A glimpse into a life well lived

By Bill Barrows

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time reminiscing about an old friend and mentor. I met with the family of long time Wabash High School baseball coach Chris Rood.  We met at the field that since 1995 bears his name. It was a hot and muggy day and nephews Travis and Andy Rood along with Chad Collier had decided that they wanted to play some home run derby before we sat down to talk about their beloved uncle.

Doug Rood, Chris’s older brother, also joined in as Wabash baseball assistant Zach Wenrich offered to pitch to them. The combination of the heat and humidity and the fact that Coach Wenrich had not thrown much batting practice since the season ended in early June stymied the boys in their quest to hit one over the fence. I had warned them that there was a breeze blowing in and the fact that the outfield dimensions at Chris Rood Field are of major league length.

Meanwhile, I spoke with Chuck and Leesa Collier, Chad’s parents and longtime family friend Tracy Stewart about the complex and some long time Wabash Baseball traditions at the field. There is plaque sealed in concrete in the home dugout on the 3rd base side that is engraved with Coach Rood’s name and uniform number 37. I also told them of a long standing practice before home games that some varsity players know to look toward the west, over the right centerfield fence and high above Alber and Cass Streets and over the black wrought iron fencing of Falls Cemetery, that if you know where to look, you can spy the black diamond shaped headstone of Coach Rood’s grave.

About that time, current head coach Jack Holley came down the hill to see what was happening. Jack was the player who, as a sophomore, scored the winning run in Wabash’s 2-1 win over Marion in the 1986 State Championship Game against Marion. He joined the conversation for a few minutes before heading off with a few friends.

We then adjourned to the air conditioning to reminisce in comfort. Leesa, Chris’s younger sister talked about growing up with Chris and how he would antagonize their mother at family events just by taking the opposite side of any debate. And it didn’t matter what the subject manner. But she also discussed how good he was to family members including her. Chuck told a number of stories about family trips that they would take during the summer months. One trip, to the east coast highlighted Chris driving an RV and being overly cautious on the highways and byways of New England.

Doug told us about him and Chris going to Sunday school in their hometown of Pierceton. Their mother usually sent them with money to put in the offering at the church. Somewhere along the way, Chris would occasionally take a detour and end up using the money for a cool drink or some food.

Travis and Andy talked about always looking forward to their uncle coming to any family function because they looked up to him so much. He would also attend their wrestling matches and pace the entire time that each were competing on the mat.

During Chad’s senior year at Whitko High School, he pitched against Wabash and his uncle. He pitched the entire game that day and in a tight pitching duel, beat the Apaches 2-1. He said the entire game was nerve wracking. He would occasionally glance toward his uncle, standing about 75 feet away in the 3rd base coaching box. Afterwards, he remembers his uncle approaching him before boarding the bus back to Wabash, hugging him and telling him what a good game he pitched and how proud of him that he was. The room became quiet and there were no dry eyes in the room.

The evening was special. We talked long into the evening. Before we parted, we vowed to get together again in the coming weeks and spend some more time trading stories about a man who influenced a lot of people here in Wabash, but also had a big effect on his family. Chances are, a couple of generations down the line, he will still be an influence on them. The mark of a life that though it was short, was a life well lived.

Posted on 2017 Aug 01