Longtime Leechburg softball coach Oberdorf considers retirement
Jim Oberdorf hints just about every year that he might retire as softball coach at Leechburg.
The face of the perennially strong Blue Devils has done so again, but a new goal has presented itself that could help to keep the coach around longer.
Why would Oberdorf leave when he has a chance to become the WPIAL's all-time winningest softball coach?
With the recent retirement of Sto-Rox's Bill Palermo, Oberdorf could supplant him as the wins leader — assuming Leechburg does not bolt for District 6.
Oberdorf, a retired State Police officer, has a radar-gun on the record. He needs 55 wins to pass Palermo.
Palermo, 65, left Sto-Rox with 588 wins, which includes 10 WPIAL titles, in 35 seasons. Oberdorf has 534 wins in 31 years, with three WPIAL titles and two PIAA crowns.
Still, Oberdorf, 68, said the possibility to pass Palermo won't fuel his decision to return.
“That's not something that bothers me at all,” Oberdorf said. “I am not worried about that stuff. It's going to depend on how I feel, and do the girls want me to come back.”
That doesn't seem like a problem.
“He's definitely a coach who will not take anybody's crap,” recent graduate and standout pitcher Kenzie Young said. “He's a wise man who knows what he wants and who he wants where.
“He's like an onion; you gotta pull back the layers and he becomes a teddy bear. It's an honor to play for him.”
Oberdorf is the longest-tenured active coach in any varsity sport in the A-K Valley.
“I finally found out I can't do the things at 68 that I did when I was 50,” said Oberdorf, who played competitive softball into his 50s. “My rotator cuff is shot. I can't even lift my arm. I don't move like I used to.”
Leechburg's playoff streak also keeps Oberdorf enthusiastic. The Blue Devils are coming off 27 straight WPIAL playoff appearances.
“This year was one of the best I have had in terms of the parents and kids being fantastic to deal with,” said Oberdorf, who started coaching at Leechburg in 1982.
“We had no problems all year long.”
Although he's heard rumblings that the school board might consider not bringing him back for a 32nd season, Oberdorf said his own decision to return could depend on the status of his assistants.
Matt Barczykowski, who has been Oberdorf's right-hand man since 1994, is considering stepping down for family reasons.
“I don't know what I'd do without him,” Oberdorf said.
Mike Young is another assistant.
“Simply stated, Jim is Leechburg softball,” Barczykowski said. “He has set a standard that will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to duplicate. His absence will be a large loss for the Leechburg school and community. It has been an honor coaching with him all of these years and a lot of fun, too.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.