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Baseball coaches gather to raise money for Tampa Baseball Museum

TAMPA

The high school baseball coaches had more than 200 years of experience among them.

They recalled the big games and the players who would go on to make their mark — from Tino Martinez to Gary Sheffield and many more.

But for the six coaches, what they remembered most was guiding their own young players.

"The most important thing to me was developing the kids," said Billy Reed, who coached for 24 years at Hillsborough High School. "We're called coaches, but we're not coaches, we're teachers."

Reed and five others — Frank Permuy from Gaither, Pop Cuesta from Jefferson, James Macaluso from King, John Crumbley from Steinbrenner and Jesuit, and Pete Mulry from Tampa Catholic — came together Tuesday night to talk baseball.

The panel was part of a fundraiser at St. Lawrence Catholic Church for the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House in Ybor City.

The museum, in the home where local baseball legend and Hall of Famer Al Lopez lived for years, is expected to open by the end of 2014.

It will include mementos from every aspect of Tampa's baseball history, artifacts from the careers of Lou Piniella and Luis Gonzalez to the championship-winning West Tampa Little League teams.

"It's been unbelievable. They're very excited about it," said Chantal Hevia, president and CEO of the Ybor City Museum Society. "When it's finished, it will be a destination in Ybor City."

Preserving Lopez's home brings more depth to the history it will house, said Mary Alvarez, board member of the Ybor City Museum Society.

"Not only was he an icon in our Tampa Bay area, he was the first Hispanic Hall of Famer," Alvarez said of the late catcher who made his professional debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928. "He was the one that personified baseball in our area."

Tampa has produced a number of great, All-Star-quality players and managers, said Piniella, the West Tampa native and former New York Yankees player and manager who also managed the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays and was on hand for the event.

"There's been a long list of players from this area. It breeds confidence," he said. "It all starts with coaching."

The coaches, donning the ball hats of their respective teams, talked about the unusual moments that dotted their careers, like when Mulry's team played a big game with just two umpires, or when the Jesuit field got lights in 1994.

"If I'd known getting lights would have brought the first state championship to Jesuit, I would have fought to get them a lot sooner," Crumbley said.

But what made them proudest were the players they watched develop on and off the field, and the family members who supported their careers.

Macaluso's son Anthony played for him at King and later coached with him.

"Looking across the diamond to see him as a coach, I can't tell you what a warm feeling that was — a special, special memory," he said.

Contact Keeley Sheehan at ksheehan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3368. Follow @keeleymsheehan.

Baseball coaches gather to raise money for Tampa Baseball Museum 07/15/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 12:03am]
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