Farewell to Coach Cross

January 25, 2009
Share this story:

dsc000371On a perfect day for playing baseball – warm, sunny blue skies swept clean by a gentle easterly breeze – scores of family members, friends and players gathered at the Pomona Valley Mining Co. in Pomona, Calif., on Jan. 17, to pay their final respects to longtime Bonita baseball coach Robert Cross, affectionately known as the “Mayor” because of his broad ties to La Verne and the greater Southern California baseball community. Coach Cross passed during the recent holidays while visiting family out of state. He was 57.

“Bless his heart, he was such a good man,” remembered Jeremy Reed, who played for Cross for four years at Bonita and credited him for his successful transition from high school to college baseball at Long Beach State and later his ascent to the major leagues. “He got me to the next level and continued to stay a part of my life.

“We talked on a weekly basis. He never tried to give me pointers or tips, but I could ask him anything, added Reed, now an outfielder with the New York Mets. “He did a lot of good things for a lot of people, especially for kids.”

One of those kids was Mark Reed, Jeremy’s brother, now playing double A ball in Knoxville for the Chicago Cubs organization.

“I don’t have one memory,” Mark said. “I have a collection. I guess I go back to the time I was just six or seven, chasing my brother and his friends around. As everyone knows, I was always running around picking up bats and chasing balls. He always let me be part of the team. When there was time after practice, he would let me hit and do all those little things.

“We always stayed pretty close throughout the years, even after I signed. He was always a phone call away. If there was anything I ever needed, I knew he would be there for me. He was like a second dad.”

You didn’t have to be a superstar or hold a ticket punched for the major leagues to receive Cross’s love or rapt attention.
“He was by the best coach I ever had,” said former player Jason McClellan, now a junior at San Diego State. “I loved playing for him. He brought the best out of me not only as a baseball player, but as an individual, too. I always remember talking to him after practice or a game. It didn’t have to be about baseball, it could be about anything.”
Why did players open up to him?

“I saw him as a coach, but also as someone who knew about life,” McClellan recalled. “His knowledge of the game was second to none. He was fearless. But his greatest gift was making you believe that you could be better. He gave you confidence.”
Brian Clark, a left-hand pitcher who played with Jeremy Reed at Bonita, also recalled Cross’s pervasive, positive influence. “I was telling my wife on the way over, that other than my dad, I probably tried harder to please Coach Cross than anybody else out there,” Clark said. “I think he had that kind of impact on a lot of guys who played for him.”

The loss of Coach Cross doubtless was a shock because of its suddenness, but Clark said he believed Cross lived life fully. “To be honest, I think he maximized all his years here. The proof is in all the people you see here today.”

One Response to “Farewell to Coach Cross”

  1. Coach Cross was a fantastic coach!

Leave a Reply