Little League coach marks 40 years of service
Most people don’t do any one thing for 40 years. But in 1978, Dave Milsom’s volunteer coaching career at Newark American Little League began. Nearly 40 years later, he’s still managing the same team and on Monday night, Newark Mayor Polly Sierer read a proclamation at a city council meeting recognizing Milsom for his years of service.
“When I got a call from the mayor’s office about the award, my first reaction was to say, ‘No thanks,’” Milsom, 75, said with a laugh. “I was reluctant. I’m not really big on publicity. I’m not a headline seeker.”
Milsom’s volunteer tenure at Newark American began in 1978.
“When my son, Dave Jr., turned 8 years old I took him and signed him up,” Milsom recalled. “Someone there knew me and said, ‘There’s a guy who can coach. We need a coach.’ He recruited me and signed me up.”
In 1981, when his son moved onto the majors division, Milsom became the manager of the Delaware Tire Orioles. Then, when his son aged out of Little League, Milsom decided to stay on as the manager of the Orioles and has served in that role ever since.
“I enjoyed doing it and to be honest with you it got, easier,” Milsom said. “The hardest thing to do is coach your own kid. It’s hard on you and hard on your kid.”
Milsom didn’t play organized baseball as a kid because there was no Little League back in the 1950s. Instead, he fell in love with the game the old fashioned way – playing in the sandlots.
“I wasn’t very good because I had a vision problem,” he admitted. “It’s tough to play baseball when you have trouble seeing the ball.”
After graduating from Conrad High School in 1959, Milsom took a job at NVF in Kennett Square. He and his wife, Dot, eventually moved to Newark where they raised their two children – Dave Jr. and daughter Doria – and he made the decision to volunteer with Newark American.
“I just enjoy it. It’s my hobby,” he said. “I like getting out and staying active. I enjoy seeing new kids come in and progress and grow and leave as teenagers.”
Milsom has also served in several other volunteer roles during his tenure.
“I’ve done just about everything, except be president,” said Milson, who has spent the majority of his 40 years also serving in some role on the league board of directors.
Volunteering is a commitment that often brings with it family sacrifices. And although Dot doesn’t volunteer at Newark American – “Her hobbies are other things,” Milsom said – she was on hand for one very special night.
“We had a game the day of our 50th anniversary, and it was a weeknight,” Milsom reminisced. “I convinced her that after 50 years we could celebrate on another day. Our team mother organized [an on-field celebration] and had both of us come on the field before the game. They gave us a gift card for a dinner, flowers for Dot and announced the anniversary. That was it. Play ball!”
“We did take a long weekend and went to Annapolis a few days later,” he added, smiling.
Milsom has seen many changes in youth baseball over the years, but none as significant as the type of bats used today by kids of all ages.
“When I started we had wooden bats, and now they’ve involved into these super bats,” Milsom explained. “Little kids are hitting it out of the park.”
The number of home runs hit this upcoming season might decrease because the rule concerning bats has been altered and Milsom, for one, is glad to see the change.
“Little League has a new rule that has banned all these high-performance bats,” he said. “Still not back to wooden, but they pretty much feel and sound like wood. It’s a safety issue for pitchers. Batters hit the ball so hard, line drives hit right back at the pitcher are dangerous. It’s a major change, but I think it’s a good one.”
The other major change during his 40 years has nothing to do with the technology of equipment.
“The league has shrunk,” he pointed out. “When I started, we had eight teams in the majors division and now we are down to four. I just think there are fewer kids in the area. The kids in the developments we serve have grown up and moved away.”
Despite the decrease in numbers, Milsom still finds satisfaction in his role.
“I have enjoyed seeing new kids come in and progress and grow and leave as teenagers,” he said with a hint of emotion in his voice. “I’ve seen them become doctors and lawyers and have other successful careers.”
Milsom has no plans of ending his favorite volunteer activity anytime soon.
“It’s enjoyable, and you meet a lot of good people,” he said. “The parents, players, umpires and other coaches. It’s a nice circle of friends you end up making.”
And in Milsom’s case – generations of friends.
Dave Milsom Sr. has volunteered for Newark American Little League for nearly 40 years.