ANNAPOLIS, Md.—In youth sports, there are countless people behind the scenes who lead by example and understand the importance of sacrifice and teamwork.
It’s the same with Ruth’s Baseball Ideals (RBI) Baseball Club…who’s example is John Pineau.
At RBI, it’s estimated that the teams Pineau has coached have won over 400 games while winning six league championships (2010-12) and two state championships (16U in 2013, 19U in 2015). He was named Maryland AAU Baseball Coach of the Year in 2014.
That’s the John Pineau who is a fixture in the Annapolis area as a youth baseball coach.
But his love of the sport goes beyond the excitement of the experience on the field. To say he’s devoted to baseball, and to AAU Baseball and RBI, is an understatement.
In addition to serving as the RBI club’s longtime president and coaching, Pineau is Director of AAU Baseball’s Maryland and Potomac Valley Districts spanning Northern Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland and Commissioner of the AAU Mid-Atlantic Wood Bat League.
He’s also Head Groundskeeper for Riva Area Park’s 90-foot field.
“Riva Park’s 90-foot field, and 18+, 19U, 16U, and 14U youth baseball, wouldn’t be anywhere close to what it is without him,” said Mike Graham, longtime manager/coach of the AAU advanced skills development team Maryland RBI.
What Pineau does to operate and maintain the Riva field for AAU youth baseball couldn’t be duplicated by many others, Graham said. He should know—Graham cast his coaching lot with RBI seven years ago and has since managed four teams that made an appearance in the AAU State Championship game, winning it all back in 2012-2014 during an unprecedented three-year run as the state champions and competed for the AAU National Championship at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., in 2013.
“Hundreds of players are only able to play this sport in our area because of John’s incredible efforts not only to organize and manage leagues for teams to play in but also his labor to maintain Riva Park,” said Graham. “He’s changed a lot of lives of many of these players. For many it’s been their critical path to play college baseball and brought together a family club atmosphere.”
Graham, who’s been coaching for 20 years, says he’s impressed how “John is always working on and making improvements to the field. I’ve coached all over the country and overseas and Riva in many ways still is my favorite ballfield—it’s like coming home.”
And that’s much of the reason why the Riva facility is what it’s become today.
“I think the success of our program depends a lot on the facility that we have and the TLC—tender loving care—we give it,” said Pineau. “I know every blade of grass on that field and I think that goes hand-in-hand with success that the program is able to thrive.”
Throughout these years Pineau has been the key player in maintaining the Riva field. In addition to his real life full-time job as a businessman, the 62-year-old often puts over 20 hours of field maintenance per week into the field.
“I do as much of the work as I can myself only because I know the kids don’t sign up to be field maintenance workers. They come to play baseball,” said Pineau. “So I do the bulk of the work, but I need the help of the coaches and community.
“After practice, after games you’ll see them out there with brooms, rakes, and the tractor-drag helping every way that they can. If the community saw how hard we all work on this field just so kids can play baseball, they would cry.”
That builds club chemistry which is one of the reasons Pineau believes that the program he leads has been so strong throughout the years.
“I’ve dedicated my life to youth baseball,” said Pineau. “This is a way for me to spend time with young people, get to know them, and stay young myself and share a lifetime of baseball knowledge with them. And try to guide them as best as I can.”
But nothing that has been done to improve and maintain the field could have been possible without the support of the community, which helps the club to cover the costs of the field.
“Some of it is provided by player registrations and business sponsorships, some of it by Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks,” said Pineau. “Sometimes it comes out of my pocket. Most of it is sweat equity.”
Recently on a hot August day with the temperature on the field a searing 101 degrees, Pineau was busy treating, repairing, weeding, and doing everything necessary to get the field into condition for the fall baseball season that starts after Labor Day.
“ACE Hardware Lawn & Garden expert consultant Andy Summers visited the field,” Pineau said, “and complimented us on how well the field has survived the severe weather conditions this year. He was shocked by how well the field has held up because of all the field maintenance we have performed.”
Just as much as Pineau gives back to the people of the community, the club and the field that it so proudly maintains gives back to him, which fuels his drive and determination to continue to grow one of AAU Baseball’s top district-level programs.
That’s why, on any given day, even though the season may be over, you can still find Pineau on the field—maintaining the playing surface and getting it ready for the next season.