Millvale’s ‘Coach Jack’ has made positive impact for 3 decades on, off the field
Tuesday, November 5, 2019 | 12:01 AM
Anyone who assumes teaching techniques, Xs and Os, and fundamentals of a game are the primary jobs of any good coach isn’t seeing the whole picture. It takes a special person to create positive memories that go beyond the field.
For countless young ladies all over the Pittsburgh area, Millvale softball coach John Stout, better known as “Coach Jack,” is that particular type of person. Sure, Stout instilled a wealth of softball knowledge in countless players, but most of them want to share fond memories before they get into the analytics of softball when asked about their coach.
Current Springdale all-section varsity softball catcher Brianna Thompson played for Stout for five seasons. She reminisced about the time Coach Jack hosed down the outfield grass to help teach sliding techniques. While learning to slide was fun, some of the off-season runs the team took around Millvale made her think of the famous scene from “Rocky” where the boxer ran through town and the kids flocked around him and ran with their local hero.
“We’d be running and kids who weren’t part of the workout were running along with us asking him to stop and play with them,” Thompson said.
Stout is more than just good memories for the catcher. Thompson added that besides focusing on the team as a whole, Stout took the time to work on her (and every player’s) individual game.
“He took the time to look at us as individuals,” she said. “He taught us every position, but most importantly he stressed our character as people above all else.”
Thompson’s teammate at Springdale, utility player Autumn Sprouse, actually played against Stout, but he had a positive impact on her too. Stout taught her things despite being on the opposing team.
“He let me try things my actual coaches wouldn’t,” Sprouse said. “He makes softball enjoyable. It’s not all about wins with him, it’s about playing well.”
While the public often gauges successful coaches by the number of Division I prospects they have, professional athletes their program produced, or the number of championships they collect, those who know Stout realize the true value of what he brings to the community.
“Jack is everyone’s favorite coach,” said Kelly Iverson, who had both her daughters play for the Millvale legend. “He’s so much more than softball. He teaches them how to be great people … my daughter (Athena) wrote a story on him for her writing class, and the cutest part of the story was when she wrote about how he taught her to shake hands.”
Stout, who has been coaching softball locally for 30 years, has coached at Bauerstown, St. Joe’s, Oakland Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Mt. Alvernia, and North Allegheny Middle School, but he may be best known for his work with the Millvale Recreational League. His best seasons came at Mt. Alvernia, where he guided the team to the WPIAL semifinals twice. An honorable mention goes to his 2017 Millvale team that advanced to the Greater Pittsburgh Girls Softball League Finals, earning a second-place trophy for their effort. His resume is pretty impressive for a guy who only began coaching to help out his daughter’s team.
“When my daughter started playing, they needed a coach,” Stout said. “I said I’d do it if they couldn’t find anyone else … they called me back a few minutes later (and I was the coach).”
Stout took his calling seriously. He has attended hundreds of hours of coaching clinics and is always trying to learn anything he can to pass along to his players.
While his longevity and impact on the sport and community may speak for itself, Stout is a man of few words when it comes to talking about himself and the influence he has made on hundreds of kids. But, any player or parent who knows him simply can’t say enough about the Shaler resident.
“Jack coached my daughter and granddaughter,” said Tracy Kurtz, a Springdale resident who drove the extra miles for her kids to be a part of Stout’s team. “It didn’t matter if the team won or lost, the girls were all smiles and happy and could not wait to get back together for the next practice. Jack would never say no to any player who wanted to play on his team … he even coached players from the other team because he just wanted everyone to get better. He is a special man. There will never be another Jack Stout.”
While Stout coached at nearly every level of softball and T-ball through U18, his passion is coaching the middle school players because he feels that is where he can have the most impact.
“I just like to teach the game,” Stout said. “When I teach them something and they try to do it, it makes me feel like I accomplished something.”
As a varsity high school coach, Stout said obviously the goal is to win the game, but at the younger levels is where he feels he can make the biggest difference.
“I like to win, but if we don’t, it’s no big deal,” he said.
At the recreational level, Stout made it a point to play every player at virtually every position. The rationale was, as a high school coach, he would get frustrated when he would get an older player who could only play one position. “When I got a player who could only play (say) shortstop, if I already had a couple kids who played that position, I would have to teach them a new position so they could play.”
While Stout is currently exploring other opportunities, the days of the Millvale team may be coming to an end. The program he cultivated for two decades may succumb to a sheer lack of numbers. While the program that touched so many lives may fade away, Stout’s passion for helping players is as strong as ever.
“I know I love doing this. Besides my wife and kids, this is my love,” Stout said. “I am not sure what I would do if it wasn’t for softball.”