There’s a brick, over there by the third-base dugout.
A memory of when Northrop High School baseball coach Matt Brumbaugh and his high school teammates built the press box at what is now Chris Stavreti Field.
The players built the structure — it lasted about 40 years. What they didn’t know was at the time, the veteran coach was crafting them into adults and leaders.
That brick, and a few others like it, are all that remain of the humble structure that once stood behind home plate.
Sometime this spring or summer, when the COVID-19 virus precautions are lifted, they’ll officially dedicate the Chris Stavreti Press Box and Clubhouse.
Stavreti died in November 2012 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. At Northrop, his Bruins were common visitors to the later rounds of the Indiana High School Athletic Association baseball tournament.
They were his calling cards, dating back to a short stint tenure at East Noble High School in Kendallville. By the time it was all done, the Indiana Hall of Famer had recorded 559 wins, 255 losses, collecting a state title in 1983, three semi-states, eight regionals and 13 sectional titles.
The structure that came to life this fall fits “Stav’s” style. Practical and real. It’s packed with purpose — intentionally designed just like the coach would lead. It grew from need.
A simple one. “My whole goal was just to have two bathrooms at the field,” Brumbaugh explained. “That’s all I wanted. We’ve had a porta john the whole time I’ve been here.
“Now we have a coaches office, a locker room, concession stand and two bathrooms, one on each side. It wouldn’t be possible without him. The lessons I’ve learned through the years playing for him and coaching for him. Everyone here, he’s touched in some way.”
It’s not a stone or giant work of art. It’s engaged. “It’s here. It’s reality. It’s beautiful. Everything is at the field now so we don’t have to run back and forth to the football field. It’s about Coach Stavreti,” he said. “He’s got the No. 1 locker — his wife Dottie has a locker — the clubhouse is named after him. The field is named after him. I’d say he’s pretty happy with what we have here.”
Brumbaugh admits he almost gave up on the dream of a new press box. Then a few years ago, momentum picked up, the project gained steam with donors and FWCS approval. Brumbaugh says the privately funded facility appraises at six figures through the labor of love by former players, friends and people touched by Stav.
Once the concept came into focus it picked up steam quickly. It took about a week to sell nearly 40 locker sponsors.
“Being a Northrop baseball player — once you are in, you are in for life. Everybody who plays in this program cares about the program. It’s evidenced by guys who have bought lockers,” Brumbaugh said.
That support spans decades of Bruins baseball history, including former Major Leaguer Eric Wedge, all-state players Colin Brockhouse and Barry Ault, as well as Bruin basketball star Walter Jordan.
“It runs the gamut from the ‘70s to the present,” Brumbaugh said. A former bat girl, Aimee Myers of the William J. & Bonnie L. Hefner Foundation, and Scott Gidley, who leads the Stavreti Scholarship Fund, were instrumental from the start.
As it grew and received approval from Fort Wayne Community Schools, others jumped in, including electricians and other skilled trades. Specifically, Bercot Construction under the leadership of Chris’ brother-in-law Steve Bercot, Steve Baumgarte of Zumbrun Construction and Jack Laurie Flooring, where former player Brian Bunner’s brother was instrumental in the flooring installation.
Brumbaugh says the structure shows the value of a coach’s impact. “I try to do this myself — coaches make a difference. He made a huge impact on people who’ve given. It’s the love of the program, the love of Coach Stavreti,” he said.