Friday, September 29, 2017

Mike Lambros

About 11 years ago or so, I had the bright idea that I'd like to take a few batting practice swings against North Davidson softball pitcher Danielle Glosson.

I was the sports editor of The Dispatch at the time, 55 years old, as rusty as an old door hinge, and Glosson was perhaps the premier pitcher in Davidson County. I thought I could get a good column out of the moment, so I asked coach Mike Lambros if I could take a few cuts against her 62 mph deliveries.

"Sure," he chuckled loud enough for me to hear. "You sure you want to?"

Mike Lambros
I came out the next day, took my 15 whiffs (well, I did put one weak pop-up into play) and wrote a cute, light-hearted piece about the experience. It was part of a package that included a lengthy feature on Glosson and a sidebar about her three catchers that season, Danielle Reese, Whitney Clodfelter and Tatum Hargett.

A few days after the feature package ran, I got an email from Lambros. I had forgotten about it all these years later, but fortunately I rediscovered it again while rifling through my archives for other stories I had written about him or the Knights.

I reprint his email not for its content, but for its tone. In part, he wrote, "That was the most awesome article I believe I have ever read in all the years I have been reading The Dispatch. You truly have a great gift. The way you create stories of these kids is amazing. You have such a passion for what you do, I would hate to coach against you because I know you would give it your all... Again, awesome article and, by the way, Danielle says she is ready for round 2."

Thanks Mike (Click on photo to enlarge)
Mike passed away early this morning after a 14-month struggle with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, so coming across this note, on this day of days, was an unexpected gift for me. He didn't have to write anything, of course, but there it was: heart, thoughtfulness, humor, encouragement. Eleven years later, I think I see now that he actually might have been coaching ... me.

 This past softball season was a gift for us, too. Somehow, Mike managed to take a less-than-perfect team to the 4-A state championship, all the while treating his cancer and defying the odds of a 5 percent survival rate. Somehow, he coaxed the Knights to a two-game sweep over Cape Fear for his second state title in a 38-year career that saw him post an incredible 880-131 record. Nobody, but nobody, in North Carolina has won more high school softball games.

A few days later, there was a picture of him on Facebook, smiling, but looking very tired. I shuddered. I was afraid of the last day of the season. I didn't want it to end. I wanted another game for him to coach. And another. And another...

Facebook is lighting up like a Christmas tree today, filled with testimonials from former and current students, players, friends. And sports writers.

There's going to be a lot written about his legacy in the next few days. The way I see it, in 38 years of coaching, probably about 1,000 players passed through his softball program — women who may have gained a measure of self-esteem and confidence because of this man. He also coached wrestling for a while, so there's another substantial group of kids. And he taught phys ed. How many people there?

Influence. Guidance. Lives touched. Lives changed. Think what it means to be a teacher. Think what it means to be a coach.

There's the legacy.






4 comments:

  1. "Be a part of something bigger than yourself" -Mike Lambros

    He truly was a gift to us all! Thank you for the post Bruce

    RIP Coach Lambros! Love you always,
    Danielle Glosson

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  2. Bruce, a random rare click on Facebook delivered this sad news to me, and fitting that I read it from you. I remember Coach Lambros more vividly than anyone I came across through countless years of preps coverage around the state. What a quote he was, but more importantly of course, what a coach, teacher and man he was.

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  3. Great leaders have a way of making others great without ever taking the credit themselves. Coach Lambrusco obviously had that quality. There are those in leadership roles today that sorely need to follow his example.

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  4. Great man, coach, family man. etc. Huge void in the community. Thanks for the post Bruce!

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