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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2013 > January-April > 40 Years, 1,000 Games, One Little League Coach: John Perry of Westside Little League from Santa Rosa, Calif.

40 Years, 1,000 Games, One Little League Coach: John Perry of Westside Little League from Santa Rosa, Calif.

40 Years, 1,000 Games, One Little League Coach: John Perry of Westside Little League from Santa Rosa, Calif.

Little League Baseball World Series 2013

John Perry was a normal 22-year-old. His brother-in-law needed help coaching, so Mr. Perry went to the team’s first practice. That was 40 years ago, and John Perry is still going to Little League® practices.

“My nephew’s minor league team didn’t have a coach, and my brother-in-law invited me to help since I knew a little bit about baseball,” said Mr. Perry, 61, a native of Sonoma County, Calif.. “After the first practice, he told me that I could be the manager.”

In Mr. Perry’s second year as a volunteer, he moved up to the Major Division. And since 1974, he’s been coaching the same team, the Westside LL A’s. On May 30, 2013, Mr. Perry coached his 1,000 game. He’s never coached his own children because he doesn’t have any. But whenever he thought about stopping, the kids and parents pulled him back in.

“The returning players just caught me,” Mr. Perry said. “At the end of the year, when they all expect you to come back as their coach, it’s tough to say ‘no’.”

In a coaching career that has spanned five decades, roughly 212 players have called Mr. Perry “coach,” but playing baseball on one of his teams is no easy task.

Mr. Perry is admittedly an old-school coach. His players wear stirrups and high pants —he doesn’t like his players looking like they’re wearing pajamas. He stresses the importance of a good bunt. In his “10 Commandments of Baseball,” he tells his kids on the bump to pitch the same way to all opponents, no matter their skill level, but to also not steal bases if they’re “way ahead” on the scoreboard.

Players write “thank you” notes to their parents at the end of the season. They all take their hats off when then come to the dugout after playing the field, something Mr. Perry picked up from the Japanese teams at the Little League Baseball World Series, which he’s driven from California to Pennsylvania to attend more than 10 times. Mr. Perry made the drive out to South Williamsport again this year, where Little League honored him with a ceremonial first pitch.

John Perry

John Perry was honored with a ceremonial first pitch on Monday night.

If someone is late for a game or practice, the player must run to the field as a sign of respect for everyone who showed up on time. Before the year starts, players need to take a 71-question test on baseball knowledge; yes, it’s graded.

“I don’t really have to say anything anymore,” Mr. Perry said. “The older players just tell the younger players what to do.”

And while there are a lot of off-field responsibilities to playing for Mr. Perry, there are a lot of off-field rewards, too. Mr. Perry has been instrumental in helping his players raise money for equipment, but ends up buying most of what his players need. He gives out end of season awards, paints individual statues for each of his players and even delivers Christmas presents.

Times have not always been easy for Mr. Perry, but Little League has always remained his utmost commitment. When his night-shift job was eliminated in 2009, he waited until another job would give him the same hours. He needed the routine of working from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., sleeping, waking up in the afternoon and coaching baseball. It took him more than three years until he found a new position that gave him those hours back, so he’d be able to work and still be able to manage the Westside LL A’s.

“I don’t plan on ever quitting. Every time that I think I might hang it up at the end of the season, the parents just say that I can’t leave,” said Mr. Perry. “Those players expect me back, and I would feel bad if I let them down.”

On May 30, the Westside Little League celebrated Mr. Perry’s 1,000 game.

“It was a great night. I was able to see a lot of former players and parents from the 70s and beyond. I even got to see some players’ grandkids,” said Mr. Perry. “My players even had a good night. We won our game 3-0.”