(This is the eighth in a series of feature stories on the 2007 inductees into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame).
Twenty-two years after his last speech at an induction ceremony, Mark Stanley is ready for an encore.
Stanley is one of 13 in the class of 2007 that will be inducted into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame on April 29 at the New Englander. When he steps to the podium, it will be deja vu -- he's been there before as the 1983-84 New Castle News' boys athlete of the year.
"Oh yeah, the first time I was there, I had no idea what it was," he said with a laugh. "As you get older, you hear more about it. I was surprised when word came. It's such a nice honor."
As a three-sport standout at Union High, he excelled in football, basketball and baseball for the Scotties.
"Coming from a small school, a lot of us played all the sports. It was sort of expected," he said. "The coaches that coached me and the players I played with were great. I am still very good friends with them today."
Stanley was a three-year starter on the Union basketball team from 1982 to 1984. As a senior, he averaged 26.3 points per game in section action to lead all scorers. His 26.7 overall average in his senior year ranked third in the WPIAL. He was the MVP of Section 12 in his junior season and he finished his high school career with 1,586 points. At the time, he was fifth in Lawrence County history. Now, Stanley is tied with Mohawk's Brian Fadden for 12th on the all-time list.
"One of my best memories was my senior year when we upset Rochester in the playoffs," he said. "We really played well as a team and no one expected us to beat them. The place was going nuts."
In football, Stanley was the starting quarterback during his junior and senior seasons. He was the ninth-leading passer in the WPIAL as a senior, throwing for 1,152 yards. As a baseball player, Stanley was a shortstop and pitcher, earning all-section honors as a junior and senior. Stanley played three sports in his freshman and sophomore year at Westminster College. He transferred to Geneva for his junior and senior seasons and played basketball and baseball. Stanley was named to the District 18 team as a pitcher in his junior and senior seasons, leading the team in wins and earned-run average.
Stanley also paced the squad in home runs and RBIs as a senior and was named the NAIA District 18 Player of the Year. He was a NAIA baseball All-American as a senior.
"I just had the opportunity to play for so many good coaches all through college," he said. "The two coaches I had at Geneva were Jerry Slocum and Joe Hudak. I kind of chuckle because I think they are two of the best in the country."
And, it's a bonus for Stanley to be inducted the same year as Hudak, who coached him at Geneva.
"I owe a lot to him. He's the one who really brought me to Geneva," Stanley said. "One reason to transfer was because I wanted to be a teacher. Without him, I would not be where I am today. When I see him, maybe I will pick his brains for some ideas to use for my boys."
Hudak also was Stanley's teacher at Union. "He was a great player for us at Geneva and he's a great guy," Hudak said. "He's done a great job coaching at Union. He is one of my boys."
Stanley, who teaches at Ellwood City Lincoln High, has enjoyed a successful coaching career. Coach of the Union boys basketball team since 1999, Stanley guided the Scotties on a magical run in 2002-03 season. Despite barely qualifying for the postseason, Union captivated Lawrence County by winning the WPIAL Class A title and advancing to the PIAA championship game before falling to Scotland School. Stanley was named Associated Press PIAA Class A coach of the year.
"That was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," he said. "I think every coach should have the opportunity to go through something like that. I think all coaches work hard and some are just luckier than others. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. That whole season was beyond belief. I can't put it into words. Whether we get there again or not -- and I sure hope we do -- it'll last a lifetime."
Stanley, 41, and his wife, Beth Natale Stanley, a former New Castle High athletic star, are the first married couple to be members of the sports hall of fame. They have three sons -- Anthony and twins Matthew and Mark. Beth, who gave birth to the twins soon after Union's PIAA title game appearance in 2003, is expecting another child.
"She's due right around the time of the ceremony," Stanley said. "It might be interesting around that time. At least this time it's only one."
TOMORROW: Anthony "Monk" Laurenza.