NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — In an age when pro athletes tend to value showmanship over sportsmanship, Drury High School senior Tyler Cote bucked the trend.
Cote's class and dignity on the baseball diamond earned him recognition from the Berkshire County Baseball Umpires Association, which awarded him the Raymond Pierson Sportsmanship Award for the Northern Division for 2014.
"Baseball, I always felt, is a game of respect," Cote said this week. "You always have to respect the talent the players — whether on your team or the other team — bring to the table. That's something I always felt, and I felt like I definitely showed it this year more than ever."
Drury coach Patrick Boulger, who nominated Cote for the award, said that the senior pitcher exemplified the spirit Boulger wants to foster in the Blue Devils' program.
"Simply put, one of the things we talk about at the beginning of our year is attitude, proper attitude," Boulger said. "And Tyler, by far, as a senior captain took on that responsibility.
"Being a senior captain is not an easy thing. It's a very delicate balance between working with coaches and working with fellow players. One of my mentors, Tom McGrath, always said to me, 'Have that conversation with your senior captains. This is not an easy job.' And it shouldn't be an easy job.
"Tyler, because of his mental toughness and his ability to get his fellow teammates to believe in him — they rallied around him."
Cote agreed, saying that he felt an increased sense of responsibility as one of just three seniors on the 15-man varsity.
"We were never just 15 guys on the field," he said. "We were a team."
But even with all that positive energy and attitude, it was inevitable there would be times when things would go wrong. Plays would be botched. Blue Devils would strike out with men in scoring position. Games would be lost.
Cote's reaction — or lack of reaction — was what made him a strong candidate for recognition from the league's umps.
"Obviously, with a young team comes some mental or physical mistakes that happen," he said. "It's always important to make [teammates] know that mistakes are going to come. Baseball is a game of failure.
"Being a pitcher, I definitely have conversations with the umpire more often than, say, a center fielder would. Getting that friendship, that sort of trust the umpire had in me or I had in them is important. If I felt they blew a call early in the game, I'm not going to think they're going to continually do this. And I have to trust in them that they know what they're doing."
Cote graduated last month and is headed to the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He is thinking about walking on with the baseball team, but whether he continues his baseball career or not, the lessons he learned as a baseball player will serve him.
"I'm going to be majoring in political science, which some people see as still a leader-type role," Cote said. "I want to be a leader in whatever I do in life, and I hope that whatever comes next, I can say this program and Drury High School has taught me to be this kind of individual, a good sport.
"So I have to thank them and, most importantly, my parents."