Paul Gadke, Mayfield teacher and coach, RIP

An English teacher and track coach from my high school passed away this week. I never had Mr. Gadke in class but I remember him as a great guy with a lot of personality. Mayfield had some very good English teachers and he was one of them. Mr. Gadke ran the school assemblies and was very visible at sporting events. When I went to Ohio University, I would sometimes see him behind home plate at Trautwein Field watching Bobcat baseball games. (I sat in the press box covering the games.)

I should not have been surprised when…

I was Googling his name for an obit and found this photo, which aptly sums up what I knew of the man — fun, sports lover, dedicated. (You know I love the OU hat.) I also found a story about why Gads was in line that day. I have copied it below.

Waiting for a bat

The sign said it all for Paul Gadke.

“Harry Potter?” it read. “Who did he ever play for? He never even saw Tony or Cal play!”

Gadke was playing off the fact that millions of fans waited in line for the last Potter book a week ago. The Ohio native has kept his own vigil on Cooperstown’s Main Street since Wednesday afternoon. He was anticipating the moment at 6:45 this morning when the Hall of Fame will release 740 collector’s edition bats commemorating the Cal Ripken Jr.-Tony Gwynn induction.

Gadke has waited in line for commemorative bats every year since 1997, when he traveled to see Nellie Fox inducted. He also has been first in line every year except 1999, when a pair of interlopers beat him to the bat celebrating Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount.

The former Cleveland Indians bat boy usually arrives Friday afternoon on induction weekend but figured he would have to show up earlier this year to beat the expected mobs. His stretchy, nylon chair led a snaking line of dozens of seats along Main Street. To hold his spot, he limited himself to a few bathroom and snack breaks in the wee hours of the morning.

He’s fortunate because his good buddy, Rocky Cenneno of Turnersville, N.J., holds the second place in line. They met in the same spot 10 years ago and have kept in touch ever since, phoning to talk family and baseball and meeting up at the head of the line in Cooperstown every summer.

“Baseball really brought two people together,” said Cenneno, a Philadelphia Phillies fan.

Cenneno and Gadke once watched a collector buy a bat for $125, walk a few paces away and sell it for $450 to a Nolan Ryan nut who had missed the line.

But they’re not in it for the money. They cherish the bats.

“Three of my four kids,” Gadke said, “think I should be institutionalized. But I love baseball.”

He will be missed.

Fellow Mayfield High grad and blogger extraordinaire Mike Roberto also wrote about Gadke here.

Here is a story from the News-Herald.