FOR 23 YEARS, Bernie Walter has coached Arundel High's varsity baseball team on a field dubbed "Death Valley." Mr. Walter last month became the third baseball coach in Maryland school history to reach 400 wins (against 113 losses).
His teams in Gambrills have set records for most titles at the state (7), regional (9) and county levels (14). His record this decade alone is a sterling 136-29, testament to the fact he has been able to connect with another generation of teen-agers, even as musical tastes changed from rock to rap and jeans went from tight to baggy.
He has cultivated many top college and professional prospects, including current Atlanta Braves pitcher Denny Neagle, a 1986 grad who played in the 1995 All-Star Game.
In 1993, Mr. Walter was named National Coach of the Year, leading the Wildcats to a U.S. championship. In amateur baseball that year, he coached the Mayo Post No. 226 American Legion team to the world title over Cuba.
He began his baseball career as a shortstop at Brooklyn Park High. A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, he returned to his alma mater to coach the Terrapins' freshman team in 1964. He arrived at Arundel High as a health and phys ed teacher the next year, became varsity coach a decade later and athletic director in 1981. A year ago, he was inducted into the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame as the winningest active coach in the state.
Hand-in-glove with the victories is the fact that Mr. Walter has been a guiding force in his students' lives. His philosophy: Fun and learning breed success. Last winter, he was a finalist in the American Teacher Awards -- recognition of his efforts to enrich students academically.
"The difference in the average lifetime income between a person with a college education and a person with only a high school diploma is $600,000," he noted last summer, after the Crown High School All-Star Game at Camden Yards, a perennial showcase of Maryland baseball talent. Mr. Walter takes an active role in seeing that his players get an education to prepare them for life outside of sports.
Bernie Walter is not just a patriarch of Maryland high school baseball. He is an educator, in the truest sense of the word.
! Pub Date: 5/05/97