BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Tony Sekuterski calls Dennis Crawley one of the best baseball coaches he’s ever worked with.
The story of Sekuterski and Crawley begins many moons ago, when Sekuterski was coaching an American Legion team and Crawley’s son joined. Sekuterski was impressed with Crawley’s baseball knowledge and asked him to join his coaching staff.
From then on, they were a match made in heaven: Sekuterski as a hitting coach, Crawley as a pitching coach.
They agreed that if one of them ever got a high school or college head coaching job, they would bring the other on as an assistant coach.
That day eventually came when Crawley was named the head baseball coach of Depew High School. He made good on the promise the two made and brought on Sekuterski as his hitting coach.
In August 2021, few years into his tenure as head coach, Crawley became the 27th member of his family to be diagnosed with ALS. That number includes his mother, who he lost to ALS when he was seven years old.
That didn’t stop him. Crawley fought the disease while coaching for two more seasons. This past spring, his Wildcats capped off a dream 25-1 season by scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning in the NYSPHSAA Class B state championship game and took not only the program’s first state title, but Depew’s first state championship in any team sport.
Crawley’s coaching career came to an end on Wednesday, when he announced that he is stepping down as head coach due to his “decrease in health,” he said on social media.
“I have to give up something I love so much!!!! I always wanted to coach at Depew and it has been a privilege to do so. Can’t complain,” he said. He leaves Depew with a record of 85-24, two division titles, a sectional title, and of course, the state championship.
Through the season, Sekuterski could see that his friend was not where he once was. They had to put heaters in the dugout to keep him warm, his right side became less and less mobile, he could no longer coach third base and he couldn’t yell instructions to his team in the field loud enough for them to hear. Up until a few days before his decision, Crawley wanted to continue coaching, but the final decision was made that he couldn’t do it anymore.
“If you spend as much time with him as I do, we’re not only coaches but friends, you can see it starting to wear on his body,” Sekuterski said.
He said that the 2023 Depew team embodied its coach to a tee.
“There’s always one thing that rallies a team. It could be a saying, a song, a play from the year before,” Sekuterski said. “He refused to quit so the team refused to quit, they followed the plan just like he followed the plan.”
In the meantime, he has left his mark on high school baseball in Western New York. In 2022, the first WNY Athletics Baseball Day was held at Niagara Falls High School to raise money to help Crawley and his family. He was also inducted into the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame.
It all comes back to how he was as a coach and how great he was with players.
“He has such a good rapport with players, it was cool to see what he did,” Sekuterski said.
The bond between the two will last a lifetime, no matter how long that is.
“I’m gonna miss my friend.”
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.