Just minutes after achieving a career-milestone over 20 years in the making, securing career-victory No. 300 with a 7-3 win over Severna Park on Saturday, Mt. Hebron softball coach Chuck Struhar kept things light.
“When I think about what this means, more than anything it means that I’m getting old,” Struhar said.
Then with a wide smile, he let the achievement settle in.
“Seriously, though, I think it's a milestone that says that we did things right,” he said. “You know, I’m not the greatest coach in the world. But what I pride myself in is trying to teach the game of softball, playing it right … and the thing that I’m most proud of is that every team I’ve ever coached has gone out and played hard for me until the very last out.
“We’ve had good teams, mediocre teams and even a couple bad teams, but all of them have given me everything they’ve had and, in turn, I’ve tried to do the same for them.”
Struhar’s softball coaching career has spanned four decades and three Howard County schools. He started at Glenelg in 1988, moved to Long Reach in 1997 and then took over at Mt. Hebron in 2009. In between, he took years off in 2001, to watch his daughter Anna play softball her senior year at Century High School, and in 2007 and 2008, to serve as the Athletics and Activities Manager at Oakland Mills.
Each of his three coaching positions brought their share of memorable moments and, Struhar says, the change in venues has kept him on his toes.
“Personally, I loved the change,” Struhar said. “I think, for me, staying in one place I would have gotten stale … maybe just accepted when we didn’t have great years. But I was always of that mentality that we’ve got to work harder, always make ourselves better.”
Struhar says he has a particularly special place in his heart for his years at Long Reach, considering he was there to watch the Lightning grow from fledgling program in 1997 to county champions in 2006.
“When we started at Long Reach, they had no experienced players and I think we won like two games that year,” he said. “But within a couple years we were .500 and then we were competing with the top teams. And you know what, I loved that challenge.”
This year’s Vikings’ team has the potential to finish up there with the top squads Struhar has coached.
With its win over Severna Park, followed by a 4-3 victory over Glen Burnie, Mt. Hebron improved to 10-1 on the spring and head into this week tied for first place in the county standings.
But, as senior Alli Bluhm talked after the win and acknowledged the former players that had come to watch the game at the Bachman Sports Complex, it was obvious that Saturday was Struhar’s day.
“Seeing former players coming back — there were people here that played for him like 16 years ago — it was definitely a little emotional and it was just special that we got to be a part of it,” said Bluhm, who smacked a 3-RBI triple to spearhead the victory. “That’s all we were thinking about today, getting that 300th win for him.”