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Scholarship named after former Dirtbag manager

Bob Wuesthoff may be known for winning Long Beach State’s first conference title. But now, John McConnell, LBSU’s first baseball coach is heading an eight-member committee aimed at naming a baseball scholarship after Wuesthoff.

“[Wuesthoff] is a great guy. He contributed a lot to the program and now it’s our turn,” McConnell said.”The goal is to give out a scholarship under his name.”

The Bob Wuesthoff Endowment was founded just over a year ago by former coaches and players; McConnell, John Gonsalves, Rick Hayes, Barry Wallace, Rod Gaspar, Jack Hoffman, Rick Bryson and Don Keel.

McConnell said he knew something had to be done for Wuesthoff after he was unabale to attend the 50th wedding anniversary of his good friend Hoffman because of health issues.

“I was disappointed and [Hoffman] was disappointed that Bob couldn’t attend,” McConnell said.”On the drive home that night, I told my wife, ‘We have to do something for him. Maybe we can come up with a scholarship or something.'”

Soon after, McConnell rounded up some close friends and former players and coaches and told them about the idea. The group of eight met at The Walter Pyramid in September of 2005 and compiled an address list of other former players and coaches. The committee then sent out a formal letter about the scholarship and money started to come in, McConnell said.

Also, McConnell said among the donors are former players and coaches, members of the 49er Camps, colleagues from the physical education department and other good friends.

As a result of Wuesthoff’s accomplishments, McConnell and the rest of the committee are taking the time to honor a good friend, but concerns about his health have led the committee to speed up the endowment process.

“What we want to do is present the scholarship in Bob’s name as soon as possible,”McConnell said. “Most people do this sort of thing for a person after that person dies. We want him to be present and appreciate it. We really hope he will be there.”

As a former coach of the Dirtbags, Wuesthoff compiled a .615 winning percentage (161-101-4) and won the California Collegiate Athletic Association title in 1964, his first year as head coach. He was also a former associate athletic director and physical education professor at LBSU and ran the 49er Baseball Camps for children every summer for four decades before retiring a few years ago.

Now, after leaving his mark on the university, Wuesthoff is confined to a wheelchair. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years back and can no longer walk.

The Wuesthoff Endowment is in the process of raising $150,000 in five years, and now after 13 months, the endowment is at about $58,000 but has a combined $121,000 in pledges for the next five years.

“We want to make this a permanent thing. Hopefully, the scholarship funds could live off the interest,” McConnell said.”The goal is to give at least one scholarship every year. We would like to give more scholarships and if we can then we will.”

Although the criteria to qualify for the scholarship has not been etched in stone, McConnell said the committee will leave it up to head coach Mike Weathers and the rest of the coaching staff to decide who gets the scholarship.

“[The committee] didn’t want to lay a burden on the coaches or put restrictions on the criteria. All we ask for is a deserving young kid, a good team member and a good citizen,” McConnell said.

He asks those who want to donate the Wuesthoff Endowment to contact Dede Rossi in the 49er Athletics Association at (562) 985-4662.

McConnell and the rest of the committee plan to officially present the Wuesthoff Endowment at the Leadoff Dinner on Jan. 26, coinciding with the annual 49er alumni baseball game on Jan. 28 and a golf tournament on Jan. 27.

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