FORT WAYNE – As a teacher for 40 years and the head baseball coach at Concordia Lutheran High School for 35, Jack Massucci has encountered a lot of kids; thousands of them – and probably a dozen times more in his 51 years with the Wildcat Baseball League, for which he is vice president.
It's the kids, most coaches will admit, that keep them vibrant, that lure them back year after year. Boys form into teams. Teams grow into seasons. Seasons meld into eras. And once it's finished, when three years turns into 35, an era has become a legacy, like Massucci.
Because there are so many seasons and endless faces shadowed from their ball caps, they all seem to blend together, like one, enormous team picture. Some of the boys are standing, some kneeling; but all will forever be 16 or 17 or 18 years old.
And there is no way a man can remember the first time he met every player he ever coached. But for Massucci, who will turn 80 this spring, there was one particular boy.
"The first time I met him, his brother, Brian, was playing for me," Massucci says, his memory turning back more than three decades. "My wife is in the bleachers, and she comes down and says there's a kid chewing a mix of tobacco and bubble gum, and spitting on the bleacher seats. And I say, 'Really?'
"I walked over by the fence, and I say, 'What's your name?' And he says, 'Glenn Berggoetz.' I say, 'So you're Glenn Berggoetz?' I go, 'You plan on playing baseball here at Concordia?' And he says, 'Oh, yeah.' And I tell him, 'I don't think so.' He looked at me, and I said, 'We don't let kids that chew tobacco and spit all over play baseball here.'
"That was the first time I saw him."
But the boy did play baseball at Concordia. He was a left-handed pitcher, a first baseman and a great hitter. In fact, it was Berggoetz who gave his coach a memory of gold when his grand slam home run over the right field fence, with two outs in the bottom of the final inning, capped a 10-run, seventh-inning comeback for a 12-11 sectional championship game victory. To this day, Massucci says it's one of the greatest wins of his coaching career.
Thing is, Berggoetz had been unforgettable long before that home run as a senior in 1985.
"He was a good kid," Massucci says. "He was not a dumb kid – just a little off of center."
Berggoetz even admits that he hears and marches to a different drummer.
"When I played at Huntington College (now Huntington University), I was the outcast there. They gave me a box of cornflakes my first year because I was the team flake."
This is the time of year when winter arrives quickly in Denver. Berggoetz says a snowstorm dropped about 5 inches several weeks ago; enough to slow city traffic, but nothing like December 2006 when a blizzard crippled the airport, stranding an estimated 40,000 travelers.
Since 2005, Denver has been home to Berggoetz, 47. With a girlfriend named Diane and a Jack Russell terrier named Jackie, he's an adjunct English professor at Arapahoe Community College and the larger Metropolitan State University, both in Denver. And in his spare time – well, there's the Renaissance man aspect of Berggoetz, for he has little of it.
His is an author, with six published books that include "The Independent Filmmaker's Guide" and "Two Loves," which is a baseball novel.
He has written screenplays, all of which were passed over by large studios. But that only stretched his versatility. Determined to have his work screened, Berggoetz produced, directed and appeared in his own films, many of which were made on budgets ranging from $1,200 to $2,000. His "To Die is Hard," a 2010 spoof of action movies, was rated as the sixth-best spoof comedy feature film of all time by IMDb.com ahead of "Young Frankenstein" (12th), "This is Spinal Tap" (15th) and "Airplane!" (25th). A year later, he followed up with "The Worst Movie Ever!," which was selected as one of the 10 best independent feature films of 2011 by Examiner.com.
Terra King, independent film critic for Examiner.com, wrote, "Glenn Berggoetz is the king of indie comedy."
His most recent release, "Midget Zombie Takeover," was considered a hit at the Freakend Horror Festival in Winchester, Va.
"(The film) was mentioned as a highlight in almost every customer comment at the conclusion of the festival," Alamo Drafthouse Cinema owner Steve Nerangis wrote on Berggoetz's website. "Glenn Berggoetz has a rare eye for the absurd, and 'Midget Zombie Takeover' is absolutely hilarious."
A just-finished Berggoetz screenplay looking for a screen is "Conclave," an irreverent inside look of a gathering of 100 cardinals to elect the next pope.
"The conclave resembles 'Animal House' more than it resembles the coming together of pious men," Berggoetz writes.
When he's not writing or teaching, he plays guitar in a two-man band called Norwegian Soft Kitten. And he occasionally is asked to be a guest lecturer throughout the United States and Canada.
Berggoetz is content, but he is hungry.
He loves what he does – all he does – but yearns for that moment to have his work appear week after week in multiplex theaters, rather than one-night stands in small, indie houses.
"That's the goal," Berggoetz says from his Denver apartment. "I realize it's a long shot. There are hundreds of thousands of us (filmmakers), screaming in the wilderness, trying to get noticed. I would love to make it a career. That's what I'm hoping with 'Conclave.' Some people will see it as controversial; other people just see it as a lot of fun. I'm hoping that might be the entryway."
In that same seventh inning, before he hit the game-winning grand slam against Snider, his coach, Jack Massucci, wanted to throttle the kid.
Berggoetz was on second base, with no outs, still trailing by a bunch. A fly ball is caught by the right fielder for the first out. Berggoetz then tags up at second.
"I look up after the (Snider) kid catches it, and here's Berggoetz, coming to third, and he gets doubled up," Massucci said.
"I asked him, 'What were you doing?' And he says, 'I was trying to make something happen.' "
Even back then.