Faculty Members Celebrated for Lasting Bonds With 'Challenger' Players

Published 08.26.2013

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From the welding faculty member whose after-hours responsiveness "saved the day" to the business professor whose tireless advocacy has contributed to the all-inclusiveness of the Little League Baseball World Series, Pennsylvania College of Technology helped the Challenger Division shine during its day in the South Williamsport sun.

Matthew W. Nolan and Greg WarringtonPenn College faculty member Steven J. Moff, who would be presented with the W. Howard Hartman Little League Friendship Award at Volunteer Stadium on Saturday morning, said Friday evening wasn't looking nearly as celebratory.

A threat in the field and on the basepaths, Warrington is unchallenged by crutches.In the midst of spending time with this year's Challenger participants from Illinois and California, arranging field and museum tours, organizing a picnic and generally sweating the details of the following morning's exhibition game, Moff learned that a boy on the San Francisco-area team had broken his aluminum crutch.

"It was like a ski pole snapped in half," he said, adding that the young third-baseman, a speedy "fireball" named Greg Warrington, was despondent at the prospect of missing Saturday's big event.

"He was lying in the grass, all bummed out," Moff said, adding that promises to get it fixed somehow – duct tape, a visit to the hardware store, whatever – did little to make Warrington feel better.

Warrington and Penn College President Davie Jane GilmourFortunately for everyone, Moff still had Matthew W. Nolan's number in his cellphone. A technology management student from Williamsport who took the professor's Principles of Management class over the summer, Nolan serendipitously is also a welding lecturer in Penn College's School of Industrial, Computer & Engineering Technologies.

After a brief round of phone tag, the two men connected.

"He said, 'I just got home, but I'll come in and weld it,'" said Moff, who met Nolan on campus and held the crutch steady for the initial bond.

"I took a deep breath and asked for a little strength from 'the guy upstairs,'" Nolan said, 'to direct my training into what needed to be done."

"I went back to the teams and Matt stayed in the lab to finish the job," Moff said. "Within 45 minutes, it was totally fixed."

Except for the "quality control" part, that is. After Moff left, the welder said he took the crutch in both hands and put it over his knee – much like someone trying to break a stick – to make sure his repair was solid. Once he was satisfied, he crossed the river to the Little League picnic area to return the crutch to Warrington.

"(Greg) gave me a big hug and ran through the grass; his father thanked me," Nolan said. Smiles all around, of course, perhaps the most valuable repayment there is for a job well-done.

The full impact didn't hit until Sunday night, when, while reading that day's Williamsport Sun-Gazette, he saw a Page D-7 photo of Warrington sliding into home – the crutch extended, clearly revealing a craftsman's proud handiwork.

"Most of what I weld is either encased in concrete or buried under the ground," said Nolan, who holds degrees in welding (Williamsport Area Community College, 1987) and occupational therapy assistant (Penn College, 1996). "Seeing exactly where that weld repair was – that was the best feeling."

A medical-supply business in Lewisburg delivered a spare pair in time for the exhibition game, but it was Warrington's Penn College-repaired crutch that carried him onto the field Saturday to recite the player's pledge and enjoy the day with his teammates.

"I'll tell you what: I've welded thousands of railroad cars, buildings from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, bomb carriers for the Army," Nolan said. "By far, this young man's crutch is the highlight of my welding career."

The Challenger exhibition game included such celebrities as former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and "Subway guy" Jared Fogle; it might just be Nolan, though, who gets top billing in the scrapbook.

"For this little boy and his family, he saved the day," Moff said. "(Greg) was so happy; it was just great."

Steven J. Moff, with Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League InternationalW. Howard Hartman Award
Before teams from Illinois and California took the field for this year' s Challenger exhibition game, Moff – a professor of business administration, management and marketing in the School of Business & Hospitality – was presented with a surprise recognition of his volunteer service to Little League.

Moff began volunteering with the Challenger Division when his children started to participate in the local program. In 2001, one of his sons played in the inaugural Challenger exhibition at the Little League Baseball World Series, and he has been a tireless organizer of the game ever since.

Award in hand, Moff is congratuated by the college president and chair of the Little League International Board of Directors.“Steve has a passion for the Challenger Division and has worked closely with us to grow the program locally and make the Challenger game at the Little League Baseball World Series a great experience,” said Sam Ranck, Little League Challenger Division director (and a 2006 graduate of Penn College's business management major).

In addition to organizing the on-field activities for the exhibition game, Moff volunteers his time to orchestrate other local tours, practices, picnics and activities to make sure that the participating Challenger teams have a great World Series experience while in South Williamsport. Among those he organizes are a group of volunteers from the School of Business & Hospitality, which this year included about a dozen students who helped serve food at the Friday picnic, as well as a Saturday lunch.

The W. Howard Hartman Little League Friendship Award was created in 1988 to honor one of Little League International’s most generous and loyal friends. The award is presented annually to an individual or organization who has demonstrated a similar relationship with Little League.

Photos by Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist/photographer;
Fred Gilmour, alumnus/retired faculty member;
Steven J. Moff and Little League Baseball