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Parasiliti: Stottlemyer's invisibility now in plain sight

March 11, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

Invisibility doesn’t always guarantee anonymity.

In sports, the skyline is dotted with a galaxy of stars. They shine brightly, get big endorsement deals and are the darlings of the media because of their heavenly deeds.

But for every success story, there is that one guy who stays out of the spotlight’s glare. He works diligently, quietly doing all the grunt work needed to better everyone involved.

In reality, he’s the true difference maker. It’s just few take the time to realize it.

Be it because of effort, personal desire or just plain circumstance, that guy remains in the background. He accepts his role, even relishes it.

Still, the time will come when that cloak of invisibility finally pops a button.

On Friday night, a guy named George Stottlemyer officially blipped on the Hagerstown Junior Basketball League’s radar.

Oh, everyone knows George. He’s been an integral part of that youth program for 47 years, holding just about every coaching and administrative position it offers at one time or another.

For almost a half century, he quietly did everything the organization needed to become a success, almost to the point where he may have been taken for granted. After all, when it came to publicity, Stottlemyer knocked on doors for the budding athletes, not himself.

The league rectified that on Friday, bringing Stottlemyer out of his own shadow.

League president John Psillas called for Stottlemyer to join him at center court while emceeing an awards ceremony between two playoff games at St. Maria Goretti.

True to Stottlemyer’s demeanor, you wouldn’t have noticed him unless you knew where he was perched.

The 78-year-old dynamo sat a couple of rows up and near the door in Goretti’s bleachers, away from most everyone. He was wearing his own form of camouflage — a one-of-a-kind red league cap that perfectly accessorized his red-checked flannel shirt.

As Stottlemyer walked across the floor, Psillas told the story about the well-known guy that nobody really knew. Psillas spoke of how Stottlemyer devoted his life to the league and made it what it is today.

He spoke of how Stottlemyer had helped so many kids over the years — including Psillas himself, who played in the league — and how he did it all with little fanfare.

Then, the league made a gesture to ensure people would remember the guy who spent his entire stay with the league as a wallflower for years to come.

First, Psillas announced the HJBL was going to permanently rename its postseason event to “George Stottlemyer All-Star Saturday.”

Then came maybe the bigger honor. The league is starting a scholarship fund, named in Stottlemyer’s honor, to help give disadvantaged players the chance to play and, later, an opportunity to go to school.

Stottlemyer looked stunned about the chain of events, admitting he didn’t know what to say.

Then, he uttered, “You put time into something and good things will happen.”

For Stottlemyer, every part of working in the youth league was a labor of love.

It kept him busy.

It allowed him to teach basketball and life, which he truly loved.

And it kept him motivated. There was always one player who made Stottlemyer come back the next year, just to make sure he finished the job he started.

Stottlemyer has probably launched more ships than the U.S. Navy. So many former athletes not only went on to become better players, they have become better adults because of some of the lessons they learned from the youth league.

“He deserved an everlasting tribute,” Psillas said. “We want to pay it forward, like George did.”

It started by erasing Stottlemyer’s invisibility.

After the announcements, Stottlemyer received a standing ovation and stopped to talk to a few of the spectators on his way out of the gym.

“I did things in the league for the league,” he said. “It wasn’t about me. Still, you visualize (things like this), but I never thought it was going to happen to me. But here it is.”

Stottlemyer stood with an uneasy smile, thinking about the moment. But then, he may have received the greatest — and probably most memorable — gift of all.

A parent, who was leaving the gym, stopped at the door and came back to Stottlemyer and extended his hand.

“Thank you,” he said. “This is the first year my son played out there and he enjoyed it a lot. Thank you.”

Stottlemyer beamed a little and graciously accepted the handshake, saying something about the boy coming back to play next year.

“It’s nice to know that you made an impression,” Stottlemyer said. “We all need a pat on the back from time to time.”

It was worth it, even if it came at the price of invisible anonymity.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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