Marsco left a legacy in Liberty Twp.

PARENTS always adorn their children with so many words of wisdom as they’re growing up, especially when it comes to sports.

Some concepts are easy to grasp.

Father: “Keep your eye on the ball, son.”

Son: “Thanks, Dad. How many years of baseball school did you take to learn that secret?”

Others aren’t so easily comprehended, like passing the ball to an inferior teammate, or coming out of the game to let someone else play — even though he/she may not be as talented as you. Then there’s dealing with losing and learning from it. It can be difficult for grown men and women to take something from a defeat, let alone children.

It’s all part of the game, and sometimes, it’s part of life.

Interviewing those who recently lost a loved one is probably the hardest part of being a journalist, but it’s often in those talks that some of the greatest insight is discovered. One thing I’ve learned from those discussions is that sports can teach people a lot about life and how to deal with the good times and the bad.

I spoke to an old friend this week. We weren’t even teenagers when I met Michael A. Marsco III, better known as “Mick” to anyone who attended Liberty High School in the late 1990s. He was a junior when I was a freshman, and like most upperclassmen, he wasn’t really keen on being boys with a 14-year-old who ran his mouth way too much for a kid who was 5-foot-4 and 100 pounds. (I’ve since hit a growth spurt.)

Nevertheless, I looked up to Mick. He was a Marsco, and people from Liberty respected the Marscos, in large part because just about anyone who ever played baseball in the township knew Michael Jr. Mick’s father was a fixture at Liberty’s Center Park, the hub of youth baseball in Liberty. It had three fields back in my day, but it now has five — thanks mainly to Michael Jr., who was the president of the Liberty Township Baseball Association for nearly two decades.

Michael Jr. wasn’t just the president. He was a fun guy to be around, to talk to and to learn the game from. He walked around with a cool confidence about him that you hoped one day you could attain. (Kids these days would call it “swagger.”). He wasn’t going to pull candy out of his pocket or talk to you about how good he was back in his day for 15 minutes. He was going to help you as a baseball player and make you feel cooler for being in his presence.

Anyway, this conversation with Mick was unlike any other we’ve had over the years, and it’s not one either of us really wanted to have. Michael Jr. passed away in September 2018, just a few months after being diagnosed with cancer. To honor him, the LTBA created a huge sign that looks over one of the fields. The billboard-like sign reads “Mike Marsco Field” and has a large picture of Mike in the middle of it.

Mick, along with his sisters, Amanda and Shana, and several other family and friends, attended the ceremony this past weekend, and Mick did an interview with me a few days later. Talking about how everything has unfolded over the last few months couldn’t have been easy, but Mick did it with the same cool confidence that always seemed to radiate from his father.

The man who used to coach Mick and his sisters — in sports and life — has moved on, but there are clear remnants of his spirit living through his family.

“Looking back on it now, it was one of the greatest parts of my life,” said Mick of playing baseball for his father. “Now I get to relive it coaching my kids. My dad coaching me and being at all my events, whether it was baseball or my football games, I always knew that he was there, supporting me. And same with my mom (Luanne). My parents were always there supporting us, and just to know that your dad is coaching you, it’s an honor.

“Now that I look back and look at all the pictures that I have of the teams and just the pictures taken during games, they were great times, and I cherish those memories that I have. Those are the main reasons that I’m I doing that for my kids. That’s why I try to be at everything they do, and teach them the right way to play and have fun doing it.”

Lessons he learned from his father — and sports — are ones he now passes on to his children. Hmm. Quite the concept, huh?

I’m not a parent. I can’t imagine what it’s like to balance work and supporting a family with being at your kids’ events. Hopefully one day I will learn that balance, and maybe I can pass on some of the same traits my father has taught me.

The point is: Be involved — in sports and with your kids. You don’t have to be the president of the league or possess the unmistakable glow of Michael Marsco Jr. You just have to push them to participate, do your best to help out and try to show them, as Mick said, “the right way” to play.

They’ll probably take more from sports than you know, just as I did from a somber discussion with an old friend. Mick admitted that the memories and reminders of his father are everywhere, and they’re incredibly hard for him to think about, but they seem to be what’s inspiring him to be a better man.

If that’s not learning from loss, I don’t know what is.

Rest in peace, Michael A. Marsco Jr., knowing that your legacy is in safe hands.

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