WESTFIELD, NJ — Winning even just one varsity baseball game as a coach certainly isn’t an easy task. But after serving as the Westfield High School varsity baseball head coach since 1983, Bob Brewster has now done so a staggering 601 times. He reached the career milestone of 600 in a 1-0 win against Cranford Thursday.
“If you coach a long time, there’s going to be a lot of milestones and one of the things that I always wanted to do is win twice as many games as you lose,” Brewster said. “In the major leagues that’s 108-54 which will win your division every time in the major leagues. So my goal is actually to win two out of every three games, and if you coach long enough those other numbers will fall into place as time goes on.”
Brewster has almost met his goal with a 601-306-3 record during his coaching tenure. After playing football and baseball in college, Brewster began coaching football for his first two years as a teacher before coming to Westfield. Here, he began coaching the baseball team, as well as being a football assistant, and the latter he gave up about 10 years ago due to medical situations. He continues to teach science at WHS.
“It’s amazing,” senior third basemen Victor Cruz said of Brewster’s milestone. “Obviously, he’s been here a long time and he’s put in a lot of hard work and dedication into the program, and as you can see it’s paying off. I’m just happy to be a part of the team that did it for him.”
Brewster has enjoyed a lot of success in the postseason, as well. His favorite memories include a run in 2011 when the team won five straight state tournament games in their last at bats to make it to the state finals, and the stretch from 1994-1997 that makes them stand alone as the only team ever to win four consecutive Union County Championships in baseball.
“What was amazing was we did it with four different pitchers,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll get one pitcher who can win a couple because he’s that good, but we had four different guys, so I thought that was pretty impressive.”
Senior infielder Matt LaCorte took a year off from baseball to focus on basketball, and was grateful for Brewster’s faith in him as a player as he returned this season.
“Just me taking a break I thought was going to hinder my ability to play and even just from a coaching standpoint, I didn’t think he was going to play me as much as he did,” LaCorte said. “I’m really honored that he had so much confidence in me.”
Cruz has noticed Brewster’s impact on both himself as a player and the program as a whole.
“He’s done a lot of things for me,” Cruz said. “Just having coached me for the past two years and even when I wasn’t on the varsity team, he gives off an aura throughout the program that’s positive.”
One of the biggest challenges Brewster said he faces as a coach doesn’t have to do directly with the game itself.
“We live in the Northeast, so we could be outside on an 80 degree day and the next day it could be snowing,” Brewster said. “So, you have to be very patient as a coach … there was a time we were outside for a week and it was really nice and all the sudden we were inside for 10 days. We have to be very creative in scheduling practice indoors because it’s just not where you normally play, so from that standpoint it’s tough sometimes.”
The most rewarding part of the job for Brewster has been seeing what his players have gone on to do.
“I think it’s the fact that a lot of the players I have coached have gone on to play at the next level and that there are a number of kids who themselves went into coaching,” he said. “Somewhere in there, it’s the family, plus maybe a little influence from myself that allowed them [to do it], even right here at the high school. Kenny Miller’s my JV coach, and he played for me. Jay Cook helps out. He played for me. Jimmy McKeon played for me, and he’s coaching the freshmen.”
Through all of his success, Brewster is thankful for the players he’s been able to work with.
“I just think of baseball as being a three-hour classroom everyday, where you get to teach kids to improve on their skills and so on and so forth,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed at Westfield to have a lot of kids who are very dedicated and really work hard. A lot of them work all year round to make themselves better players, so I think that’s why we’ve had some success here at Westfield.”
Eric Storms is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.