1933 – 2018
Phil Pote, known to many as “Coach,” was born on the East Coast in 1933 to Houston and Oyma Pote. When he was 10 yrs old, his family came to LA. Mr. Ed Camp, director of 10th St playground, changed Phil’s life by making it safe for him to play outside and giving him tools for life. He had always been “the outsider” in grade school because his family had moved so frequently that he never got in the groove with the other kids. In LA, he lived in an area that was known as being “mean” and yet Phil loved to be outdoors ~ the playground became his haven.
Phil always wanted to be a pro baseball player, and was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He made the tough decision not to go because of his commitment to keep Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Instead, he became a coach at Fremont High School and decided to accept any young man on the team that wanted to play ball who was also willing to keep up classwork. In 1963 he coached the team known as “The Pathfinders;” their mantra was W.U.T. (We, Us, Team) They turned out to be an amazing team who changed the world for the guys, for Phil, and for baseball. This was only 10 years after Jackie Robinson; the Pathfinders were the first and only all-minority team to win the LA City Championship. On that team were 3 players who got contracts for the Major League – Willie Crawford, Bobby Tolan and Bob Watson.
In 1977, Coach joined the LA City College for 12 years. He scouted for the Oakland A’s, the LA Dodgers, and the Seattle Mariners, securing contracts for over 50 players. His commitment was to Inner City youth, baseball, and creating equity for all, including scouts. He saw baseball as a way to attract kids to get an education (he had hated school because it had not been pleasant to be “the outsider”) and he cared more about young people becoming good people than having fame or wealth. In fact, he was sometimes dubbed “The Parson” because of his values. He was kind, offered respect and encouragement and opportunity, had vision and courage, and was always consistent.
Anyone touched by Phil’s life who would like to further the work of making baseball accessible to kids, can make a donation or contact Urban Youth Academy at 310-763-3479. His family knew little of his life in baseball but we have been moved by the many who have continued to reach out to him even 2 years after he had a major stroke ~ we have learned that Phil was unusual, and that YOU are unusual. We would love to hear from you if you knew him or were inspired by him. WAYNpote@att.net