Mike Rooney is Eastern Jackson County’s version of amateur baseball royalty.
For the past 26 years, Rooney has managed the Blue Springs Rod’s Sport’s A’s, one of the top American Legion programs in the state.
Overall, he has been on the bench nearly five decades, as his coaching and managing career has spanned 46 seasons. And few have been more special than this summer, where his son Lance is the A’s first base coach and his grandson Brett is the team’s closer and outfielder.
The A’s are competing in the AAA American Legion Missouri State Tournament in Sedalia this weekend and Brett threw two shutout innings of relief in Thursday’s tough 8-5 loss to Jefferson City Post 5.
It might be the last time a very proud father and grandfather see the tougher-than-nails left-hander on the mound as he is about to say goodbye to baseball and hello to the United States Marine Corps.
“Brett is quite a young man,” said Mike Rooney, who has a reputation for being a tough, no-nonsense manager with a heart bigger than the trophy case it would take to hold all his teams’ medals and awards.
“He’s one of the most dedicated and hard-working young men I know. And I’m going to miss him – I’m going to miss managing him and being around him. He made the decision to go into the service and we will all back him all the way – but he could have played another year for the A’s ...”
Rooney’s voice trails off, and he manages a smile – despite his team’s loss and the thought of no longer managing his grandson.
“No matter what happens here at state, our season is winding down,” Rooney said. “And it’s tough at the end of each season to say goodbye to a group of young men who have become a part of your family. They probably spend more time with each other and our coaches than they do their families during the summer – but the last game this year is really going to be tough.
“I’m expecting a few tears.”
So is his son Lance, who was the only manager Brett ever knew before he joined the A’s three years ago.
“This season has meant so much to me and our family,” said Lance, battling his emotions. “I think Brett knows this is a huge deal for me and his grandpa, but he’s a kid who really doesn’t show lot of emotion.
“We’re making the most of every inning, of every game. It’s been an amazing season and amazing time – with my dad and Brett and me all part of the A’s.”
Away from the game, Brett is the type of young man any parent would be proud to call their own. He won the Academic Excellence Award all four years at Blue Springs High School, where he graduated cum laude.
He won the Academic Presidents Award in both high school and elementary school, attended a leadership camp in Virginia last summer and did over 70 hours of community service work while attending Blue Springs High School.
“This year has meant a lot to me,” Brett said. “Having my dad as a coach and grandpa as a manager is special. A lot of people might think it’s easy to have your grandpa as your manager, but it’s not. He’s tough on me, because he wants me to be a better player, and a better man.
“My dad was my coach from my days of T-ball all the way with through our Elks team, where I played until I got on the A’s team. And I enjoyed playing for him, too.
“I loved baseball for a long time. It’s a big part of our family and I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s time to move on. I think I could have played college ball, but I’m excited about joining the Marines. I tell my mom and dad I’m going to be fine, but I know they’re a little bit worried, but I’m looking forward to the next four years.”
When asked about his special memories, Brett takes a deep breath and pauses for a moment.
“You know, there’s nothing quite like getting a hit and getting pat on the back from my dad at first base,” he said, “or looking in the dugout and seeing my grandpa smile. Those are the things I think I’ll remember the most. Those are the best memories.”