Joe Binder was coaching baseball at Calvert Hall before it had an outfield fence, let alone a state-of-the-art stadium. And he remembers wanting more for his team. He got a fence built, got a scoreboard erected and started having music played at the games.
"The kids enjoyed that," said Binder, who turns 72 Monday, the day he will be honored by the school he worked for for 39 years. "Kids like to see the ball go over the fence. I remember when I played [for Calvert Hall], I wasn't much of a home run hitter, but when I did hit one out I enjoyed the achievement of trotting around the bases, instead of running like all get out."
Before the Cardinals play St. Paul's at Carlo Crispino Stadium at 3:30 p.m., there will be a presentation, plaque dedication and "First Pitch" ceremony for Binder, a 1957 graduate who taught physical education and coached at the school from 1967 until he retired in June 2005..
"We used to dig holes around the field just to get the water off the field and put the liner down," Binder said. "Now they have this really nice complex with AstroTurf. All they have to do is put the bases down, do a little raking and they're ready to go."
Binder coached baseball in 1975-1976 and from 1981 to 2001, finishing with a 460-151 record and 11 titles. He was the Baltimore Sun Coach of the Year in 1988, 1989 and 1994; inducted into the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998; and inducted into the Oldtimers' Baseball Association of Maryland Hall of Fame in 2002. He also coached basketball and volleyball. As a baseball player in high school, he was a member of two Maryland Scholastic Association championship teams under Walter Youse in 1956 and 1957. He continued his athletic career at the University of Baltimore, playing baseball (he was All-Mason Dixon in 1963 and 1964) and basketball, and was inducted into the UB Athletic Hall of Fame last year.
"I think it's important to do this," said Calvert Hall baseball coach Lou Eckerl, who was Binder's assistant for 13 years before taking over the program when he retired. "I think it's important for the kids we have and for future kids to see what's been done here. Joe laid the groundwork. … He kept things moving and when I took over, I just hoped to be able to keep the program going the way he did.
"He taught me two important things. He taught me the importance of keeping pressure on the kids in practice so they'd be able to respond and excel when they were in pressure situations in a game. And he taught me how to get the most potential out of my players, by observing and knowing when to stroke with kindness and when to poke them into responding."
Todd Binder, who played for his father from 1988 through 1990, said his dad could be tough but was always fair.
"He taught lessons through hard knocks," Todd said. "But he didn't discriminate, he handled everyone the same way. More often than not I hear, 'He could be an [expletive] when I played for him, but he made me a better man.' I think it's good they're doing this for him. There are a lot of coaches and teachers who have been at the school for 30 to 40 years. They're as important as the big donors. My dad was there 39 years and over that time he impacted a lot of kids. Those long-serving teachers and my dad, they made the school what it is."