Hop's Heresy

Staff Writer

    Most guys in their spare time take up hobbies, and a lot of guys become proficient anglers, hunters, card players and in recent times fantasy football experts. Some guys even try a little coaching, or umpiring!
    I’m fairly certain that the late Fred Schultz, who was put to rest today after 63 years of excellence, was not all that good at those hobbies.
    Like his brother, Barney (James), who passed away a little more than a year ago, Fred was too busy volunteering his time, promoting sports for youngsters, coaching sports and administrating sports programs and other activities which enhanced the Decatur community.
    “Fred and Barney were instrumental in getting programs for kids going in the right direction, and there were always first in line when the hard work had to be done,” stated Mike Baker, lifetime friends with both Schultz men.
     “They never expected a reward or pat on back, never tried to stand in the limelight. They did those things out of the goodness of their hearts, not to be a big shot.
    “Those two guys will be missed. They were hard to beat. You can’t say enough good things about them,” offered Baker.
    About anyone who had a hand in local youth sports over the past 40 years has dealt with Fred and Barney. Fred coached eighth grade basketball for many years at St. Joe and then jumped up to freshmen coach starting in the mid 1980s when Mark Bixler came to town and rejuvenated Bellmont varsity basketball. Fred and Barney both coached Little League baseball in Decatur, holding various posts.
    Both did way more than their share of organizing and developing sports leagues. After a stint following Baker as manager of the Indians, Barney put in a 10-year term as president of Decatur Baseball and also as the St. Joseph School Athletic Director. When the Decatur Football League was brewing, Fred jumped at the chance to help, joining the board and providing guidance and leadership to an organization that has been a smashing success. Fred has been in the Parks and Recreation Board of Directors for well over a decade and was serving that group up to his sudden passing.
    Barney also served as head of maintenance at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
    “Fred helped me with the Red Sox (LL), way back in the 1960s,” remembers Baker.
    “I was 21 (years old), so Fred had to be 17 or 18. He took a few years off, then came back,” noted Mike, who managed the Indians when sons of Fred and Barney were on the teams.
    Not that many years ago, when Mike put in his 10-years as Decatur Baseball president, he had a hard time finding a league director. Barney came to the rescue.
    Barney and Fred, along with brother John, now the two-term monument-making mayor of Decatur, were key players in the Baker and Schultz Construction outfit, which did a lot of work with heavy machinery.
    They didn’t hesitate to use their big-time equipment to save Decatur Baseball more than a few pesos. Besides the projects out at Rube Wynn, like building backstops, Fred and Barney proved instrumental in putting Worthman Field back in use.
     “When we did the lights at Worthman Field, Fred and Barney brought in the crane and had their workers weld the angle-iron as we installed the lower lights. Fred went up in the bucket with the welder. They donated all of that and paid their workers,” noted Baker.
    They also did sewer work and laid the foundation for the concessions stand at Worthman. “We never paid a nickel for that,” said Baker.
    As a longtime baseball coach and sports writer, I also had a lot of dealings with Fred and Barney. I think it was 1988 when the Decatur All-Stars went to the big Redkey LL All-Star Tourney. Since I had been involved (got tossed out) in a controversy the year prior, Barney warned me to be on my best behavior at Redkey.
    In the top of the first inning, the home plate umpire warned our players to stay in the dugout, then looked at me, coaching first. Suddenly, he tossed me out of the game.
    “What did you say to him? I didn’t hear anything,” said Barney. I told him that the ump must have recognized me. The kids did hit three homers in the inning, which got me off the hook ... somewhat.
    I loved playing three-on-three basketball with Fred, who would use his bulk to shove down the defense, then flip the ball to me for a wide-open 15-footer.
    They always opened the gates for others.
    “Fred was always concerned for others,” said Baker, who noted that Fred called during the flood in June to talk about sandbagging. The Schultzes had shown the Bakers who to build a sandbag wall during the ‘03 flood.
    “With those guys gone, the community has a big loss,” said a somber Mike Baker.
    A BIG loss!