Baseball to some is an afternoon spent at the ballpark, peanuts, hot dogs and rivalries. Baseball to others is a summer full of sweat, dirt, games practiced and games played. Baseball, to the few, is a lifestyle.
For Jim Pankovits, Modesto Nuts Coach, he's known nothing else. His father, who both managed and played professional baseball, introduced him to the game at a young age and as Jim says, fortunately I was pretty good at it. Sixty years later, he's still in the game--now just with a different perspective.
Pankovits started his stint with the Mariners in 2011 as manager of the Double-A Generals which since lead him to Modesto with the Nuts.
"I've made a lot of friends with the Mariners, had the opportunity to travel out west--which I hadn't had before--and have really enjoyed the seven years with the Mariners," Pankovits said.
Prior to his coaching career and time with the M's, Pankovits spent a lifetime on different teams, many of them very successful. In 1968 he was part of the Little League World Series US championship team from his hometown of Tuckahoe Richmond, VA.
"Everytime I go home I see someone or talk to a friend or an ex-teammate about those times, they were pretty special," Pankovits reminisced. "[It was] really the start of my career, so to speak. When I look back on it it gives me chills and it's something I'll never forget."
Pankovits believes that the success he had early on in his career fueled the passion that was a catalyst for him throughout high school baseball, college baseball, and later professional baseball.
In 1976 Pankovits was named a University of South Carolina All American and was selected by the Astros in the MLB Draft that same year.
"I was playing in a summer college league in the mountains of Virginia when I got the call that I'd been drafted," Jim recalled. "I was excited because the club I was going to be reporting to was in Virginia. My parents and family were able to come quite often to see me play so the transition was pretty easy."
Years later Pankovits was a member of the National League West Division champion Astros in 1986 and appeared in two games for the Boston Red Sox in September of 1990 as a defensive replacement.
"There was an injury in September after our Minor League season was over and [Boston] needed a player, so I was called up and joined the Red Sox for their pennant run," he said. "They ended up clinching the division on the last day, I'll never forget that. It was quite a lot of fun."
Pankovits shared the story of taking his camcorder into the locker room and recording the whole team celebration. He still has the footage and says he's showed it to numerous people.
"Roger Clemens was going to pitch the playoff game if we had lost that last day against the Toronto team in Toronto. So they flew Roger ahead to be ready to pitch the next day, and so he wasn't there [when we clinched the division]. I made him a copy of the [celebration] footage I had and also Joe Morgan, our manager, and I kept one."
Pankovits then went straight from playing in Triple-A to managing the Red Sox Double-A team in Connecticut.
"That was quite a challenge, going from playing to managing at that high level the very next year," Pankovits said. "But it gave me a lot of experience that I use today."
Today you'll find Pankovits in the same element he's been in for the last sixty years, and being part of something bigger than the game, a lifestyle.
Natalie Winters is the Public Relations Manager for the Modesto Nuts.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.