There’s always a go-to story — the one you pull out at parties, or sitting around a dining room table.
For Stefan Gansert, the father of Stefan Gansert Jr., that story evolved when he was coaching summer football camps at Penn State University.
At the time, his son Stefan was unsure of his favorite sport. He enjoyed playing both football and baseball. So Gansert Sr. searched for advice from an authority on the matter. The highest authority at Penn State at the time was head football coach Joe Paterno.
“I went to Joe and I said, ‘Coach Joe, I’ve got a problem. I don’t know what sport he’d like the most,’” Gansert Sr. said.
So Paterno offered up some guidance.
“Take a football and a baseball and roll them out on the field and tell him he’s got to bring back one ball,” Paterno said, according to Gansert Sr. “And the one ball that he brings back is the sport he loves.”
Gansert Sr., a football coach at Fairmont Heights High School for 19 years, including four seasons as head coach, followed the late Paterno’s advice and rolled the balls onto the field. His son brought back the football.
Little did the younger Gansert know that roughly eight years later, he’d be playing baseball for Clinton American Legion Post 259. And enjoying every minute of it.
“My father made me start when I was real little. He used to play baseball, so I had to step up where he used to,” Gansert Jr. said. “I’m having a lot of fun, though.”
Gansert Jr., a graduate of Gwynn Park High School where he played both football and baseball, recently completed his sophomore year at Prince George’s County Community College. He played fall baseball this season, but sat out this spring in order to work. He plans to rejoin the team next spring. One of his teammates on Clinton’s team who also plays at PGCC, Alonzo Ouzts, mouthed the word “please” and held his hands together as Gansert spoke about returning to the Owls’ roster next year.
“I did pretty good. They had me at third base. They wanted me to play third to get used to it. That was a big transfer [from catcher and first base],” Gansert said.
Gansert, who plays first base for coach Dan Kaufman’s Post 259 club, has a stout build and swings a big stick. He also swings a wooden bat, regardless of the situation. Players are allowed to use metal bats at the American Legion level, but Gansert said he prefers the feel of the wooden bat.
“I actually just started using wood. I’m just trying to transfer over. People say it’s pretty hard to transfer over, so that’s why I’m hitting with it in this league,” Gansert said.
In a recent game against Greenbelt Post 136, Gansert nearly hit a home run over the large chain-link left field fence using a wooden bat, but the ball died at the warning track. He was the only player on either team who opted out of swinging a metal stick.
“Honestly, sometimes I wish I did use a metal bat because with wooden, if you hit it wrong, it won’t go as far as with a metal bat,” he said. “But it helps you better on your swing. If you hit it good with wood and you go back to metal, you hit it even father.”
Post 259 remains winless on the season. Gansert, who hits fourth in the order, is hoping that changes soon.
“When something bad happens, it seems like everyone loses their focus,” he said. “Basically, that’s what we’ve got to work on is keeping our focus. If we keep our focus, we can still beat these guys.”