Growing up, every kid has a few adults that they are able to connect with on a different level. A level different than their teachers or parents- someone who is generally interested in their well-being and success, but isn’t going to judge or punish them on the things they do wrong. Somebody with experience in the “real world.” A confidant. A friend.
Mike Tipi was that friend for me and many, many other kids growing up in Fairmont, West Virginia. The kids were always first. Through the youth football and baseball leagues, he was always lending a helping hand to anyone who needed it. He understood how important positive encouragement was to a child growing up- if he saw a coach screaming at a kid, he would always make sure to seek them out after a game and make sure that they knew that he was rooting for them. He saw through the parents’ favoritism bullshit and treated every kid the same way- with respect. He was that kind of guy.
I was lucky enough not only to be one of those kids he pulled aside after the game, but to work beside Mike for four seasons at Fairmont Little League. In 2011 I decided that high school baseball wasn’t for me, but I still wanted to be involved in the game in some capacity. Mike heard that I had quit midseason and gave me a call and asked if I wanted to work with him announcing games and keeping score.
We spent many a night together in our perch in Tipi’s Tower. I learned a lot about baseball, and a lot about life. One of my favorite memories of Mike is the pair of binoculars he kept in the press box. He’d always tell me he was using them to check the score on another field, but when any of the coaches would come upstairs and inquired, he’d say he was “using them to check out your wife.” Some of the looks we got were incredible.
For four years he worked around my schedule, telling me to tell him when I could work and just work the rest. He would call me after almost every game to check the scores and to see who was doing well so he could stay up to date. He always made sure we got paid every night, even if someone had told me they didn’t have the money to pay me. He was just always looking out for me- and everyone else, too.
After every game he’d invite me to the High Life Lounge to play video slot machines with him. I’d delightfully remind him that I was only 17, but when I was 21 I’d take him up on the offer. I never got the chance.
Mike died Thursday, June 4th. He will never be forgotten by me, his family, and all of the friends he made while just trying to help the kids grow. He was a gentleman, a true East Sider, and a friend. I am sad, but I am also happy for Mike- he now gets an unobstructed view of all the moms around the world. I know he is happy about that.
Rest in Peace buddy, I love you. Thanks for everything.