Patti Sullivan, widow of Skip Sullivan, holds a proclamation honoring her husband while her daughter, Dana Annel, holds a plaque commemorating the renaming of the Oak Lawn Community High School varsity baseball park, Skip Sullivan Field. They were joined by family and grandchildren for the dedication ceremonies on Tuesday. (Photos by Joe Boyle)
Oak Lawn community honors late beloved coach
Varsity baseball park renamed Skip Sullivan Field
By Joe Boyle
Friends and associates of Skip Sullivan said that he was always a ray of sunshine even on the dreariest of days.
The sky was actually overcast over the Oak Lawn Community High School varsity baseball field on Tuesday afternoon. But those who knew Sullivan said he would not mind.
And hundreds of people — including friends, past associates, students, ballplayers, teachers and administrators — turned out on “Skip Sullivan Day” to pay respects and honor the late teacher and coach.
Eugene “Skip” Sullivan, who was also known as “Sully,” died Nov. 25 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 70 years old.
A massive crowd showed up to honor Sullivan before the varsity game against Reavis. The varsity field was renamed Skip Sullivan Field and a street near his home will also bear his name.
The turnout was so huge for Sullivan that shuttle service was provided from the high school to the field.
Janet Meyers, a technology coach who previously served as the head girls basketball coach at Oak Lawn High, said that Sullivan was a great person and a unique individual.
“He was kind and he always saw the good in everyone,” said Meyers, who previously organized the annual Sully Shuffle 5K run and walk to provide funding and awareness about Parkinson’s disease. “He had the amazing ability to reach everyone. He was funny and witty. He was a great coach because he could get the most out of everyone. All the coaches respected him. He said it’s not always about winning, but playing with integrity. He could always see the bright things in life.”
Before the game, Meyers was passing out T-shirts that had Skip Sullivan Field written on them. The lettering on the shirts were surrounded by a marquee image that resembled Wrigley Field. That was fitting since Sullivan was an avid Cubs fan.
Spectators who attended the dedication and the game were also asked to write down their thoughts about Sullivan.
Marcus Wargin, assistant principal at Oak Lawn High, also has fond memories of Sullivan.
“As a young coach, I got to coach football with him,” Wargin said. “Just working with him as a mentor was great. I did all the learning and he did the coaching. It was an honor to know him as a coach and a teacher.”
Sullivan grew up and lived his entire life in Oak Lawn. He attended Oak Lawn Community High School from 1965 through 1969, where he starred in baseball, basketball and football. He earned all-conference honors in baseball and basketball his junior and senior years.
He then attended Iowa State University on a football scholarship and played both football and baseball there.
Sullivan then began his teaching and coaching career at Oak Lawn High School in 1973. He retired as a social studies teacher in 2006 and continued coaching at the high school through 2014. He was the head varsity baseball coach from 1995 through 2008. He also served as an assistant boys basketball and football coach. He was also an assistant girls basketball coach.
In 1993 and 1994, Sullivan earned the Fred Parks Coach of the Year Award at Oak Lawn High School. Another award he received was being named the Pitch and Hit Club High School Coach of the Year in 1996.
In 2009, Sullivan was inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame.
Mayor Terry Vorderer proclaimed that May 17 would be “Skip Sullivan Day” at the May 10 village board meeting. The Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 Board also passed a resolution acknowledging Sullivan’s lifelong commitment to the high school during a Feb. 16 meeting.
Vorderer mentioned this before the game and presented a copy of the proclamation and the Skip Sullivan Way street sign to the Sullivan family.
Dr. Michael Riordan, superintendent of Oak Lawn Community High School District 229, said during the dedication ceremony that “we were all better for knowing Skip. (He) made an indelible mark on our school.”
On hand for the dedication ceremony was his wife, Patti Sullivan; son, Mike Sullivan; daughter, Dana Annel; and his grandchildren. Relatives, friends, former ballplayers and colleagues were also at the dedication.
Brian Clifton, the former head freshman baseball coach at OLCHS, said that Sullivan had a vision when he started to coach the varsity team and expressed his thoughts to assistant coach George Dempsey. He wanted his team to not only win games but most importantly to play with integrity and humility.
Mike Sullivan threw out the first pitch to Dempsey. The grandchildren also threw out first balls to members of the current Oak Lawn varsity team.
Annel perhaps best summed up her father’s positive spirit and love of baseball.
“His players were his kids,” Annel said. “When I was a kid, when he drove down Southwest Highway by the park, he would point and say, ‘there’s heaven.’”
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