Gerry Meyer, a highly respected baseball coach for decades working with youth, high school and college players, has been selected the 2011 Big Island Sportsperson of the Year. A former star pitcher in his early days, he has spent countless hours helping young players hone their skills on the diamond, a positive trend that has continued for years and years.
Over the years there have been many sports legends that have left their mark on our island community. One such baseball legend is Gerry Earl Meyer who I recently had the pleasure of meeting at the rededication of the ‘Wall’.
Meyer had begun to make his mark during the late 1940’s and early 50’s as a basketball and baseball star for the Honokaa Dragons.
“I was lucky enough to receive a baseball scholarship to Fresno State College,” Meyer said. “Right out of high school I signed and played with the Tigers in the Hawaii baseball League in Honolulu before leaving for college.”
In 1953 Meyer signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched in the California League. “I injured my left index finger after the season and that ended my future hopes of going any further in professional baseball,” he said.
Meyer returned to the Big Island in 1954 and pitched for the Hilo All-Stars Senior League against the Ed Lopat Major League All-Stars.
“I pitched under coaches George Thompson with the Lincoln Wreckers and James Correa of the Puna Braves,” Meyer said.
In 1955 Meyer got to be the starting pitcher against New York when the Yankees came to Hoolulu Park to play an exhibition game.
During his illustrious career in sports Meyer had won a variety of honors and in 1960 reached the pinnacle of his pitching career. While playing in the Hilo Baseball league Meyer pitched five consecutive shutouts in 102 innings of work and allowed only two earned runs for a remarkable 0.17 earned run average.
“During that pitching string I was able to strike out 88 batters and walked 14,” he said. Meyer finish the 1960 season with 12 wins and 2 loses with 121 strike-outs and a 0.32 ERA.
Needless to say that Meyer received the Most Valuable Player Award for his stellar performance during the 1960 season.
Four years later Meyer led the Hilo All-Stars to the first ever state championship. “This was the first time an outside island team ever won,” Meyer said. “Honolulu had dominated the baseball state title for a number of years, so this was a high point for us.”
Throughout four decades Meyer had not only played sports but helped the community with his knowledge through coaching.
“I helped organize the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) in Honokaa and I coached Little League baseball, boy’s basketball, women’s softball and men’s fast pitch softball,” he said.
Meyer was also the assistant Varsity Baseball coach and assistant Junior Varsity basketball coach at Honokaa under head coaches Jackie Kitagawa and Harry Kim.
“I’ve coached for over 40 years and with a number of different teams,” Meyer said. “In 1976 I was President of the Hilo Junior Golf Association and together with Larry Tanimoto was instrumental in obtaining slots for Hawaii to the Junior World Golf Tournament in San Diego.”
Meyer even coached three years at for the Hilo College Vulcans Baseball Team. “I was the pitching coach for the Vulcans, from 1986 to ’88,” he said. In those final two years the team made it to the College World Series in Idaho.”
Along the way Meyer also coached a variety of talented Big Island Interscholastic Federation pitchers, two of which were named the BIIF Players of the Year.
“I am honored to give of my time and the knowledge to all of the youngsters that have had the pleasure of working with and over the years two young pitchers, Aaron Correa and Charles Haasenritter were named players of the year in the BIIF,” Meyer said.
Today the retired Police Sergeant continues to help whoever and whenever he can. “I have parents and coaches that still call me for help,” Meyer said. “I continue to give back to the community with my knowledge as I work with youngsters from age 9 to college.”
Meyer has always believed in bringing young pitchers along slowly. “I do not let my young pitchers throw any curves, it’s not necessary, so as not to ruin their career at a young age,” he said.
There have also been difficult moments for Coach Meyer as he’s watched some of his players style of throwing changed in later development. “There are times when it becomes very frustrating when coaches try to change the mechanics of the pitchers I work with and they will call me and tell me that they are confused and having a hard time,” Meyer said.
Meyer is just one of the many fine examples of people that have been inducted into the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame’s mission is dedicated to honor, preserve and promote knowledge of significant accomplishments in sports within the County of Hawaii and those that have been selected, like Meyer, have put in countless years of expertise into helping promote a positive experience in sports participation.
The annual awards are part of the athlete of the month program sponsored by Don’s Grill, under owner Don Hoota. The athlete of the month as well as athlete and sportsperson of the year programs were founded by the late Jack Matsui. Wong, also the 2007 Big Island Athlete of the Year winner, and Meyer each received a plaque and a $100 gift certificate from Don’s Grill.
The monthly winners and athlete of the year are chosen by the program’s selection committee, which includes Costales, Hugh Clark, Goya and chairman Bill O’Rear. The sportsperson of the year is chosen from nominations submitted by the public.