Two decades ago, John “Buzz” Battaglia was among those that took a leap of faith. They had nothing. Only a handful of teams in several different age groups, but youth football in Maryland would never be the same.
Compassionate. Honest. Fair. Caring. Those were some of the words used to describe Battaglia.
“He was always in high spirits, no matter what,” said treasurer Dalys Talley. Battaglia was Talley’s son’s first coach 15 years ago. “Not one time when I saw him after, did he not ask me about my son.”
A consistent staple over the years for Battaglia has been the kids.
“He put the kids first, kids second, kids third,” said incoming president and former vice president Craig White. “Whether it’s my kid, your kid or someone’s kid he doesn’t know.”
Throughout the evening, many of Battaglia’s former colleagues and all of his kids came and spoke on the man they all fondly call “Coach Buzz.” After receiving a plaque in his name and a standing ovation, an emotional Battaglia took the podium. Battaglia told several stories and spoke about how honored he was, but still deflected the attention.
But everyone insisted that for once, the night should be all about Coach Buzz. Battaglia, who has also been called the “Father of Friday-Night Football for Youth Football,” confidently told the crowd, “We are the top youth sports league in any sport in the state of Maryland.”
Battaglia, however, is a man who was a part of something greater than he or any of the others could possibly imagine. He was the strongest pillar in a league that’s impact went far beyond the football field. The experiences and friendships Battaglia helped facilitate were exponential.
“Buzz was the stabilizing force,” said Dave Malinowski, longtime vice president and founding father. “He’s going to be missed, big time.”
Today, the HBCYFL has expanded to 29 programs, more than 320 teams and nearly 7,000 players across the state.
Battaglia’s accomplishments extend to other realms as well. He has also been coaching varsity football at Gilman, which he will continue to do. In addition, over the last year, Battaglia started the girls’ varsity lacrosse team at Catholic High and coached the Calvert Hall freshman/sophomore team for a season.
White rose once more to the podium and closed the evening with words that could not have summed up Coach Buzz’s influence any better.
“There will never be another one like you.”
Issue 2.25: June 21, 2007