Brothers support youth baseball

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Mike DuPre'
Sunday, January 20, 2008
— The magnetic message on Dave Ellis’ refrigerator urges: “Stop Me From Volunteering.”

It hasn’t worked. Not for Dave or his brother, Steve.

Both in their mid-50s, the Janesville residents have spent virtually their entire adult lives making sure local kids learn and play baseball.

And because they both played hard ball as boys in the program now known as Janesville Youth Baseball, they have been on or near the diamond just about their entire lives.

“Baseball is a thinking-man’s game,” said Steve, who is a year older than Dave. “I think it’s played from the neck up in a lot of instances.

“It’s a joy to watch the light bulbs go off in a kid’s head when they hit the cutoff man or throw to the right base.”

“That’s what’s fun about baseball,” Dave added. “On every single pitch, the game could change.”

The Ellis brothers have coached, managed, umpired, tended the grounds, sold concessions and served on the organization’s board.

Steve has served on the board in some capacity—including president—for 25 of the 35 adult years he’s been involved with youth baseball.

Currently president, Dave managed and coached for 13 years and is in his 12th year on the board. But the message on the fridge was prompted by more than baseball.

Dave also is deeply involved in CYO basketball, Craig High School Booster Club and the St. Mary’s Catholic Church parish council and choir.

Janesville firefighter Bob Schenck assumed the presidency of Youth Baseball from Steve and wound up ceding it to Dave.

“It would take two or three people for each of them,” Schenck said. “I don’t know if the program would survive—honestly. They seem never to get flustered, never to get angered. They’re always available.

“It’s not an easy position. You have 500 kids, 1,000 parents. You’re not going to please everyone.”

Asked his opinion of the brothers, Paul Aurit, another long-time Youth Baseball veteran, said: “Pick a word: history, common sense, fairness, energy, enthusiasm, knowledge.”

Both men praised their wives and families for supporting their volunteerism, but that didn’t stop Dave’s wife, Pat, from putting the “stop volunteering” admonition on the fridge.

Right after Pat put up the magnet, “I came home from the meeting as president,” Dave said. “I offered to give it up this year, but she re-thought it and said: ‘I know how much this means to you.’”

Steve’s experience as a boy is why he volunteers now.

“The program gave me an opportunity,” Steve explained. “In three years on the touring team, I went places I hadn’t gone before and met people who are still my friends.”

All their children have been involved in Youth Baseball in some way, including coaching and serving on the board.

“That’s pretty satisfying—when you see kids you coached come back into the program,” Steve said, referring not just to Ellis offspring but other young players who return to coach, ump or help out in some other way.

The brothers enjoy watching kids develop positive traits through baseball.

“Any team sport is designed to foster teamwork, sportsmanship, and hopefully, confidence,” Steve said.

Dave pointed out that Youth Baseball is citywide; teams aren’t chosen by geography or school.

“It’s not an east side-west side program,” he said, “so east-side kids hopefully make friends with west-side kids.”

Age: 55.
Community: Janesville.
Occupation: Loading vehicles for transport by Allied Automotive Group in Janesville.
Family: Wife, Pat; four children, Josh, 33, Jessica Van Horn, 25, Jeremy, 23, and Jordan, 17.
Favorite entertainment: “I never read and rarely watch TV, but I’m never without music.” His XM satellite radio usually is tuned to XM Café, which features singer/songwriters, and Top Tracks, a classic rock station.
Favorite food: “I’m kind of a steak guy.”
Favorite pastime: Working in the yard.
Would like to have dinner with: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jesus.
Age: 56.
Community: Janesville.
Occupation: Servicing vehicles to be transported by Allied Automotive Group in Janesville.
Family: Wife, Nancy: two sons, Aaron, 32, and Andy, 28; three grandchildren.
Favorite reading: Mysteries, cop thrillers.
Favorite food: Fish.
Favorite pastime: Yard work. “It’s satisfying because you plant something and watch it grow.”
Favorite music: Mostly country, “but I like Led Zeppelin to work out.”
Would like to have dinner with: Jackie Robinson and Robin Yount. Also Grandma Jacobson, Ellis’ maternal grandmother: “I just loved her spirit; she was always positive.”

Last updated: 1:39 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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