Meyers, GAR Set To Face Off For Final Time
It is being called “The Last First Pitch.” In reality, it will be the last time ever an athletic team from Meyers will compete head-to-head against its longtime city rival, GAR.
With the three Wilkes-Barre public schools set to combine athletic programs with the start of the 2019-20 school year, Monday afternoon’s baseball game between the Mohawks and Grenadiers will truly signify the end of one of the greatest rivalries in all sports in the Wyoming Valley Conference.
To commemorate the event, both schools are digging deep in their archives to celebrate. Tony Schwab will represent Meyers and throw out a first pitch. GAR will send former coach and current athletic director, Simon Peter, to the hill to deliver what Peter hopes will be a heater down the center of the plate.
Regardless, the baseball teams from both schools have some special memories to look back on, while at the same time, looking forward to what the future may hold when the Wilkes-Barre Area Wolfpack take the field next spring.
“It is going to be bittersweet to be back on the field where I spent most of my life,” said Schwab, who coached at Meyers for approximately 14 years, and also served as the school’s principal. “It is going to be very emotional for me. I grew up in South Wilkes-Barre. I always looked forward to being on the mound.”
The game between GAR and Meyers will take place 4:15 p.m. Monday at Gibby Field in South Wilkes-Barre, Meyers’ home field.
“It’s kind of sad, but necessary given the situation,” Schwab said. “You could search high and low for a lot of schools competing against each other, but it is hard to find a rivalry between two city schools within such a short distance. The competition brings out the best. That is what you want.”
For Peter, it also marks the end of an era that he was a big part of. Peter coached GAR for 27 years before becoming the school’s athletic director. He led the Grenadiers to a pair of district championships and sent several players to Division 1 colleges to continue their baseball careers.
Schwab is a Meyers grad, while Peter graduated from GAR.
“To be able to come back and coach at your alma mater is always a special thing,” Peter said. “Just to walk about or be out some place and have a graduate be quick to come up to me, those are the memories that will last the rest of my lifetime. We had some successful seasons and some lean years as well. One of the things I am most proud of is that the GAR players I coached, at the end of an inning they would always run off the field, and they would always run on the field for the start of the next inning. I always felt the product I put on the field was always prepared.”
Coughlin will also play its final home game of the regular season on Tuesday at Hilldale Park when it hosts Valley West. Coughlin coach Moe Rodzinak was working on bringing back a few former coaches and is hoping former players will stop by for a final pitch as well.
Of the three city schools, Coughlin is the only that qualified for the District 2 playoffs. Coughlin has a 9-6 overall record in the state playoffs, advancing to the state championship tournament in 1980, and reaching the semifinals in 1984. GAR is 0-2 in the state playoffs, while Meyers is 3-3, reaching the semifinal round in 2002.
“It’s starting to hit me now,” Rodzinak said of this being the final season of Coughlin baseball. “I’m realizing this is the end. I’m just thinking of all the great players and kids that played in the Coughlin uniform. It is hard to accept this.”
Rodzinak has been with the Coughlin program for 25 years, the last 21 as head coach.
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