Geoff Wade: "you can't compete with baseball passion"
23 February 2015
The third of our features on nominees for the Baseball Australia Volunteer of the Year award charts some of the massive contribution made by a man who started in Queensland baseball forty-six years ago and is still going strong as a club official, a coach, a player and as an avowed baseball tragic.
Serving the past three years as President at Pine Rivers Baseball Club, Geoff Wade has overseen an impressive and quite dramatic upturn in club fortunes while coaching Little League teams and continuing to enjoy the challenge and the camaraderie of the onfield contest.
His unabated passion for baseball and his wholehearted commitment over many years are the hallmarks of Geoff Wade’s engagement in his chosen sport.
Starting out at Windsor Baseball Club – aged six – Geoff Wade demonstrated a very early appreciation of some of the work that was required for clubs to be successful or even viable.
“I spent many hours at the club as a junior helping with field maintenance and on working bees,” he told Australian Baseball Alumni recently. “Very many weekends chasing foul balls or doing the scoreboard for the juniors and seniors – anything for a free pie and drink!”
“I started playing juniors as soon as I was old enough – and then in seniors. I was known as “Little Wadey” as my older brother also played. I was the batboy when he played Claxton Shield.”
Playing and coaching junior Windsor teams for many years, Geoff Wade later moved on to become Head Coach and A Grade Coach at Brothers Baseball Club in 1988.
“These were quite successful years for the club,” said Wade, who by then had become a well-known and highly respected figure in the Queensland baseball community.
“Most teams regularly made the finals, with at least two making the Grand Final each year.”
With his own children starting out in baseball, Geoff Wade continued to play, to gain umpiring qualifications, to coach junior teams and to build upon the knowledge and expertise that has since earned him Level 4 coaching accreditation.
Moving to Padres in 1994 - as Head Coach and A Grade Coach for several years – Geoff Wade started playing Masters down at Carina in the early 2000s before joining All-Stars for the 2003-2004 season.
Although All-Stars made it to the Grand Final in a very successful season for the club, Geoff suffered a setback that sidelined him for a time while generating further challenges and baseball opportunity.
“In the off-season I severed the ulnar nerve in my right arm and I was unable to continue the following season,” he said. “Due to work commitments on weekends I was unable to play my beloved game of baseball as I would have liked. I did however work through rehab with my arm and continued to play in the Australian Masters and Pan Pacs.”
“It had always been easy for me to justify taking the time away from work – it is baseball and I can’t let the team down was the instinctive thinking.”
“And as work commitments changed in 2009, I made a comeback to club baseball.”
“My son and I joined Pine Rivers Rapids Baseball Club, which was in decline with decreasing members and no money,” he said. “I simply couldn’t bear the thought of the club folding.”
“After two seasons at Rapids and after many hours spent at the club on the fields, mowing, gardening, fixing equipment and general field maintenance I was Vice-President for twelve months before becoming Club President for the past three years.”
Instrumental in getting a Rapids-based Masters team up and running for Monday night competition, Geoff Wade has helped his club to cover costs over the winter months when there is minimal income stream.
Over the past several years, the turnaround in club fortunes has been quite remarkable, a reflection on the dedication of a committed group of club people under inspired leadership.
“During the past the years as President I have worked closely with the Moreton Bay Council on rebuilding our club, field, clubhouse and surrounds,” Geoff Wade said. “Our membership numbers have increased and we have been successful with numerous grants that the club has been able to secure. We received a grant from the Get Going Program that enabled the club to purchase an Iron Mike MP4 pitching machine. We have had successful school holiday clinics, Come and Try Days and Sign On Days. We also run an off season baseball clinic once a month for juniors.”
Still playing seniors on a Sunday morning and coaching a Pine Rivers Under 14 side are seemingly not enough for Geoff Wade, who has been Brisbane North Regions President for the past three years and who is heavily involved in Little League.
“I coached the Brisbane North Little League team to win the State Titles last year - which qualified us to go to the Nationals,” he said. “I am currently the Rapids Representative for Brisbane North and this year have just coached the Junior League to win the State Titles and earn a berth at the Nationals in April.”
“I enjoy coaching the junior players - making them strive for what they want and seeing them improve and push themselves to attain their achievements.”
As a player, an official and an administrator at various levels over an extended period of time, Geoff Wade has an informed sense of how grassroots baseball is travelling in Queensland and an idea of what needs to be done for it to become stronger.
“Baseball is going along very well in our area – and the numbers are increasing,” he said. “I am sure the general level of skill in the younger players today is more advanced across a bigger pool than was the case in my day. I think the pathway is going to be great for baseball, although my feeling is that we should have implemented the pathway in one swing and then just got on with it.”
“The quicker we work on the positives the better baseball will be into the future. We need strong clubs – and the keys to strong clubs are facilities, coaches and being run like successful businesses.”
In other eras, most persons of Geoff’s Wade’s years would have long since retired from playing involvement in team sport. However, the phenomenon of Masters baseball over the past two decades has enabled people to play on – almost indefinitely it seems, in some cases – with the positive spin-off effects now being felt by clubs.
“Masters baseball started for me when I was 35,” Geoff Wade explained, “and I have played at every Gold Coast Pan Pacs since then. Tony McPhail and his team do a fantastic job to make this event a success. Baseball, beaches, friendship and the odd drink or two are a sure-fire formula for success. As are the stories after the game when players start a sentence with “Do you remember when….?””
“I played at the World Masters in Melbourne in 2002 and then Sydney 2009. I loved the Melbourne Masters the best because this is where I met my wife Julie – the second love of my life, as of course baseball is first,” he quipped. “I also played for the Aussies Aces in Phoenix, Arizona in the over fifties group in 2013 and this year I will be coaching the team in Phoenix.”
“I love the Masters concept. The only thing I would change would be to get rid of aluminium bats.”
The Wade family has established something of a pedigree in Queensland baseball over the years, with Geoff’s nephew Logan Wade carrying on the family tradition by suiting up for Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Baseball League.
“I certainly follow the Bandits and the ABL,” Geoff Wade said. “I think the league concept is great, though I’m not sure if this league was set up to replace the Claxton Shield which put the best Aussie players against each other with the exception of the Americans who come here to live. But I do understand that maybe there is no room for two competitions.”
“The new league is great for the kids who go to these games – just to see the level of play. And to be able to go on to the field and talk to the players is fantastic for them.”
Reflecting back on his lifetime in baseball, Geoff Wade readily acknowledges important influences on his own development as a player and as a person who has been able to apply his passion and vision for the betterment of the sport. While committed volunteers do not seek reward, there is from time to time an awareness of the benefit – either tangible or intangible – that a club may have derived from the selfless efforts of its membership.
“I was influenced at a young age by great club people like Eddie Tyler senior and Bob Banks,” he said. “These two men would help me not only in baseball but also my life in general by supporting people within a club. Dell Townsend showed me how to run baseball club finances and Des Knight showed me the way to maintain a baseball field and have pride in the field."
“It’s not just a place to play baseball - it has to be the best place to play it.”
“Crazy Cantwell I would say was the biggest influence in my baseball life - and I thank him for that. He was a great coach and someone who always had time for me - on and off the field."
“Probably the greatest reward I have derived from baseball is seeing what is happening now,” Geoff Wade said. “My club has come out of the dark. Pine Rivers owed $50,000 dollars to install solar panels two years ago. By the end of this season we will have paid our loan off and will generate approximately $25,000 in revenue per year guaranteed until 2028. We have also this year replaced the infield - all done by club volunteers.”
“It is amazing the difference this has made for the members in maintaining and enjoying the field.”
“Like all successful clubs, we have some outstanding volunteers. We need them – every club does,” he said. “We need to look after these people and persuade more that volunteering is the right thing to do. I think the happier the members are, the more that they will volunteer.”
“I’m still working on keeping everybody happy,” he said.
These days living an hour and a half away from his club, Geoff Wade drives to the field four times every week – another aspect of a remarkable ongoing commitment to his club and his chosen sport.
“Even our holidays are based around baseball,” Geoff Wade admits.
“As my wife would say, you can’t compete with baseball passion so you just have to jump on board and go along for the ride.”
Australian Baseball Alumni extends its appreciation to Geoff Wade for his assistance in preparing this story. We offer our congratulations and our best wishes to all finalists for Baseball Australia Diamond Awards.
Image: Baseball Australia