For a while the bleachers at Stan Wadlow Park sat empty during East York Senior Baseball home games. Thanks in part to Adam Panagopka, that’s changed.
“We brought that East York spirit back,” he said.
Now there are couples in the stands, parents and kids eating ice cream and cheering support for the team. A fourth place finish at provincials – thanks to volunteer coach Panagopka and the rest of the coaching staff – has a lot to do with it.
“The parents will keep their kids behind and bring them to watch us play,” Panagopka continued. “We brought that love and fire back.”
Panagopka, 32, takes pride in being an East Yorker. After spending his youth playing East York baseball, he decided it was time to give back. It shouldn’t be surprising; he said he’s had some positive examples.
As a boy he was mentored by another East Yorker, Andrew Green. Green coached Panagopka in 1998 when he was just 14-years-old. The team won the Ontario Summer Games, an Olympic-style tournament in Guelph. It was an experience Panagopka regards as his best memory from baseball. Green talked about knowing Panagopka both as a player and a person.
“He was an important player on the team,” Green said. “I regret not taking him the following season because he was a bit of a tough guy. … But he was very passionate and very heart and soul on the team. … Maybe it’s the great relationship he has with his wife and the kids, but I have just seen him mature so much.”
Panagopka admitted he and Green didn’t always see things eye-to-eye.
“Ever since I became a coach (however) and we became friends outside of baseball,” Panagopka said, “I feel like I am becoming the new Andrew Green – his style, his way. So I really do look up to him.”
Panagopka is a hard working, blue collar-guy, living with his wife Andrea and daughter Angelica in a modest East York house. He still volunteers time to the local baseball club. His social media handle “Mr. East York” seems appropriate.
“I was born and raised here at Greenwood and Memorial (Park avenues), running around with my close friends that I played baseball with,” he said. “My four or five best friends I know from mosquito, or pee-wee (level sports). One of them is my daughter’s godfather and the rest of them were in my wedding party.”