Thoughts on Sonny Bidwell

Early Monday evening with the sun shining ever so brightly, a light shower escorted me to work.

It was kind of strange wearing sunglasses and having the car windshield wipers on.

Usually when it rains, it tends to get dark and cloudy.

When I arrived at the Channel Lane offices, I was stunned to learn of the passing at the age of 56 of Fort Frye coach Sonny Bidwell.

After thinking about it for a bit, I began to imagine if maybe those were tears instead of raindrops falling from the heavens.

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A few years ago, Fort Frye baseball skipper Sonny Bidwell was coaching first base when his son Sam laid down a really nice sacrifice bunt.

After Sam was rung up at first, he and his dad — who was all smiles — exchanged high fives. You almost would’ve thought that Sam had hit a home run.

I don’t remember anything else about the game except that exchange between father and son.

Sonny Bidwell loved coaching his son, and of course he loved coaching Fort Frye baseball.

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I probably first met Sonny after a Cadet football game in the coaches office at the school in the fall of 1988. Ralph Coffman was the head man then. But the following season, Sonny became the gridiron boss, and then I interviewed him pretty much on a regular basis.

Very media friendly, he was soft-spoken, and enjoyed talking about the players.

Back in those days during springtime, George Hennessy was the Fort head baseball coach. I learned that he, Sonny, and basketball coach Dan Liedtke often rode their motorcycles together on the highway. I remember doing a story on that.

Later, Sonny became a running enthusiast, and Dan got himself a boat. Both were married and had children by then.

A couple or so years ago, I saw George biking out on Colegate Drive in Marietta.

In the late 90s, Sonny became the baseball coach and guided the Cadets to over 300 victories over the course of his career at the helm.

Sonny was a stickler for fundamentals on the diamond, and that no doubt translated into much of Fort’s success.

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Last month at Lancaster’s Beavers Field in the American Legion Baseball State Tournament, I ran into Sonny. No surprise there. Several of his Cadets — Tate Engle, Tyler Bradford, Logan Isner, Luke Nelson, and Nate Brothers — played for Todd Engle-coached Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750.

Sonny had just gotten back from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and he looked nice and tanned. He was with Coffman, who didn’t recognize me at first, because I was wearing sunglasses.

Sonny had to have been tickled with Bradford’s mound performance that day. The southpaw-throwing Bradford pitched BevLow to a 3-0 triumph over Sandusky Post 83.

In the late spring, Sonny witnessed Bradford throw a one-hitter — and lose — in one of his last games on the bump as a Cadet.

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At Fort Frye football games in recent years, Sonny worked the media parking gate at the field. There, we often made idle chitchat before the kickoff.

One year, he had a knee brace on after surgery.

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To me, Sonny Bidwell and Fort Frye baseball were synonymous — and always will be.

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, and can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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