Local football coach reunited with little league baseball glove after 40 years

Chris Lisi's little league glove, found at a thrift store in Jupiter, Florida last week (Courtesy Lisi family)

The story of one man polishing diamonds in the rough begins with another story of a 12-year-old boy, 40 years ago, playing in the dirt on a baseball diamond in Willoughby, Ohio.

In 1978, Chris Lisi was an All-Star baseball player.

"Yeah," he said. "I was just a little kid that liked to hit the ball and run around the bases."

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Lisi, in 1976, as a little league baseball player.

In '78, Lisi was playing in a semi-final baseball game.

"That particular game I didn't start," he said. "But, I came in and pinch-hit around the second inning."

His first at-bat resulted in a groundout.

The second at-bat was different.

"And then the second time we were down 2-0 and a runner was on base," he said. "And, I just caught a ball and it went over the fence and it was like only the second home run I'd ever hit."

He tied the game while doubling his career total in home runs.

And, then, he dug in a third time.

"Another guy was on base and I caught another ball and it went over the fence and two home runs later, it was just surreal," he said. "Because it was just surreal I didn't see it happening."

Two home runs. One game. One 12-year-old boy rounding the bases, over the moon, under the Midwestern sun. The semi-final game was theirs. The next day, Lisi's team would fall short of winning the championship. For some 12-year-old boys, though, they don't care about the title. They care about the hardware.

"Just all the excitement," he said. "Passing out trophies at the end of the tournament. They call your name out, you walk out and get your trophy and when you're 12 years old, getting a trophy's a big deal."

It was a big deal.

In all the excitement, Lisi forgot his glove at the field that day and didn't realize it until later that night.

"The next morning when I woke up, as soon as the sunlight came up, I got on my bike and just rode as fast as I could," he said.

Back at the diamond, which was a mile-and-a-half away, he realized his glove was gone.

"I gave up hope after a couple days," he said. "I figured my name was on [it] so if somebody wasn't bringing it back, it wasn't coming back."

A couple days turned into a month. A month turned into a year. Before Lisi knew it ... 40 years had passed.

He says his parents spend a good bit of time in Florida. They inherited a condo after a relative passed away. Lisi says his mom is a frequent shopper at thrift stores.

Last week, while looking for nothing, she found everything.

Chris's mother, Julie Anne Lisi, in Jupiter, Florida after finding her son's glove.

"She just happened to be there one day and she looked down and saw the glove with the name facing up," Lisi said.

Tucked away on a shelf in Jupiter, Florida, 1,200 miles away from Willoughby, Ohio, a 12-year-old's baseball glove was purchased for $1.49.

"Plus 10 cents tax," Lisi laughed. "And, my dad told me I owe him a buck 49."

Lisi has traded the diamond for the grid-iron as an assistant coach with the Thomas Worthington High School football team.

He's committed to the next generation of athletes, while polishing each diamond in the rough.

"Come on, come on," he told his team before Friday's game against Westerville North. "I love you guys," he told them. "Play your hearts out, tonight."

He knows what it's like to be one of them; an athlete and, more importantly, a child. He was one -- way back when.

His 12-year-old all-stars days stay with him. It's his story.

"I've always loved it," he said.

The story of a 12-year-old boy, 40 years ago, playing in the dirt on a diamond.

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