given much back to their schools.

Arundel's Bernie Walter, the Baltimore area's winningest active coach, is 11 wins away from becoming the first county coach to reach 400 career wins.

Walter begins his 24th season at the Gambrills school with a career mark of 389-108 (.783) and a record seven state titles.

Severna Park's Jim Pitt is nine victories from passing late Northeast coach Harry Lentz (349-200, 30 seasons, three state titles) and moving into second place on the county career list. Pitt begins his 28th county campaign (his first four were at Annapolis) with a record of 341-202 (.628).

The only other county baseball coach remotely close to cracking the 300-win milestone is Mel Montgomery, who begins his 19th season at Old Mill with a career log of 271-101 (.728).

Walter was a shortstop at Brooklyn Park High before graduating and moving onto the University of Maryland at the tender age of 16. Pitt attended Dundalk in Baltimore County and later played center field for the Terps.

The two also played summers with the legendary Leone's Boys Club teams of Walter Youse. Pitt, who at 53 is one year younger than Walter, was on a Leone's team with future big-leaguers Ron Swoboda and Dave Boswell.

"Bernie was a real good fielder, pesky hitter and very intense -- the way he is as a coach," said Pitt, a Maryland freshman in Walter's senior year at College Park.

After college, Walter coached the Terps freshmen for a year (1964, 10-1) and then became athletic director and JV baseball coach at Archbishop Curley in 1965. Walter coached the Friars' JV until 1971 (80-13).

Walter took a health and physical education teaching job at Arundel in 1971, became baseball coach in 1974, physical education department chairman in 1977 and athletic director in 1981 -- all positions he still holds.

"I didn't know Jimmy that well when he started at Maryland, because back then, freshmen were not allowed to play varsity. But I knew he was a really good hitter," said Walter.

Pitt set an Atlantic Coast Conference batting average record (.460) his sophomore year before signing a five-figure bonus (a lot of money in 1964) with the Minnesota Twins. He played several years in the minor leagues and, in spring training, played with the likes of Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew.

"Carew was my first room mate at Class A Orlando (Fla.)," said Pitt, who remains friends to this day with the former American League batting champion.

The Twins also hired him to be a player/coach in the Canadian League. Pitt finally left pro baseball for a physical education teaching job at Annapolis, where he coached the Panthers baseball team from 1970-1973.

"I had always wanted to be a doctor, but didn't have the time to devote to get a medical degree, so I turned to teaching and coaching and am glad I did," said Pitt.

In 1973, Pitt moved to Severna Park, coached soccer one season and assisted Butch Young as JV basketball coach for three years before Young moved to Meade.

Pitt still holds the physical education department chairman post he took in 1975 and has been running the Falcons' baseball program since 1974.

The coach has produced a host of NCAA Division I players and pro prospects, but has been strangely snake-bitten in postseason play. A state championship has eluded the knowledgeable Pitt, who, incredibly enough, has never won a playoff game.

That all pales in comparison to what he considers his greatest achievement at Severna Park.

"Without question the most satisfying thing to me is the quality of kids I've coached," said Pitt. "We've had four baseball players go on to the Naval Academy, and I've never had a kid have a serious problem or get into serious trouble. I'm very proud of that."

Walter has been remarkably successful accumulating his record seven state titles in three decades (1976, 1977, 1981, 1987, 1991, 1993 and 1995).

Under Walter, the Wildcats have claimed a record 12 region xTC titles, the last six in a row (also a state record) and a record 15 county titles in 23 years. There have been only two losing seasons, his first in 1974 (7-11) and then in 1988, when Walter suffered a heart attack (3-4, the team was 9-11).

Arundel has won 20 games or more nine times in the Walter tenure, four of the 20-win campaigns coming during the '90s when the Cats have gone 136-29 (.824).

Along the way, Walter also has produced many Division I players and pro prospects at Arundel. His prize jewel is Atlanta Braves left-hander Denny Neagle.

"What makes me feel best is [when] the guys who have gone off and been successful come back to tell us they used a lot of the things they learned on the baseball field," said Walter. "Wins and losses don't mean as much as those things."

Pub Date: 3/21/97

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