UPPER GWYNEDD >> There were big wins and tough losses in Bob McCreary’s 12 seasons as head coach of the North Penn baseball team. But it was the personal moments that still stick with him.
“You remember all the good times and bad times, certainly the championships, so forth. But a lot of it you remember the relationships you have with your coaches and your players and all the carrying on that going on,” he said. “And when you step away, that’s the stuff that you miss is just being around the guys and laughing and having fun and baseball.”
McCreary, who was at the helm of North Penn for two District 1-AAAA titles and the program’s first PIAA crown in 2009, was at Hostelley Field last Friday night as one of the three newest inductees to NP baseball’s Knights of Fame.
Joining him in the Class of 2016 was David Rittenhouse, a 1967 NP grad who coached the Knights from 1981 to 1998, and Dave Livezey, a pitcher earned five of North Penn’s nine wins his senior year in 1957 and has continued to be one of the team’s biggest fans.
“I just think it’s really important that everybody involved with our program understands all the successful people that have come before them,” North Penn coach Kevin Manero said. “I think in this day and age, it’s just so easy for players and coaches to think this right now that’s happen right in front of us is the be-all, end-all of the program and it’s not.
“A lot of people came before us and had a ton of success and built the program that we are lucky enough to be able to play in today, so we support and we honor that.”
The Knights of Fame induction ceremony was a part of North Penn’s Community Knight, which also including NP’s scrimmage with Harriton. North Penn starts the District 1-AAAA playoffs 4 p.m. Monday as the No. 24 seed Knights visit No. 9 Marple Newtown.
“I think that we still need to be playing better baseball,” Manero said. “I think there’s a lot of little things we need to continue to clean up. I’m hoping the guys are learning every time they make a mistake. And we knew we’d make some mistakes this year because we came in with a lot of first-year starters. At this point in the year, we really can’t make those mistakes anymore.”
North Penn enters the postseason as defending PIAA 4A champion, with the first of the Knights’ three state titles coming under McCreary in 2009, North Penn beating Parkland 3-1 in the final in Altoona.
“It’s a great honor,” said McCreary of his spot in the Knights of Fame. “North Penn has had a lot of great people in their athletic program and the fact they chose to recognize me is a great honor. Certainly the program has done very well and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
During McCreary’s time as head coach (1999-2011) the Knights won seven Suburban One League conference titles and claimed District 1-AAAA championships in 2005 and 2008. A teacher in the North Penn High School’s Social Studies department, he is still involved in the sport through his website baseballbytheyard.com.
“Probably about six or seven years ago I started a website just to learn about the game of baseball,” said McCreary, who played at Villanova University and in the Minnesota Twins minor league system. “I’ve been very fortunate to grow up around baseball – my grandfather was a pitcher for the Phillies and my father was a college coach, so I was learning about baseball from a young age. The website’s just meant to help people and pass that on.”
Along with being McCreary’s predecessor as baseball head coach, Rittenhouse graduated North Penn and taught at Penndale Middle School. Rittenhouse played baseball, soccer and basketball in high school, was the 1961 NPHS MVP Athlete and is a member of the North Penn Athletic Alumni Association’s Hall of Fame.
“It’s a real honor,” said Rittenhouse of getting into the Knights of Fame. “To be inducted, of all the people who have come through there, to be one of the few that’s one of the first one’s there, I guess.”
In 1961, Rittenhouse had a .408 batting average for the Knights and hit three home runs. As coach from 1981-1998, he led North Penn to six conference championships and the program’s first district title in 1984.
“I think it was cooperation that I got from all the kids and always ready to play. It was just a bunch of outstanding kids that I coached,” Rittenhouse said. “We had some good seasons and we had some bad seasons, but tried to make it fun and enjoyable at the same time and learn the game. And I think that’s what we did.”
Livezey was a left-handed pitcher for North Penn who as a senior in 1961 earned all-league honorable mention after earning five of NP’s nine wins, four coming by shutout.
“Dave Livezey is the heart and soul of local baseball,” Manero said. “He cares so much about all the kids and what they do on and off the field. He’s so proud of what they do on and off the field. He’s our biggest supporter. He’s not afraid to tell us when we’re not doing things right.
“But Dave is a die-hard baseball fan and it’s not real easy for Dave right now, he’s had a couple health problems here and there, but man, he would give anything on any given day to make sure he’s at the field, so it was super special he was here tonight and that he’ll have his name on our fence forever.”
Livezey also played in the Perkiomen Valley Twilight League – he was the league’s pitching leader in 1962, going 9-1 for Lansdale – and signed with the Cincinnati Reds, going 2-2 for the club’s New York-Pennsylvania League team, the Geneva (N.Y.) Redlegs, in 1962.