Bob Colburn still remembers falling in love with the game of baseball at the age of 10.
"I went to my first Boston Red Sox game in 1946," he recalled in a recent phone interview. "And from that night on I'd get dressed up in my Red Sox uniform and listen to every game on the radio and get knots in my stomach from the excitement."
Fifteen years later he coached his first game at
St. Andrew's (Middletown, Del.)
, a private coed boarding school in Middletown, Del.
That was 50 years ago.
Today, the 73 year-old is one of just a few men in the United States who have coached for 50-plus years. Official records are hard to find, but what probably separates Colburn from his peers is that he has spent the entire 50 years at one school.
"When I turned 50 I thought I might be getting tired of the rigors of being on the faculty of a boarding school so I looked at some day schools," said Colburn, who taught chemistry, physics and mathematics until his retirement in 2005. "I had other opportunities, but then I realized the extra time in the evening or weekends helping students meant more to me than the time it took to do it. It was then that I realized what I really wanted was what I had right here."
Colburn, who is a member of the National High School Baseball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame and Delaware Sports Hall of Fame, has compiled a record of 409-408 while fielding teams made up of players who sometimes have never played the game before arriving on the secluded 2,200-acre campus. He trails only Delaware Military Academy's Larry Wheeler (420 wins) as Delaware's all-time winningest high school baseball coach.
"Bob has been the heart of Delaware high school baseball," Wheeler says. "Through his hard work and love of the game, high school baseball has improved in every aspect."
Colburn's contributions off the field are as numerous as his wins on it. He was instrumental in the formation of the Delaware Baseball Coaches Association and served as its president for 25 years before retiring that title to take on the role of executive director. He is the executive secretary for the National Baseball Coaches Association and also serves on the Delaware state baseball tournament committee. He was recently awarded the prestigious Herm Reitzes Award by the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association for his outstanding public service.
"For all of us who love baseball, we are truly grateful for all the time and effort that Bob has put in," Wheeler added. "Bob continues to represent Delaware nationally and has put Delaware baseball on the map."
Just as he was lured to the quaint campus from his New England roots half a century ago — the movie "Dead Poets Society" was filmed there — Colburn has been instrumental in recruiting several of the school's current coaches.
"Bob was an integral reason for my coming to St. Andrew's," says assistant coach Mike Hyde, whose duties also include football head coach and boys athletic director. "He has been the ideal mentor and role model to work under.
"His players hold him in the highest regard, as he is totally committed to helping his players succeed both on and off the field. His wealth of experience enables him to connect with every member of the team. He possesses the innate ability to make his players understand their roles and buy into the concept of team."Continue reading