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In a normal world, this would be District 16 Little League All-Star time. Of course, there is nothing normal about 2020. Little League has been cancelled, and whatever youth sports are being played are few and far between.
This would have been Jim Price’s time if we were talking about five or 10 years ago. I go back to those days of the 1990s and the “aughts,” when I’d be at some Little League field on the North Shore, and there would be Jim, Russ Meade, Bob Keaney and maybe Richie Doherty — sitting together and watching. They were a patrol back in those days, the four of them. This was their time.
Two months ago, Jim Price became one of Lynn’s 103 COVID-19 casualties. I’ve been remiss up to now in writing an appreciation of him — an omission I plan to rectify now.
The first thing you need to know about Jim Price is that there was nothing very remarkable about him … and that there was everything remarkable about him. He was not a city official. He wasn’t even a Little League official. In fact, more often than not, Jim wasn’t even a head coach. He was a helper. A worker bee. He was someone who offered his services in whatever capacity organizations about which he cared needed the help.
He may have been a Pop Warner assistant. Or he may have been one of the ones who passed around the collection basket (as he did at St. Pius V Parish in Lynn for many years). But whatever he did, one thing you could almost guarantee was that Jim would be there, week in and week out, pitching in and doing his part.
We need people like Jim Price if our communities have any chance of running smoothly. They are devoid of ego. They don’t care if someone else gets the credit. They just want to contribute toward something they love and respect.
You’d never see Jim pitching a fit at a Little League game. He was completely the opposite. It’s not that he didn’t care. He did. But he also understood inherently that the game had a human element, and that as such, it was pointless to get too involved yelling and screaming trying to get an umpire to change calls. Meade recalls that one of the more famous Jim Price incidents involves an anomaly: Jim had to be thrown into a game.
This requires some explanation, to be sure.
“There was an umpire, Steve Natola, who volunteered,” Meade said. “He was kind of a character. There was a game where there was some kind of a volatile situation going on involving some of the adults in East Lynn, and Steve was told to be the umpire and to keep the peace.
“There was a play, and Jim questioned one of his calls,” said Meade, perhaps not feeling it necessary to add that Price was most likely a complete gentleman in appealing the call. “As Jim was going back to the dugout, Steve heard some insulting remarks directed toward him, and some curse words.”
Since he’d just been arguing with Price, Natola assumed it was Price who insulted him, and threw him out.
“Others rushed up to Steve and told him it wasn’t Jim, and even pointed out who the real culprit was,” Meade said. “So, Steve calls time, finds Jim, apologizes to him, and tells him to get back in the game.”
Price initially balked, saying that he didn’t want to show Natola up.
“Steve had to order him to go back to the dugout,” Meade said. “It was the only time he said he ever threw the manager back into the game.”
If there’s anything such as an authority on Jim Price, it’s Russ Meade. They met around 1970 and were friends for the next 50 years. They shared the same interests, and basically had the same type of temperaments. Meade is easy-going and quick with a smile, and so was Price.
“Jim got along with everyone,” Meade said. “He worked at not being offensive. He was a really nice guy.
“He wasn’t a baseball expert,” Meade said. “He just wanted to make sure the kids enjoyed what they were doing. He liked youth sports.”
Perhaps because he had that philosophy, Price “enjoyed the practices more than the games,” Meade said. “He set a good example. He never swore around the kids, and he always got good, quality people who could teach kids.”
Adults who worked around Price always came away liking and respecting him, Meade said.
“He always had respectful parents in those days because they knew he was in it for the kids,” Meade said. “He made practices fun and the games took care of themselves.”