Grateful for Richard Mundo; PBO coach’s spirit lives on always

by James Cantorna, MD

Richard Mundo was my baseball coach at PBO when I was 11 years old in 1977. He was a wonderful man and very dedicated to his family and the community. Unfortunately, Mr. Mundo passed away from a long illness a year ago August.

When I first learned he was ill, I started to write him a letter to thank him for all he had done for us when we were kids. I never felt that the letter was good enough and sadly I did not complete it while he was alive. It languished in my computer; a result of procrastination and lives that are at times, too busy to complete the tasks that are really important.

I greatly regret that I did not complete the letter while he was alive and give him the opportunity to enjoy a long overdue thank you. The day before Father’s Day, I completed the letter and gave it to his widow, Mrs. Mundo. I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, but I figured that at least she and her children would know how well he was appreciated and remembered.

As summer is upon us and the PBO baseball season comes to an end, my fond memories of Mr. Mundo make me think of all the parents who have coached at PBO and made PBO the best baseball league in the area. Mr. Mundo and his family represent all of those who coached and managed our Little League baseball players. From the dedicated Trustees who spend countless hours at the park, to the dads who rush home from work to start practice, to the moms who are constantly looking for misplaced gloves and socks, and who always find a way to have their children play in clean uniforms.

I would like to say thank you to all those who make PBO great and who allow our children to create wonderful baseball memories. I loved PBO when I was a Jack in 1977 and it is even better today.

Thank you Mr. Mundo for the memories. I hope you can forgive my tardiness.

 

We were once Jacks

We were once Jacks, playing baseball for PBO in 1977.

We were young. We were happy.

Jacks! What is a Jack? Well, back then, a Jack was a name of our Little League baseball team, and you Mr Mundo, were our coach.

I moved to Palos Heights that year and you called me and told me I was on the Jacks.

Not the Cubs, or the White Sox or the Cardinals, but the Jacks.

What kind of town calls a baseball team the Jacks? I thought to myself.

I was 11 years old in 1977 and you were my baseball coach.

I remember our first day of practice at the school across the street from your house.

I remember being the new kid in town, not knowing anyone, and trying to impress you with my fastball.

I remember Ricky and Johnny and all the Navajo kids you had on the team.

I remember your youngest son always being around the ball field.

We were not the best team, we won about as many as we lost, but we had fun.

I remember the end of the year pool party at your house and I remember your kindness.

I hit a Grand Slam Home run that year, my first and last of my career.

And you presented me with a trophy, “The Grand Slam Homer Award”.

You didn’t have to do that. But you did. You engraved it with my name on it.

I remember that Grand Slam. Hit with a 29 inch wooden Louisville Slugger with a thin handle.

I remember the ball going over the left field fence.

I remember your dedication, your generosity, your caring.

I still have that trophy Mr Mundo. I still remember.

Yes, we were once Jacks and you were our coach.

We were 11 and 12 years old and doing what boys should do in the summer, playing

baseball. We were happy.

Before girls, and high school. Before exams and college.

Before work and jobs and careers.

And before marriage and our parents getting older.

And before illness and worry and sadness.

We were young and

We were Jacks.

And we were happy.

And you were our Coach.

And I remember, we probably didn’t say, Thank You enough.

And we probably didn’t appreciate all that you did for us.

And I would like to tell you now Mr Mundo

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Because in the Summer of 1977, we were young and we were happy

And you were our Coach and

WE WERE ONCE JACKS!

James “Jamie” Cantorna lives in Palos Park.

 

Color-split-TOPpage-8-3-col-with-tribute-to-Mundo-copy

Submitted photo 

The late PBO coach Richard Mundo’s son, Rick, will be coaching his last game at PBO this week.  He played with James Cantorna on the Jacks in 1977.  This is the Jacks’ team photo that year.

 

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