Rick Funck named to Hall of Fame

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By John Bernhardt
For retired Margaretville baseball coach Rick Funck, it never really was about the wins or losses. Sure, Funck, wanted to win. But, at the end of the day it was the thanks Funck received from his players and the fact that his guys came out of each season playing better baseball than they had when the season started that really mattered to Funck.

Funck, who coached varsity baseball for 27 years at Margaretville, was inducted into the Delaware League’s Coaches Hall of Fame between games at Friday night’s Crossover Championships in SUNY Delhi.

Like many guys of his generation, Funck’s love for baseball began while playing catch with his dad in the backyard when he was a kid.

First taste of coaching
Funck joined the MCS teaching staff in 1976 to teach high school mathematics. Before moving to MCS, Funck taught for one-and-a-half years at Gilboa and for one season he assisted Wildcat coach Roger Carroll manage the Varsity baseball team. Funck’s love for the game solidified.

Two years after joining the MCS staff, Funck tried his hand at umpiring. Funck wore the umpire’s blue until Margaretville’s longtime coach and Athletic Director Al Nelson pulled him aside after school one day and asked if Funck might consider coaching the Blue Devils’ varsity baseball team.
Nelson made only one promise. He told Funck he’d inherit a young team, a team that hadn’t won a game the previous year, but a team made up of guys who were eager and enthusiastic and loved to play the game. Nelson promised Funck that, win or lose, he would have fun coaching this team.
Funck accepted Nelson’s challenge and he learned Nelson was good on his word. Funck’s first team in 1984 didn’t win too many baseball games, but the new Margaretville coach had a blast. The fun continued each spring for Funck through good times and bad as he became Margaretville’s “Ambassador of Baseball” for 26 additional seasons.

Funck remembers that first team fondly. His catcher that year was Joe Dabritz. Mark Thienel was the starting pitcher backed up by Brian Neer who played first base when he wasn’t on the mound. Paul DeSilva was Funck’s third baseman.

Big celebration
“Our first win came against South Kortright. You would have thought we’d won the World Series,” Funck laughed remembering the moment.

That group would go on to win Funck’s first baseball championship the following year when they won the Delaware League’s Upper Division crown.

After his 1985 title run, the late 1980s were lean years for baseball at Margaretville. MCS instituted a track program at that time spreading available athletes between three sports — baseball, tennis and track. Baseball numbers dropped and the result was felt in the Blue Devils’ win/loss record.

Baseball was part of an overall athletic boom in the early and mid-1990s. For three consecutive years from 1992-93 through 1994-1995 Margaretville teams were Delaware League soccer, basketball and baseball champions. During the first year of that run, Funck remembers Neil Griffin’s explosive three home run performance in the DL championship game when his Blue Devils toppled SK in a game played in Stamford.

Perhaps, Funck’s most memorable Margaretville baseball moment came in his final Delaware League game coaching for the Blue Devils. Margaretville was battling Jefferson in the 2011 championship game with the Blue Devils down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Going out a champion
With only two outs remaining, Margaretville pitcher Patrick O’Connell blasted a double to deep right center field. O’Connell’s long blast shook up Jefferson’s pitcher Tyler Dibble who walked Jon Fairbairn on four pitches. When the Jefferson coach John Torino called time out to go to the mound and try to calm Dibble, Funck held a conference with O’Connell.

The Margaretville coach directed O’Connell to pick his pitch and insisted no matter how he did it, O’Connell needed to steal third base. After his chat, Funck sent a wordless signal to Fairbairn to follow his teammate’s lead.

The double steal was accomplished and when Jake Brophy’s soft flare fell on the outfield grass just inside the foul line beyond the infield, both runners scored. Funck’s last Margaretville team took the DL crown.

The Hall of Fame coach’s baseball career has come full circle, as he enjoys his current baseball moments assisting the varsity coach at Roxbury Central School as he assisted Roger Carroll in Gilboa so many years ago. Only this time Funck is working for his son, Greg. True to his word, Rick Funck proves once again his love for baseball is about much more than wins and losses.