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Thank You Coach

coaching excellence guidance impact leadership structure Nov 30, 2022

Every little leaguer at Cortez Park in West Covina, CA in the late '70's and early '80's wanted to play ball for Greg Gano. He was THAT coach. He had the respect, the look, the feel, and the knowledge. If you were fortunate enough to be on his team, he would ask a lot of you, but in return, he gave us all so much more. From the way his teams wore their uniforms, carried themselves, and took infield, to how we had to hustle on and off the field, everything about being on a “Gano Coached Team” was different, and everything was driven by excellence.

Playing ball with him, around him, and for him was a big deal. You felt like you were part of a big league/prime time program. It was discipline and focus when you took the field, and his pre-game infield drills were next level. Anyone who witnessed it and/or experienced it as a player knows first-hand how he so effortlessly handled a fungo bat to hit infield like a seasoned composer conducting a junior/elite orchestra. It was an exercise in sound, control, and flow, and we all benefited so much, on and off the field, from his structure, guidance, and care. That structure, guidance and care was never more evident than on Saturday mornings during the season. If you arrived early - irrationally early as many of us would do on game day - there was always one person there earlier than any of us…Coach Gano.

Those of us who couldn’t wait to get to the park for a full Saturday of hide & seek, snow cones, fun dip, foul balls, scorekeeping, taquitos, and so much joy, would quietly watch from outside the chain link fence as this future coaching legend quietly and meticulously mowed the outfield grass, raked the infield, and lined the base paths…all in preparation for the games, our games, that we all eagerly awaited. Until seeing it first-hand, I never knew how our neighborhood ballpark always looked so immaculate every time we took the field. That first Saturday morning, the mystery was solved, and from that day on, I began to slowly understand, at an early age, what servant leadership, excellence, and caring about youth sports was truly all about.

Before there was travel ball, showcases, club teams, elite camps, academies - before it all became so much more than youth sports - there was the neighborhood little league where we all played. If you were blessed to live in or around that area, Cortez Park was your home away from home, and Greg Gano was there to greet you like a loving father. And when he met you, he was able to see the excellence in all of us, and was intentional, direct, and caring in how he shared that encouragement and instruction.

With these gifts, Coach Gano went on to have an illustrious career as a high school football and softball coach, impacting thousands of young men and women in and around the San Gabriel Valley area. Before that illustrious career took flight, before the multiple CIF Championships, before we all grew up, there was a special time in the late ’70’s and early ‘80’s where a bunch of early-to-the-park, squirrely kids were so incredibly blessed to live near Cortez Park and have a guy like Greg Gano there - in his mid-20’s - cutting the grass, raking the fields, lining the base paths, coaching us up, and showing us the way. At our field of dreams, we learned to take the field with excellence, play the game with excellence, take care of our teammates with excellence, and take care of the place where we played…where we all grew up a little…with excellence.

Here's to Greg Gano, and all the leaders, coaches, teachers, and volunteers who quietly and selflessly set the stage for young kids to learn how to play and respect the game so well. Thank you for seeing and bringing out the best in others. Thank you for teaching us all lessons for life. There’s no wonder why every kid in West Covina, and eventually throughout San Gabriel Valley, wanted to play on a “Gano Coached Team”.

What an impact he made. What a life well lead. May he rest in peace.

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