For the last two years I have had the utmost privilege of playing baseball under coach Jim “Jimmy” Isaacson, and I am one of many who would describe it as exactly that: a privilege.
Coaches like Jimmy don’t come around very often. The dedication with which he has served the Galesburg community, from legion ball on through college baseball, is astounding when considering he has done it for nearly 50 years. And now that that time is coming to an end it is only fair to share my appreciation for the man.
The first thing I think of when I think about Jimmy is his honesty. He is not afraid to say you were terrible today, but by the same token he is the first person to congratulate you on a job well done.
As a player I have always valued a coach who can say it like he means it, and whether I’ve just gotten a sacrifice bunt down or been picked off first base, Jimmy has always provided a straightforward approach to improvement.
This instruction has resulted in multiple “Jimmyisms”,my personal favorites being “Throw the hands,” a hitting tip often heard during batting practice, and “You understand that?” which is the typical sign off to any advice given. I have to admit I’ll miss these and many more.
Another endearing quality of Jimmy is his pure passion for the players and the game itself.
This is best represented in a story my grandparents have told me about one of my uncles back in his playing days. My uncle grew up playing baseball in Galesburg with Knox head coach (and Jimmy’s son) Jamie Isaacson. One day the start of their little league game was delayed because the umpire failed to show up.
Just before the game was going to be rescheduled, Jimmy, there originally just to watch the game, offered to go get some umping gear from his car and call the game himself. So after a few minutes Jimmy returned, and as my grandfather says “called a perfectly fair game behind the plate.”
But in addition to his passion for the game, his experince says it all.
There is a classic saying that goes “That guy has forgotten more then you will ever know,” and I can’t help but get the feeling that this epitomizes Jimmy and baseball perfectly. He has done everything, won everything and seen everything. Well, maybe not seen everything.
As I got ready to enter the on deck circle before my first at bat last Saturday I made my way past coach. After looking out to right field (where a large building fire was taking place) I turned to coach and said, “Well Jimmy, even on your last day I bet you are seeing something you’ve never seen before, a fire just outside the playing field.” Coach, sitting in his customary chair at the end of the dugout, looked up and replied ‘You sure are right about that one.’
That’s baseball, 48 years and still finding something new. No wonder Jimmy wanted to stay around so long.
Ultimately, Jimmy was a man of few words, and though I’ve dedicated the last 500 or so to him he assuredly would have preferred little to none. Well Jimmy, on behalf of all us who have played with you, I have just 12 more.
Thank you Jimmy, we sure are going miss you in the dugout.