RT Staff Note: Coach Palmer is the standard by which all coaches should strive to achieve. It's not about ego's, or a my team is better than your team attitude. It's about the players. He will be sorely missed in the Northern Illinois area.
By GEORGE M. WILCOX firstname.lastname@example.org
BASEBALL -- Donald "Bill" Palmer coached the Lakeside Cardinals travel baseball team for 17 years, but he didn't always keep track of his team's record or scores during the summer.
Palmer's coaching style wasn't about winning. Palmer's goal was try to place as many of his players, usually ages 17-18, as possible with college baseball programs.
Palmer, 69, a Glenview resident, died Saturday after suffering a heart attack.
Palmer also founded the Niles Braves travel team for 15-16 year olds in the mid-1990s. He did everything for the Lakeside Cardinals, serving as general manager, equipment manager, coach and part-time groundskeeper for the team's practice field at Niles West.
"(I'll remember) his unwavering loyalty to the players on his team," said Cardinals assistant coach Mike Fries, whose son Daniel, a Notre Dame senior, played for Palmer last summer. "He would do anything for any of them to help them play college ball."
Another Notre Dame senior, Matt Moran, was awarded the game ball by Palmer in the Cardinals' final game of the fall season at a tournament in Lombard in late October. Moran credited Palmer with turning the defensive-minded outfielder-second baseman into a hitter after playing for Palmer during the summer and fall. Moran went 4-for-4 to end the tournament.
"I remember how excited he was," said Moran, a Chicago resident. "After the game, he brought the team together and gave me the game ball. The day I got the call (about his death), I was holding that ball just a few hours earlier."
The Cardinals featured players from across the North Shore and northwest suburbs. His final summer team consisted of players as far away as Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect. He coached brothers and even players that did not make their varsity high school team. Matt Moran played last summer with his older brother Joe, an Augustana College player.
Wilmette's Jack Havey, a Northwestern freshman and 2009 Loyola graduate, played for Palmer after his older brother Matt played for the Cardinals four years earlier. The Havey brothers played for Palmer for a combined six years.
"It's devastating. He was a great coach," Jack Havey said. "Most coaches these days treat baseball like it's a profit for them. Coach loved the game and loves seeing his players improve."
Havey said Palmer met with each player during the season to discuss college plans. The Cardinals, which did not play any home games, spent nearly every weekend during the summer traveling to tournaments at college campuses so Palmer's players could gain maximum exposure in front of college coaches. The 2009 Cardinals played summer tournaments at Northwestern, Bloomington, Ill., Northern Illinois and at Butler University in Indianapolis.
Several of his players also signed professional contracts.
Havey's mother, Rita, said Palmer was one of three veteran coaches, including Norwood Blues coach Rich Pildes and Northbrook Braves American Legion coach Mitch Stewart, who made their players a priority first.
"There are very few coaches left like him in the area coaching that age," Rita Havey said. "He did it for all the right reasons. He did it for the love of the game and he did it for the kids. There was not money to be made for Bill Palmer."
A service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Matthew Episcopal Church in Evanston.