CUMBERLAND, Md. — On June 6, the Allegany County (Maryland) Board of Commissioners honored Steve Bazarnic, a Milton native and the only head baseball coach the Allegany College of Maryland has ever known, for his remarkable 48-year career at the university.
Bazarnic was presented with an official citation by Mark Widmeyer on behalf Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, had his painting hung alongside other local baseball legends in the Allegany County municipal chambers and the county commissioners declared that June 10, 2019 would be known as “Steve Bazarnic Day.”
Bazarnic was surrounded by family, friends and former players on a day which celebrated a selfless man, who has devoted the vast majority of his lifetime to molding young men into excellent baseball players and even better husbands, fathers and coaches.
It may seem like an impossible task to attempt to catch a stranger up on the past 48 years in one phone conversation, but Steve Bazarnic will certainly give it his best shot.
“I’ve loved working with the young people that we’ve had here and one year kind of went into the next and before you know, it was 48 years later,” Bazarnic said.when asked about his continued dedication to the craft of coaching. “Time flies, you know.”
“Just being around them, you didn’t age. I defintely felt that. Everybody in the stands gets old, but the people on the field stay young.”
On paper, Bazarnic’s coachlist of coaching achievements is beyond impressive and immediately warrants hall of fame consideration.
Over the course of his illustrious career, Bazarnic won over 1,400 games and at one point, led the nation in all-time victories.
Bazarnic was inducted into the Maryland Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1991, the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Region 20 Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2000.
Still, it wasn’t the wins, district championships or the seven trips to the Division I Junior College World Series or two trips to the Division II College Wolrd series that kept Bazarnic coming back each season.
It was, and always has been, about the players.
“When we recruited, I knew the guys already loved to play ball, loved the game,” Bazarnic said. “And I told them that if they came here, to a two-year school, and got it going academically as well as on the field, they could move on to a four-year school and a lot of them did. I presented this as an opportunity for them to better their lives and more often than not, these young men took advantage of that opportunity and I was happy to help them along the way, any way I could.”
Following high school in Milton, Bazarnic went on to a solid playing career at Penn State, where he manned the left side of the infield at third base and shortstop and was named team MVP in 1967, his senior year.
After finishing his master’s in Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Penn State in 1970, Bazarnic and his young wife, Cathie, set out to find their path.
Little did either of them realize at the time that their first stop would be one that lasted nearly half a century.
Bazarnic built the Allegany College of Maryland baseball program from the ground up when he was tasked with starting the team in 1972.
In his four-plus decades at the helm of the ACM baseball program, Bazarnic produced 53 draft picks or free agent signees, including six players who have spent time in Major League Baseball — John Kruk, Stan Belinda, Steve Kline, Scott Sabol, Joe Beimel and Scott Patterson.
Kline, a Lewisburg Area High School alum and former Major League pitcher who is currently a coach in the San Francisco Giants organization, has a special place in the Bazarnic’s heart.
“When the news went out that Steve was going to be honored and receive this recognition, Steve Kline was the first person who called,” Cathie Bazarnic said. “We got home that day and the first message on the machine was from him. When he played (in the Majors), he would come visit all the time and bring Steve all of these (San Francisco) Giants T-shirts and sweatshirts and hats, just bags of this stuff to give to Steve. I will compliment Steve Kline for eternity because of the gratitude and appreciation he has shown my husband.”
“It’s a great feeling, to have all those guys either come back or go on and do well, it makes me feel good when they come back and they talk to the younger players and share their knowledge,” Bazarnic added. “Particularly the coaches who come back and help recruit. It’s been fun.”
Bazarnic has seen his baseball career come full circle several times over the course of nearly 50 years and though there were moments when the offer of a more lucrative, high-profile coaching job along, Bazarnic never seriously considered leaving Allegany.
“Sure there were times when I thought about, when maybe another job was out there or some school or organization had inquired about my interest level, and I thought about leaving,” Bazarnic said. “All I ever really wanted was an opportunity to coach baseball and this is home. I just lucked into a great place. It was a great place to work, a great place to coach and I was lucky to have some great players those early years and I just fell in love with the area and coaching at that level.”
Finally, after 48 years and a lifetime of memories made on the diamond, Bazarnic gave the simplest yet most sincere reason imaginable for his decision to retire right now.
“You know, you can keep going at 74, but my wife has been so supportive and has never complained about anything and that’s 2,000 games,” Bazarnic said. “She deserves some time, too, and we both deserve some time together. That was the main factor.”