For 37 years, Lee Mecherly coached the Boyertown Bear Cubs Junior Legion team. He won numerous league titles, regional and state titles. Mecherly stepped down as the coach in November of 2013, but still spends numerous hours working on the field which bears his name, making sure that it’s one of the best fields, if not the best field, in Berks County.
Before the 2014 season began, Mecherly was having a hard time finding people to help him coach the team. At 75 years old, he needed help. So Mecherly felt that it was time for someone else to take over the reigns. That’s when Neil Fox, a former player of his, took over.
Mecherly was an assistant coach with Bob Houck, who was the head coach when the team first started. Mecherly’s long-time assistant, and friend, Barry Trate, started coaching with the Bear-Cubs in 1988. Mecherly took over as the head coach in 1989 when Houck stepped down.
“I’ll miss the kids and talking to them every day,” said Mecherly. “It’s hard sitting in the stands watching. Everyone gets older and it’s time to move on. In all the time that I’ve been coaching here, I’ve only had a handful of kids that I really had a problem with. I could straighten them out and teach them things. I had a lot of wonderful kids over all the years.”
With Fox taking over the program, Mecherly has no doubt that the team is in good hands. Fox was a successful player in Boyertown, then went on to play college baseball at University of South Carolina with former Boyertown teammate Bob Kish.
Considering all of the years that he’s been coaching, attempting to pick out a favorite memory was tough for Mecherly. He’ll admit that winning his first state title was very special for him.
The Bear-Cubs defeat West Bethlehem for the team’s first state title. Ronnie Moyer singled home Scott Moatz in the bottom of the eighth inning to win the
“They were two great plays,” said Mecherly describing two outs at home plate during that game. “I don’t care what age group you’re coaching.
Now that he has more free time, Mecherly was approached by Boyertown graduate Justin Konnick (head coach at Penn State Berks) and Boyertown resident Steve Mason about helping them coach at the Berks Campus this past spring. Still with the urge to coach, he accepted.
“I’m happy with the year,” said Mecherly. “Justin’s doing a nice job there I’m just there and along for the ride.”
Mecherly will admit that he spends thousand of hours working on Lee Mecherly Field. You’ll find him there nine to ten months out of the year, working on the field, making sure that it is well groomed and well maintained. He has never accepted a penny from anyone for maintaining the field.
Mecherly was honored for his years of service in 1998, named the Gabelsville field after him.
“I do what I do,” said Mecherly. “If something good happens out of it, great. I go and do things, and I don’t get paid for what I do. Other than my job, I don’t get paid.
“Nobody knows what goes on behind the scene. They just show up and sit in the stands and say that it looks nice. It’s nice to get a compliment from some of them. I really don’t need that either. I want to make it look nice because that’s what makes me feel good.”
When asked how he wants to be remembered, his answer was simple. He wants to be remembered as someone who tried to make his former players become better people.
Phil Haddad is a free lance writer for the Times. You can follow him on Twitter @writersprtsBT