HARWICH – With his father, Michael, as a Little League coach, and older brothers that played, there haven't been too many days in Steve Porter's life without baseball, and the new head coach of the Monomoy boys varsity team wouldn't have it any other way.
Porter, a graduate of Harwich High School and a past player, was promoted to the position this season after serving as the program's junior varsity coach for four years. Baseball, he said, is pretty much in his blood.
“My father, Michael, ran the Little League when I was a little kid, so I would always go to games before I was old enough to play,” Porter said. “I think being around it and watching the kids really made me interested in it from a young age. Then when I started playing, I fell in love with it and I've been in love with it ever since.”
Porter played in both high school and college, becoming a member of the team at New England College in Henniker, N.H., where he played for coach Dave Anderson, with whom he developed a lasting bond.
“He was like a father away from home for me,” Porter said. “When I got off to school I was a little shy, and sometimes it's hard going off to college when you're not close to home. Coach Anderson was a great mentor for me. He really taught me a lot about baseball and how to grow as a person.”
Porter also draws inspiration from the Harwich greats, former head coaches Charlie Horan, Fred Thacher, and Steve Wilson. It was their combined guidance and their fostering of Porter's passion for the game that motivated him to become a coach.
“I loved the strategy behind the game, all the intricacies involved in the game that a lot of people don't realize are there,” Porter said. “I always loved teaching, and my competitive nature was about anything I could do to stay in the game, so once I stopped playing coaching was the next step.”
Porter said when he learned he'd gotten the job, he was over the moon, happily sharing the news with his dad and with his wife, Nicole, with whom he has three sons, Thomas, Matthew, and Timmy, whom he's looking forward to coaching when they're old enough to play ball.
Porter kicked off his coaching career by serving as the assistant coach to Horan in the Senior Babe Ruth summer baseball program. Not too long afterwards, Porter became the head coach of Senior Babe Ruth, a position he's held for more than a decade. Senior Babe Ruth led to coaching Monomoy's junior varsity team, which this season led to his being promoted to varsity head coach, something that makes him a little nervous.
“It's a lot of pressure because Harwich has had four coaches in the past 40 years, so it's a job that's very prestigious,” Porter said. “It's some big shoes to fill from Coach Thacher to Coach Wilson, but it's been fun so far, and the town support has been great. It's a job a lot of people would have wanted and I'm very honored to have gotten the chance to take it.”
Porter has much experience to draw from, including playing ball for the Rough Riders under the watchful eye of Thacher. Porter also greatly appreciated his time on the sidelines with Wilson, who retired from coaching last fall. Porter said making the leap from junior varsity to varsity had a lot to do with his players.
“I've coached a lot of them growing up in Senior Babe Ruth, so it seemed like the natural step for me to become their high school coach,” Porter said. “Those who I didn't coach in the summer I coached on the JV level, so I have a good working knowledge of these players, and it just felt like a good fit for me to step up and become the varsity coach.”
Porter said that along with the day-to-day basics, there are three lessons he gleaned from past coaches that he hopes to pass along to his players.
“The biggest things are to never take anything for granted, never assume players know what you think they know, and always make sure you work on the fundamentals,” Porter said. “If you keep those things going you should be OK.”
Prior to the team's April 11 game against St. John Paul II the Sharks held a 3-1 season record, which kicked off with three dominating victories against Sacred Heart, Sturgis West, and Rising Tide. Porter said the wins helped bolster his team's spirits.
“Three and one is a great confidence booster for the team,” he said. “We've had tremendous hitting and pitching so far. None of our starters has given up an earned run yet. Now we get through the more difficult part of our schedule with D-Y and St. John Paul II. We'll have a little more of a test. But everyone's had a chance to contribute and everyone has contributed so far.”
While winning is certainly one of the best perks of Porter's job, he's in it for a much more important reason—to see his players grow and progress not only in baseball, but also in life.
“Watching the kids improve and seeing the success they've had is what it's about,” Porter said. “My goal is for my players to graduate and go on to college. That, for me, will be a big success. It's not always the wins and losses at the end of the day, but seeing the players succeed in life and grow as people. That's what I'm looking forward to.”