After 45 years, Ed Shaughnessy steps away from Smith Vocational baseball field
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Ed Shaughnessy has retired as baseball coach at Smith Vocational. Shaughnessy coached for 45 years. Purchase photo reprints »
For the first time since the spring of 1968, Ed Shaughnessy will spend the high school baseball season away from the dugout.
The longtime varsity baseball coach at Smith Vocational has retired after 45 years at the helm of the Vikings. He made the decision to step away early this year.
“I just knew it was time,” Shaughnessy said. “When I started, I never thought I’d go for 45 years. But I just kept at it one year after another, and the people at Smith Voke were always very good to me.”
The 71-year-old Northampton resident said his wife’s retirement from teaching at Westfield State University got him thinking in that direction as well.
“We talked it over and figured this would be a good time since she’s home now,” he said. “I knew the day would come sooner or later, so it felt right, especially since I’d already retired from my other jobs. If anyone gets to be as old as I am, they’ll see things take more out of you. A baseball game takes just two or three hours, but the total commitment ends up being about seven hours a day.”
Taking on that commitment will be new coach Carl Cyr, whose past experience includes a stint as junior varsity coach at Easthampton.
“Carl’s got some big shoes to fill, but I’m confident he’ll do a good job,” athletic director Jeff Lareau said. “I think the players are sad that Coach Shaughnessy’s not around, but at the same time they’re looking forward to working with new people. The kids seem to be taking it OK, because I think they were surprised Ed came back last year,”
Shaughnessy served as Smith Voke’s athletic director for 17 years through the 2010-11 academic year, while also spending time as the school’s assistant principal.
“Ed’s the guy who hired me 12 years ago, so we’re pretty close,” said Lareau, who is also the boys soccer coach. “I learned a lot from him about the coach’s perspective and also being an AD, and I always hoped that once he retired I’d get that opportunity. Ed knew everybody, all the kids and the parents. He’s always been very people-oriented, and I want to have the same relationships that he has.”
A 1962 graduate of Westfield State, Shaughnessy played baseball during his junior year, while also playing basketball and running track.
After beginning his coaching career at his alma mater, the now-extinct St. Michael’s High School, Shaughnessy began at Smith Voke as an English teacher in the fall of 1967. He applied for the baseball job upon hearing that Brad McGrath, the Vikings’ former baseball, football and basketball coach, was set to be appointed as assistant principal and needed to give up coaching.
Shaughnessy also coached basketball at Smith Voke for six years and junior varsity soccer for 17. He stepped away from those jobs upon becoming assistant principal.
Being around the game of baseball for so long and teaching young men certainly had positive effects for Shaughnessy.
“Being out there with young guys kept me feeling young, even though I got older and older,” he said. “I’ll definitely miss the kids the most, they’re the best part.”
He admitted there were certain challenges to coaching a small vocational school. The Vikings last qualified for the playoffs in 2010 and struggled the past couple seasons.
“If you coach at a city or town high school, the kids will have played with each other in youth leagues,” he said. “At Smith Voke, many times the players haven’t even met each other until the ninth grade. So that made things a little more difficult.”
Shaughnessy has seen the game change over the past 45 years.
“The game’s faster, and the kids are better trained,” he said. “I think a school like Smith gets lost in the shuffle a bit, because our kids who come out for baseball aren’t quite as technically trained and don’t play top-notch competition.”
When the Vikings season begins on April 2, Shaughnessy is likely to take in some games simply as a fan.
“I imagine in the beginning of the year, I’ll get a little antsy and sneak up there for an occasional practice and game,” he said. “Even though I’m technically not part of the school anymore, I guess I’ll always be connected with Smith Voke.”
But this ultimate symbol of continuity feels it’s good for kids to learn that nothing lasts forever.
“Some of the guys have asked me why I quit, and they’re a little disappointed,” he said. “But they’ll find out that a coach is a coach, and it doesn’t have to be Mr. Shaughnessy.”
Without the full commitment needed from a coach, he’ll have much more time to spend with family and pursue other passions.
“I guess I won’t have any more excuses for my bad golf game,” Shaughnessy said.
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @mjwilk1237.