For the last 28 years, Belmont County Auditor Andy Sutak has been coaching Pony League Baseball.
"I have worked 28 years with coaching Pony League Baseball, I have three other years I have coached Bronco Baseball with another area," said Sutak. "At the present time I run the whole East Ohio Pony League and I have been doing that for about 12 to 15 years."
Sutak first became involved in coaching when a good friend, Bruce Tratar, he played softball with asked if he wanted to help coach a Bronco League. While the friend stopped coaching some time ago, Sutak continued to be involved.
Andy Sutak of Martins Ferry is September’s “Hey!?That’s my Neighbor” honoree. He’s pictured here with Frankie Favede.
"(I continue to coach) because I love baseball and I really enjoy the kids and giving back to the kids the best way I can to help in various ways," Sutak said. "Our league consists of about 20 teams."
Sutak helped organize these teams that has continued to grow over the years.
"What is happening throughout the whole area is the lack in the number of kids and the number of teams in each community," said Sutak. "Years ago we use to have about eight to 10 teams in Martins Ferry, when we dropped to four teams, each team was playing them two or three times then we got to a point where we had two teams, we decided to try and get into another league and that was when things started ... As the number of teams diminished, we just opened up the league."
Over the last 10 to 15 years, the league has become bigger and bigger.
Sutak's love of baseball started when he was a kid and would go with his uncle to a cabin in the woods. Since there wasn't a television in the cabin then, they would often listen to baseball games on the radio.
His love for the game, has grown beyond just listen to the Indians or Pirates on the radio. Now, as a coach and working with the Pony League and getting involved with the kids, Sutak was worked to not only expand the league, but make it better for his 13- and 14-year old players.
"Expanding the league to the number of teams we have and (the kids) have an opportunity to make an all-star team; they get an opportunity to play teams outside of our area," Sutak said. "It just gives another look to see what is out there beyond the local area of teams that we have ... I love working with the kids and we have good kids here."
His dedication to the Pony League goes beyond just enjoying working with the kids in the league and playing a part in its expansion, but Sutak enjoys working on the field as well, doing everything from cutting the grass to dragging the field and painting the lines.
"The whole upkeep of the field is part of being a coach and part of what we do as a small community," said Sutak. "We are blessed with a lot of good people and coaches in our area where they spend a lot of time to help with the upkeep on the fields ... Here, we are multi-faceted people, we have to do that extra because the funding sources for the types of recreational departments we have. The people that are involved in these organizations throughout the Ohio Valley here and probably other places, they are special people because they give a lot of their free time to keep these leagues running."