A Tribute to Legendary Baseball Coach Skip Bertman

By Jose Smith….

Jose Smith and Coach Bertman

On Friday, November 19, 2010, I was privileged to present a Proclamation and a key to the City of Miami Beach, on behalf of the Mayor and City Commission, to legendary baseball coach Skip Bertman and the Miami Beach High School Senior class of 1970 which celebrated its 40th reunion at the Doral Miami Beach Resort.

Skip Bertman was raised in Miami Beach and ran the City’s baseball leagues for nearly 15 years. He coached and taught at Miami Beach Senior High School for 11 years, leading the 1970 baseball team to a state championship. While at Beach High, he was named Florida’s Coach of the Year three times.

On a personal note, I first came to know Skip when my parents signed me up for little league at Flamingo park in 1961. While I spoke little English and he spoke no Spanish, we had a common language – baseball. We both understood balls and strikes.

He was more than a teacher and coach. He was a father figure, a role model. Once, while pitching in an important Beach High game, I could not get the ball over the plate. I lost my control; poise and confidence. After much counseling, Skip made me read Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy. I did. While it did not help my pitching, it made me interested in law and government. And who knows, maybe it had something to do with the choices I made later on.

No one has ever had a greater impact on the youth of our community than Skip Bertman. Many residents, and community leaders (me included), can share personal stories about how Skip positively touched their lives. Most would not be where they are today without him. Skip welcomed kids who did not have great talent or natural ability, and through discipline and dedication, made them champions. He embraced diversity at a time when South Florida was not all that progressive.

Skip later became assistant head coach at the University of Miami, and head coach at Louisiana State University. During his long and successful career, Skip won numerous national championships. He coached the 1996 U.S. Olympic team which received the bronze medal in Atlanta. He has been inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Skip has never forgotten his roots in this community. He returns often and visits with old friends, colleagues and students. The 1970 Beach High class reunion was a special night for me and a testament to a great man.

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