Cape Cod Times: "The Bucs Start Here"

The Bucs Start Here

April 29, 2012

By Russ Charpentier, Cape Cod Times

BUZZARDS BAY – This is a love story that began the instant they met on the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, when Bob Corradi and Kathy Bumpus discovered each other in those chaotic, far-away days of 1967.

They grew up in neighboring towns – Bob in Sagamore, Kathy in Wareham – but didn't know each other until college, when they were introduced by a friend of Kathy's.

Since that day it has always been Bob out in front, with Kathy delicately steering their ship in the background, the solid anchor of a man who, from afar, looks tossed in tumultuous seas.

“I thought when I met him, and I still do, that he's a really kind person,” Kathy Corradi said. “He's gentle. He's understanding. Bob is very easy to talk to. He listens and he makes good decisions.”

If you know him from a distance, perhaps just from his antics as a baseball coach or have watched him in conversation, with arms flailing and thoughts flying a mile a minute, your perception may be a little different.

If that's how you know him – and many do – then you really don't know the real Bob Corradi, the athletic director and public face of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, the Buccaneers' baseball coach who will be honored Tuesday for his 40 seasons in the dugout on the Taylor's Point campus.

And the husband who will celebrate his 44th wedding anniversary in August (don't ask him the date), and the father of two successful children, and the grandfather of four.

Kathy has been part of his life since that day they first met at UMass. Their son, Steven, now 42, and daughter, Alison, 40, are grown up with lives and children of their own, so who better to tell the story of Bob Corradi. Certainly no one knows him better than his family and friends.

 

Family and athletics: A shared journey

Bob Stead, the former Dennis-Yarmouth coach and Cape Cod Baseball League manager and commissioner, was a college fraternity brother of Corradi's when the senior met Kathy, a freshman.

“He swept her right off her feet,” Stead said. “The personality and effervescence he has now didn't happen overnight. Even then he was a people person.”
Bob Corradi remembers well.

“It was tough for her family to accept me. Here was this crazy kid wanting to go out with their daughter. But she has been the glue in our family. She's something special.”

Bob is the only child of Nick and Mary Corradi, with whom he shared very close relationships. A star athlete at Bourne High, he returned to the Cape after graduating from UMass and taught and coached three sports at Lawrence High of Falmouth. He worked nights and weekends at his parents' package store on Route 6A in Sandwich.

Kathy was one of five children. After her days at UMass, she married Bob in 1968. Thus began a journey shared with each other and with the world of athletics.

Steve was born 14 months after they were married, when Bob was at a football camp in New Hampshire.

“He came down to visit and went back the same day,” Kathy said.

Two years later, Alison arrived. By then, Bob was the head baseball coach, and an assistant football coach at Massachusetts Maritime.

In the years that followed, seeing the Corradi kids playing around the gym and dugouts was a familiar site on campus. It remained so until Steve and Alison became involved in their activities.

That's when the conflict between coaching other families' kids and raising your own came into play, a dilemma all coaches face.

“Sometimes it's been difficult,” Kathy said. “If Bob has a game and the kids have something going on, it's tough. I think, especially now with the grandchildren, it's harder for my children to understand.”

Family is important to Bob. He cherished his parents and visited them every day in the nursing home in which they resided their last few years. He adores his wife, children and grandchildren, and sees them whenever possible.

This is readily apparent when he speaks of Kathy, of Steve and of Alison.

And yet the lure of coaching has been strong enough to keep him at MMA all these years.

Former MMA head football coach Don Ruggeri, Corradi's friend of many years, retired 11 years ago and loves every minute of it.

“Bob is committed to his family,” Ruggeri said. “I keep asking him when he's going to give (coaching) up. Life's too short.”

 

‘All my life there's been that tension'

That is the conundrum. All coaches try to find that delicate balance between their families at home and their families in the locker room.

In addition to coaching baseball at MMA since 1973, Corradi coached many summers with Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball teams, and until last year was an assistant football coach at the academy.

“There has to be some lingering resentment because I spent so much time at MMA,” Bob said.

Steve was a star athlete at Sandwich High and went to UMass on a hockey scholarship. He now married, a Connecticut state trooper and father of a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.

Alison was also a top athlete at Sandwich and went to Boston College on a field hockey scholarship. She was an associate athletic director for compliance at BC before deciding to concentrate on motherhood. Married, she has two sons ages 8 and 5.

“Alison asked me to come up to Boston for lunch,” Bob said. “She asked me if I'd be disappointed if she gave up her career. When I asked her why, she said, ‘I just want to be a mom. You can't be both.' All my life there's been that tension.”

“My dad has been coaching 40 years and I'm 40,” Alison said. “It's always been a way of life. It can also be frustrating. The MMA schedule was our schedule.

“When we were trying to plan our wedding – we wanted a spring wedding – but we had to do it after baseball season and couldn't do it in the fall because of football,” Alison said. “So we had a June wedding. He had to miss MMA graduation that day.

“It must have been challenging for my mom. Now I see that with my own kids' activities. My mom did an amazing job keeping us all together, getting us to where we had to be.”

Still, said Alison, MMA was like an extended family, a constant positive in their lives. As she got older, she realized just how far the Corradi name traveled.

“As soon as anyone heard my name, it was, ‘Oh, you're Bob Corradi's kid.' I enjoyed it. I was proud of it. I didn't feel any extra pressure when people were watching me play. When I was working in college athletics, it was nice so many people knew my dad.

“Looking back, the academy brought our family together,” Alison said. “My grandparents would be at the games with us. I think that kind of sums it up: Buc baseball, our family, our life.”

Said Steve: “He was a great father. Extremely competitive. Our life always revolved around his coaching and getting my sister and me to our athletic events.

“My mother stopped working to get us to where we had to be. My dad spent every spare moment taking us all over the places, to different camps and games.”

Young Steve grew up around dugouts and football fields. He'd sneak into the batting cage at the end of practice, and was bat boy in baseball and ball boy in football.

When he got older, he played baseball for his dad on a Senior Babe Ruth team that advanced to the World Series.

“Tough but good,” was how he described his father as a coach. “I've got a lot of fond memories and no regrets.”

The Corradi children saw what their father preached to his teams and try to live and raise children the same way. It is a legacy to them they will never forget.

“Be a good student-athlete,” Steve said. “Be a class act. Be polite and professional. Have a good work ethic. Hard work will pay off.

“Everything was sports when Alison and I were growing up. That's his life and that's what he knows. There's nothing wrong with that. Alison and I turned out all right.”

Life is different with the grandkids.

“He'd rather play sports with them, but he'll do other things,” Steve said.

The sight of Bob Corradi on a swing might bring a smile to your face, but he's a grandfather now. He's getting a second opportunity to expand his horizons.

“He's definitely more comfortable playing sports with my kids, but my kids are relentless,” Alison said. “They've taught him an awful lot about Star Wars.”

Steve says a lot of what his father taught him resonates when he's trying to teach his kids.

“But if my children want to play Legos, or do puzzles or go fishing, that's what we do.”

 

‘Other people don't get to see ... the loving side'

Kathy Corradi doesn't like a lot of attention. She prefers to stay out of the spotlight, but understands she's married to a public figure on the Cape Cod sports scene.

“He was a strict parent – hard but compassionate,” she said. “Other people don't get to see the kind side. The loving side.”

Bob starts nearly every day by going to Mass. He's an emotional man who easily fills with tears.

“He's overwhelmed by the patch MTC40 (the initials of his mother, who died last fall, and 40 noting his years as baseball coach) worn on MMA's uniforms. He called me and cried when he found out.

“He is embarrassed by the attention this spring,” Kathy added, and knows he'll be uncomfortable at Tuesday's celebration, titled “For Pride, For Passion, For Love of the Game: Celebrating 40 Seasons with Coach C.”

Kathy spoke of how supportive Bob was when her late mom's multiple sclerosis grew worse. And how when her father was near death, Bob raced to the Avon Old Farms school in Connecticut to pick Steve up and bring him home so he could see his grandfather one final time.

She shared stories of his three Corvette sports cars and their garage that resembles a shrine to NASCAR, a passion that rivals his love of coaching.

Bob, she said, is to put it mildly, reluctant to embrace modern technology.

“He's not into computers or cellphones. He writes out his email answers long hand and gives them to his secretary to email.”

Bob is a homebody, but not a handyman. He doesn't like to go out, but he will take me anywhere. It's tough, though, because people always want to talk to him.”

Kathy said many wedding anniversaries were spent with Bob coaching at baseball tournaments, including one at the Senior Babe Ruth World Series in Kinston, N.C.

Of course, with Bob's memory for important dates ...

“Actions say more than flowers,” she said.

Through it all, she is truly devoted to this unique man.

 

40 years and counting, but how many more?

It has been an eventful 40 years coaching baseball at the academy. For the record, 68-year-old Bob Corradi has 535 career victories – though more came in the first 15 seasons than in his last 25 because the cadet's winter cruise cut into preseason workouts. And strict academic requirements limit the pool of recruits.

But the question now being asked by his family, his friends, his colleagues is when – or will? – he retire as a coach? And will his overactive personality allow him to?

“He's winding down,” his son said. “The first step was (giving up) football last fall. He wants to get guys in place so he can slowly step away. This could be his last year of baseball. I think he'll stick around as athletic director for another year or two.”

This may be hopeful speculation on Steve's part. He admits his dad hasn't told him anything specific.

Kathy said she and Bob have discussed his retirement. They keep coming back to the key question: What would he do? What could take the place of MMA athletics?

For his part, Rear Adm. Richard Gurnon, president of the academy, doesn't know how much longer Corradi will be his baseball coach. He recalled recently reading a research piece on identity in which 100 men and 100 women were asked to describe themselves in one word.

“All 100 men wrote their occupation – journalist, pilot, administrator.

“All of the women described themselves – compassionate, motherly, patient, kind, obedient, thrifty. They used descriptive terms about their personality. All of the men described themselves in their job,” Gurnon said.

“When a guy gives up his job, he loses a big chunk of who he thinks he is. It's really hard to do it. So I don't know if Bob will do it. He so loves coaching.”

And he's good at it. Stead called Corradi one of the three greatest coaches he's seen; Bill Livesey and Red Wilson were the others.

Ruggeri called Corradi loyal and giving, the first one there if someone needs help.
John Muldoon, athletic director and football coach at Pope John Paul II High School in Hyannis, played baseball on one of Corradi's American Legion Post 188 teams.

“I was 17 when I first met him,” Muldoon said. “He came driving into the parking lot in whatever that car was he had and blasting AC/DC. I thought he was crazy. He just amazed me.

“In the first five minutes he had us put our hats on correctly and started teaching us baseball.”

Corradi helped Muldoon get into Massasoit Community College and then into MMA, where he played baseball and football.

The two had their conflicts. During a Florida baseball trip his junior year, Muldoon and a teammate got into a scuffle and had to be separated by teammates. Corradi sent both home. The other player left the team. Muldoon took his punishment.

“A three-game suspension,” Muldoon said.

“I begged him to take me back. He said ‘serve the suspension and show me you deserve to be part of this team.' That was a big eye-opener for me. It changed my attitude about life and commitment.”

After Muldoon returned, the suspension was never mentioned again. Muldoon was named team captain his senior season.

“He helped me become what I am today,” Muldoon said. “Whenever I have a decision to make, I call my father and I call Bob Corradi. We talk every week. Other than my mother and father, I don't think there has been a bigger influence in my life.”

Muldoon said during his wedding reception, there was a commotion dwarfing all the music and people dancing.

Corradi had just won a hand of liar's poker against a group of people Muldoon's mother had grown up with.

“They were best friends by the end of the night,” Muldoon said.

Corradi stole the show later in the reception with his Mick Jagger impression. Turns out the old coach is also a rabid Rolling Stones fan.

 

A legacy of Buc ball: giving your best effort

Gurnon came to the academy in 1978, where he joined Corradi in the ranks of company officer. Gurnon was a product of the Naval Academy and Navy Pilot School and Corradi was, well he was Bob Corradi, Bourne High and the University of Massachusetts.

“On the surface,” Gurdon said, “it appeared that this was a regimented military-style school, but as soon as you went below the surface it was Animal House. Corradi was actually personification of that dichotomy.

“On the ballfield as a coach he was incredibly disciplined. Not in his manner, but in his training, in his instruction, in the way he organized and formed his team in the preparation. He was military precision.

“Buc baseball was something he invented,” Gurnon said. “He knew he didn't have Division I players, he knew he frequently didn't have anyone who could punch the ball over the fence when he needed it, he knew he didn't have pitchers who could throw heat. So he organized a team that was built on fundamentals and lots of little plays that ended up winning the game more often than not.

“He was incredibly disciplined when in a baseball uniform, and almost clownish in a military uniform. He didn't know when to salute, how to salute.

“He didn't know how to dress himself. He didn't know what uniform piece went together and what didn't.”

So how has Bob Corradi lasted for so long at Massachusetts Maritime Academy?

“He is a truly great coach and he is really good with kids,” Gurnon said. “That's what made him so valuable.

“He has been supremely successful at building teams with an identity that is focused on doing your best and making it work. They are devoted to him.

“I think his legacy will be thousands of people out there who understand Buc ball. Who understand hustle. Who understand giving your best effort all the time regardless that you are David going up against Goliath.”

 

‘All I wanted to do is coach and make a difference'

Bob Corradi is sitting in the press box above Clean Harbors Stadium, his pride and joy. The expansive views of the two fields, the academy campus and the Cape Cod Canal are impressive. Yes, there are tears in his eyes.

“This is my entire life,” he said. “I go to Mass in the morning and then I come here. I am so poorly organized about where I go from here.

“I have never given much thought to leaving MMA. The day it comes, I'll deal with it.

“It's funny, I never wanted to be athletic director. Jack Aylmer (then school president) called me into his office and said he thought I would be a good one. I didn't want it.

“All I love to do is coach. All I ever wanted was to be on the Buccaneers sideline or in the Buccaneers dugout, and to make a difference.”