Originally published July 9, 2012.
A few weeks ago at a local restaurant a waitress approached Ed Waters, of Huntington, and inquired if he knew somebody.
Waters was familiar with the individual and also with the fact that this individual had once played Police Athletic League (PAL) Baseball in Huntington, which Waters has been affiliated with for quite some time.
"And she said," Waters recalls, "‘Well, he told me that you're his idol.'"
Welcome to life as Ed Waters.
Waters, 67, has been affiliated with PAL Baseball in Huntington for almost 30 years, spending 24 as a coach and the last four as the league's statistician, trophy-handler and all-around figurehead.
For Waters, his affiliation with PAL Baseball began when his children first expressed interest in playing.
"I got five kids," Waters says. "Three of 'em's boys. They got to the age where they wanted to play baseball. So, I started following them first and then I thought, ‘Well, now, surely I can coach.' So, I got into coaching. And I just never ended it."
Waters estimates that he's coached at least 200 children. Moments like the one in the restaurant are commonplace, with Waters running into former players on a regular basis.
"It's really intriguing to be in a store or even out there and somebody walks up and starts talking to you and it's one of your former players, but you don't even recognize 'em, and you have to ask them what their name is, and then (you think) ‘Oh, yeah! That kid was on my team,'" Waters says.
The soft-spoken approach Waters took to coaching likely helped foster the good will that exists between him and former players today.
"One thing I hate to see is a coach screaming and hollering and tearing kids up one side and down the other," Waters says. "I was never like that. I always tried to teach kids and coach 'em so that when I'm talking to them I'm putting them on the same level I am. I don't like to be treated like some dog out here running down the street; I want respect. And I figure if I want respect then I should give them respect."
A love for working with kids and a belief in the mission of PAL Baseball have, ultimately, been the keys to Waters' long affiliation with the program.
"If they're coached properly," Waters says, "through that impact with others, it teaches those kids how to be responsible adults, eventually."
Waters cites strong leadership within the PAL as being one of the reasons his run with the program has been such an enjoyable one.
"I have had some of the best PAL presidents to work with," he says. "These people that are out there now are really top-notch. They are some of the best that there is. Tom and Matt Hughes, they really know how to run a program."
For Tom Hughes, secretary-treasurer of the PAL, the appreciation is mutual.
"Well, I think Ed's an institution now," he says. "He's been here for three decades. He coached. He's been doing this job for the last, I think, three or four, maybe even five years. He comes out no matter what - it's 90, 100 degrees or if it's 50. He's here for every game, every season."
After being involved with PAL Baseball for so long, is the end anywhere in sight for Waters?
"Well, I've told them out there I wasn't coming back different times and they said, ‘You have to. You're part of the program,'" he says. "So, they're already talking this year about my involvement next year."
For Waters, it's the interaction with former players that remains one of the best things about the experience.
"It's really, to me, rewarding to have kids that you never even coached to walk up and they start talking to you and you just know that you've made some type of an impact in their life," he says.