A Little Park Ridge & The NJ Vipers

A note from Bob Germano.


I learned this morning that my High School Varsity Baseball Coach, Bob Kolb passed away.  His passing really got me thinking a lot about what we do as coaches and the gifts we have in coaching not only our own kids, but all of the kids we have the great fortune to have come our way through the softball programs.

It is amazing how much influence coaches have on us…not only in the time they have us but long after we (and they) have moved on.  As coaches, we should be honored to have this opportunity and privilege to coach and mentor young players into young adults.  I embrace and hold sacred every day I do it.  With today being one of sadness, reflection and appreciation, I want to share a few things about Coach Kolb…without him I do not know how my baseball/ softball life would be different…I just know it would be different.

I have always shared when asked that my coaching style, approach and demeanor, while hopefully always evolving, is a combination of what I learned from many coaches I have had along the way (and players I played with).  Without a doubt my Dad contributed a lot to my approach, but the other main contributors have been Coach Frank Daniel (my JV Baseball and HS Soccer Coach), Mike Sheppard and Ed Blankmeyer (Seton Hall Baseball) and Coach Kolb, my varsity high school baseball coach in Park Ridge.

As a coach and owner of the NJ Vipers, I have been coaching 10U through 18U Showcase teams for the past 10 years.  We have become one of the premier softball programs in northern NJ and have won countless tournaments, state tournaments, made deep national runs and have placed several kids into college softball programs.  That is all great and things other coaches, parents and I am very proud of.  What I can tell you for sure, and this may be something you did not know is that culture and foundation on which we build comes from a number of places.  In my case, I am so proud that there is a lot of Park Ridge in what I do and how I approach the game.  I do certainly integrate many things from Coaches Germano, Daniel, Sheppard & Blankmeyer…and there is a lot of Coach Kolb in how I approach coaching and team building to this day.  More than I can probably ever describe.  Coach Kolb was a big influence in my sports life as a player, and now as a grown man as I pay it forward, with my coaching and development of young players into young adults.

When I first got called up to Varsity as a Sophomore (I was told the evening before opening day by Coach Daniel), Coach Kolb put me straight into the lineup.  He must have seen how nervous I was, he pulled me aside and said “Bobby, you are here for a reason. The field is the same size and you are ready to do this.  Go out there and just have some fun”.

After my 3rd or 4th game of playing right field, I was playing too deep at the base of the fence and did not turn to play a ball off the top of the high fence.  Instead of playing the carom, I ran into the fence, misplayed the ball and played a double into a triple.  It was probably 30 degrees that day, there were snow flurries, and we were losing pretty big.  After the game in the team meeting, he says “Bobby, now you know why you have to turn and play the ball off the fence.  That’s the first mistake you have made since you have been here.  You will get it right on the next one.  Play a little more shallow and know where the fence is.  Anything over your head will hit off the fence and you can hold them to a single.  You will be fine”.  I have never forgotten that direction.  I played that way the rest of my high school career, while playing college ball at Seton Hall, while playing competitive nationally ranked fastpitch softball and when coaching my outfielders to this day when playing fence depth.  I never made that mistake again and I have been able to teach countless players the right way for many years.

When I got my first varsity hit (a single up the middle), I had a sense of relief because I did not want to lose my spot in the lineup or be sent down to JV.  To my surprise and shock, later that evening Coach Kolb drove to my house and gave the ball to my dad.  He said something like: “this is the first of many to come.  The first one is special and always the best one to remember.”    I still have that ball to this day.

When I coach third base, I use his squeeze sign.  I think it is one of if not the best sign ever.  I will also sometimes find myself giving a 3 second demonstration of staying back, keeping the head down or driving the back side either from the bench or the coaches box and often chuckle to myself as I visualize him in his maroon windbreaker doing the same thing to me down the line in Park Ridge when I played.  He almost always used non-verbal triggers and just quick reminders.  Never negative and always positive.  Always

My Senior year (1987) I was pressing a bit in a few at bats in the middle of the season.  It could not have been for very long, but I was probably 0 for my last 6 or something.  0-6 felt like 0-600.  I stepped up to the plate in my second at bat of the game and he comes down the line and says, “hey 4, just get up there, relax and go hack”.  That was probably the only time he ever spoke to me in an at bat my entire career.  The next pitch I hit the ball so hard at the third baseman I broke the kid’s hand and an ambulance came to the field.  My next AB I hit one of the longest HRs ever at Park Ridge.  All for his one quick saying to get up there and relax.  The team responded to his approach by making the County Tournament final, ousting the #1 seed and other top teams along the way.

I was slumping once in the Mickey Mantle summer league when I was 14 or 15.  We were playing down in River Edge and Coach Kolb was there watching the game.  My mother was speaking with him and he says to her out of nowhere, “tell Bobby to turn his back foot in so he can turn on the ball”.  That night my mother tells me what he saw from 120 feet away.  I never even knew he was there.  I made the adjustment and dominated the rest of that season.  For the rest of my playing career the first thing I did was ensure my back foot was set right.  For the coaches, parents and players ever wonder why I obsess on back foot placement and how important it is, that is the story.

When I made All-County my senior year, he came to my house that day to congratulate me.  We stood in the front yard and talked baseball for at least an hour. Hitting theory, situational play, etc.  All of a sudden, he says “oh no, I forgot to tell you that you have to be at The Record by 6:00 for your picture.”  It was almost 5:30!   If you ever see my published picture from then, I was sweating running in to find the right room after speeding to Hackensack from Park Ridge in my car that probably should have been in a junk yard by then.  I made it and was the last picture taken.

Coach Kolb compiled all the Park Ridge baseball stats and created a hard copy record book during a one- year sabbatical in 1988-89.   It must have taken the full year as he went through all the scorebooks from his coaching tenure and was even able to track down ones that pre-dated him.  Part of his book included his All-Time Park Ridge team.  Making that team was probably the biggest honor of my sports life; bigger than making All County, All State and holding school hitting records, etc.  To have earned the respect (and his respect) to be on the all-time park ridge team leaves me speechless and humble to this day.  I was up there with the names I heard about as a kid and Coach ranked me right there.  Wow.

Coach Kolb was there with me at the all-county dinner and the all state showcase game in Princeton.  When my dad passed away, he sought me out and we had a very good talk.  Another thing I will never forget.

When I went to college, I was struggling at the plate the spring of my freshman year at Seton Hall.  Coach Kolb called my dorm and reiterated the same type of message he did when he called me up to varsity.  Told me I belong there and to do what I do.  That’s what I did. I don’t know how he knew that I was slumping, but he knew and guided me out of it.

Coach was also my 5th grade teacher and probably could have taught college level English.  When writing today I still draw upon some of the grammar things I learned from him.  His Charlie Brown and Snoopy cartoon references were a constant to try and keep us all interested.

Further, when in elementary school I remember he would sometimes “pull” about ten of us into the gym after school a few times a year and we would play floor hockey until about 5pm.  His wrist shot from the top corner was deadly.  Maybe missed once or twice.  An experience that could never happen today.

My father was the town baseball commissioner while I was in 5th grade and he asked Coach Kolb to do a clinic for all the town rec coaches.  While these things are somewhat common now, this was 40 years ago.  They would speak on the phone and Coach Kolb put together a whole booklet for all the town coaches.  My father said he never learned more baseball in his life, before or after than he did in one night with Coaches Kolb and Daniel.

I have not spoken with Coach Kolb for about 15 years.  I saw him when he inducted me into the PRHS HOF in 2003.  He also sent flowers when my mom passed away in 2016.  I wrote and mailed him a long note after mom died thanking him for all he did for me, how big an influence he was for me, how I was coaching myself with the Vipers and how appreciative I was for all he taught me.  I always wanted to meet up with him again but never did.  His girlfriend Linda (who I’ve known since she taught us in 1st grade) wrote back to me saying that Coach would like to meet up with me.   Unfortunately, we never did.  My regret and my loss.

Coach Kolb deserves a prestigious place in baseball heaven.  I pray that he is coaching a game somewhere right now…that it is sunny, warm and he’s wearing his #14 maroon windbreaker with his white uniform pants & white spikes.   No doubt he is up by 5 and his team is having fun.

Rest in peace Coach.


Here I am pictured below with Coaches Kolb (left) and Daniel (right) at my induction into the PRHS Hall of Fame in 2003.  Combined these coaches won more than 500 games in their careers for PR Baseball.

By this time they probably forgot more things than I will ever know about the game.

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