A Tribute to King Gerry and the Fence Sitters

March 14, 2023

A Tribute to King Gerry and the Fence Sitters                      

A Tribute to King Gerry and the Fence Sitters                       March 2023                                                


Some years ago, I wrote a short piece for a local softball event that paid tribute to those unsung heroes of our game, the ones who never step on the field, the ones who rarely miss a game, any game, and the ones who both know the game and can critique a game with the best the game has ever seen on the diamond. Any player who has played at the major level knows all of these heroes, probably doesn’t know anyone by name but certainly says hi when they pass them around the screen, in the parking lot or walking around the park.


These unsung heroes are the ones I call the “fence sitters.” They are at the ballpark setting up behind home plate, or strategically down the fence lines; they come early and they stay late. They have “their” spots and you dare not sit in it by mistake. They are a well-prepared force of the game with their score cards, their coolers, umbrellas, snacks, and their totally biased opinions. They have the best in sun screen and their lawn chairs are a testament to knowing how to weather hour upon hour in a spot few would ever find comfort. These warriors nestle into their pack before the first pitch of the day and that is when the real game begins, the dissection of last night, the speculation for today and the critiquing of players and officials, the good, the bad and the ugly. The lucky few of them roll up in their tricked out 3 wheel scooters to marry comfort and mobility as they debate the game up and down the grandstands, some even cruising into the bench area to give opinion and advise to coaches and players on both sides of the diamond.


The ‘fence sitters” ask very little for their hours in the ballpark. What is important to all of them is to be rewarded with players showcasing their skills, running out balls every time, taking the extra base, sliding into bases where it warrants, subduing profanity and showing respect, never throwing bats or helmets. It really is not much to expect of grown men playing at the highest level.


In my nearly 6 decades in the great game of softball I have made many friends with the ‘fence sitter” team. These men and women are incredibly knowledgeable of the game, but they come from so many diverse backgrounds it simply amazes me how this game drew them together and kept them together for so long. Perhaps it is the beauty of the game itself that brings us all to a field of dreams so often.


The past year has been very hard on the ‘fence sitters” team. We have lost some of the true superstars of that lineup… Buddha said goodbye in the middle of the ISC World’s, his favourite tournament of the year; Tom Walker put out his last fire and left us last fall, and just a couple weeks ago Gerry O’Brien said goodbye to his family and more friends than any one human can possibly count. We all have our special memories of these special three and so many more we have lost over the years, I for one am so happy to have not only said hello to these guys but sat down and talked life, shared a drink or a laugh and enjoyed a friendship that truly touched my life.


When I was asked to induct Sean O’Brien into the ISC Hall of Fame I introduced him as being descended from royalty, one of three princely sons of King Gerry and Queen Mary, rulers of the magical song and dance isle of Newfoundland. Gerry was so happy that morning and I never saw him, or Mary, again without calling them King and Queen.

Gerry was perhaps the cleanup hitter of the “fence sitters.” He knew every player and how much they were being compensated. If you needed a championship ring or watch he had the best deal, just ask him to open his jacket and he would show you. He was the best oyster shucker, lobster cracker or mussel splitter in Newfoundland, really, he was just awesome at all of that. He loved to talk to players and coaches, thinking he could always find the best team and best reimbursement for Sean and Robbie…damn it I think he did ! He would always be following his boys to the ball yard with the Queen at his side, but he always stopped to talk to everyone he knew and that made watching the game a little tough. Sometimes he just didn’t have time to be a legitimate “fence sitter”.


One thing I did learn over the years was this, Gerry was no joke. He was a truly loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend. He spent 25 years as a Newfoundland fireman so you know he was dedicated, and as son Sean said of him “he was a tough old bastard.” If Gerry liked you, it was genuine, and his conversations were genuine albeit somewhat colourful and head scratching at times.


Gerry truly was one of a kind and he will be missed more than he would ever imagine. So too will our friends Buddha and Tom, and a host of others who have moved on to other games perhaps with no fences at all. Remember these guys when you are feeling down, you just know that will bring you a smile.


Do me one favour too, walk up and say hello to any of the “fence sitters” the next time you walk on a diamond or ball field. That is the other thing they really want from the game, a chance to talk to the players who they so love to watch perform…they just love being part of your team.



Larry Lynch


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