Pyatte is the heart and soul of the Merchants

He got to the ballpark four hours before the first pitch to make sure the restrooms were clean.

Dirty restrooms — bad first impression. Any baseball team owner will tell you that.

Harold Pyatte wasn’t about to let that happen.

So at 11 o’clock that morning, there was Pyatte scrutinizing the restrooms at Everett Memorial Stadium like an army sergeant inspecting a barrack.

While the sergeant could dress down a recruit for untidiness, the only person Pyatte could hold accountable for a messy restroom was the team’s owner.

That man — Harold Pyatte.

For the past 35 years, Pyatte has given and given and given as the owner/coach of the local semi-pro baseball team, which, for the last 22 years, has been called the Everett Merchants.

Given his time. Given his effort. Given his passion.

Given so that college-age kids could have a team to play for during the summer months to sharpen their skills and enhance their chances of perhaps playing professional baseball someday.

Pyatte doesn’t do this for the money because there is little or no money to be made in semi-pro ball. “Nobody gets paid,” Pyatte said. And that includes the owner/coach.

In fact, players have to dig into their own pockets to be able to put on a uniform for the Merchants. They pay a fee of $300.

“That helps us offset some of our travel expenses,” Pyatte said.

If a player can’t come up with the money, Pyatte has been known to help him out.

“I get some poor kids now and then,” he said, “and I’ll give them a little extra gas and food money when we go on the road.”

He’s also been known to spring for a kid’s equipment. One year he bought a glove for Rick Anderson, the first Merchants player to make it to the Major Leagues and currently the pitching coach for the Minnesota Twins.

Pyatte can empathize with these kids because he knows what it’s like not to have much money. Knows what it’s like to have shabby equipment.

“I was from the wrong side of the tracks,” he said. “I was a poor kid growing up.”

He remembers sliding into second base as a youngster and having his toes pop out of his tennis shoes as the second baseman put the tag on him. “I’ll never forget that as long as I live,” he said.

Nor will he ever forget the day his eighth grade class was putting together Thanksgiving baskets for needy families. The teacher had each kid come up and write a message to put in each basket and the name she gave Harold was “Mrs. Pyatte,” Harold’s mother who was divorced and raising Harold and his brother and sister in a motel room in Marysville.

“That was tough,” he said.

It was tough then, and it’s tough now as he chokes up when he talks about it.

Pyatte might not have had any money, but what he did have was a relentless work ethic. And he always had some kind of job as a kid, whether it was picking strawberries or selling golf balls that had been hit out of the Cedarcrest course or mowing lawns or working in a lumber company.

“I learned early that if you work hard, keep your nose clean and form a good character, people will give you a break,” he said.

He worked hard at his jobs, which included 38 years as a longshoreman, and he worked hard at baseball with his semi-pro team, which, when he first joined it in 1962 as a “nobody kid (pitcher) from Marysville,” was called the Everett Orioles.

And he sacrificed. Oh, did he sacrifice to make the Merchants go.

Suffice it to say — if there were no Harold Pyatte, there would be no Everett Merchants baseball team.

“Our family has given up a lot for Harold,” Sherry, his wife of nearly 40 years, said. “It took a long time for me to come to terms with that.”

Now, not only is Sherry at the ballpark “supervising” every night the Merchants play at home, but the Pyatte’s married daughter, Stacy Barbeau, works in the concession stand while her son Stuart operates the scoreboard and her daughter Lyndsey takes tickets. The youngest boy, Blake, chases down balls that leave the field of play.

But through all those years, there has been only one person who has poured his heart and soul into this franchise, and that’s the 65-year-old Pyatte, who retired from the Everett docks four years ago.

“He didn’t do it for the accolades,” Sherry said. “He didn’t seek recognition. That wasn’t his goal.”

He wanted to give kids the same opportunity he was given many years ago — to play for the local semi-pro team. “I always said if I ever had a chance to keep baseball going here, I would,” he remarked. “That and a love of the game have kept me going.”

Pyatte also has a genuinely deep affection for the kids who play for him. “He has a big heart,” Sherry said. “What you see is what you get with Harold.”

His wife said he worries more about his players than he does about winning. “Right now,” she said early this month, “he’s worried about this kid who got thrown out of a game for touching an umpire.”

And then there was the kid who was going through some rough times and the Pyatte family, a strong Christian unit, opened up their home to him. He moved in and stayed for three years. “He didn’t know what to do with himself,” Sherry said, “then one day he saw the light.”

Besides acting sometimes as a Father Flanagan, Pyatte also has to take on the role of a businessman. Because the ballclub doesn’t have the money to hire a salesman, the job of selling advertisements for the team’s program falls to Pyatte, and he’ll call on 50 to 60 local merchants, beginning three months before the first pitch of the season is thrown.

The program generates most of the club’s revenue, which is around $25,000.

The year the Merchants won the National Baseball Congress championship, 1988, Pyatte had to pass the hat a second time so that the team could travel to the tournament in Wichita, Kan. “I got 25 merchants to sponsor one player each at $150,” he said. “That raised close to $4,000.”

For winning the tournament, the Merchants earned $12,000. Yet, someone still had to pony up another $3,000 to help cover the hotel bill.

That someone was Pyatte.

That was just one of many times he’s dipped into his own bank account to bail out the team. “Bills had to be paid,” he said, shrugging his wide shoulders. “It’s love of the game.

“I’ll be honest with you, though, it hurts right here,” he said, pointing at the left side of his chest, “to pour your heart and soul into this and then at the end of the year have to write a check.”

But write it he does. And he’ll continue to do so until the day he quits coaching. Which will probably be the day they lay him in the ground.

When that day comes, they should remember him with a plaque somewhere in the stadium where fans can’t miss it: In honor of Harold Pyatte, The Man who saved semi-pro baseball in Everett.

Article courtsey of Everett Herald