Tom ‘Teek’ Mort
44 years and still going strong coaching youth
WINTERSVILLE — Tom Mort began coaching youth baseball in 1977, just two years removed from graduating at Catholic Central High School.
A friend approached him because he needed help with a Steubenville Babe Ruth squad. Mort did not think about his future when he agreed to coach for the first time.
“I decided to help him and figured I would probably do this for a couple of years. Forty-four years later, here I am,” he said.
When he first started coaching, many thought Mort was a player. After all, he was only 20 years old.
Mort, known to many others as “Teek,” still is going strong with coaching the youth and will not retire any time soon.
“I’ve pretty much dedicated my entire life to helping kids,” Mort said. “Some say that teachers or coaches give kids so much, but I personally feel like I’ve gotten way more in return than I’ve given because of the joy of helping kids.”
With the exception of his brothers and sister, and even when his parents were alive, everybody knows Mort as Teek, and even he really does not know why.
“Gosh, that’s a good question. I never really had the answer for that,” Mort said. “When I was a kid, everybody called me T-Mort. When I went to middle school, we had eight Toms in our class. For some reason, the E E K got put onto that. I really wish I had a good story for that, but I don’t.”
Mort’s resume includes coaching Babe Ruth for 17 years (he won championships in 1983 and 2010). He also has dabbled in T-ball and Little League, as well as the high school level. He was Catholic Central’s assistant from 1992-96 and was the head coach the following two seasons. In 1994, the Crusaders won the state championship months after the football team brought home a title.
Currently, Mort is with the Little League Coach Pitch Program and plans to move up with the current 7- and 8-year-olds when they become older.
“After my friend asked me, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do it,” said Mort regarding his first coaching stint in 1977. “I did, and then I found out I was pretty good at it. That’s what coaching is — teaching. I found out that my methods got across to the kids and motivated them, and it was such a joy and an energy boost. I got hooked, and I’m still here. I still have the same enthusiasm. I don’t move as well anymore, but mentally I have the same enthusiasm as when I was 19.”
From that moment on, Mort knew he would eventually be a teacher, although that career did not start right away.
Following high school, Mort went to the former Jefferson Technical College and later graduated from West Liberty 1986. He then worked at Weirton Steel before taking an early retirement buyout in 2006. He went back to school, got his masters and has been teaching ever since.
Mort is a special education teacher at Indian Creek and has been there for the last five years. He also teaches driver’s ed for AAA in East Palestine.
Before that, Mort taught at the Jefferson Country Juvenile Court for nine years as an alternative school teacher. He worked with nonviolent juvenile defenders. In the summer, he spent time with the youth program.
It was around that time Mort was an umpire for the Steubenville Umpires Association from 2006-11.
It’s amazing that he ever has time for himself.
A typical day for Mort is waking up at 5 a.m., walk for four miles, teach, head to East Palestine up to four days a week, maybe help coach and get home a little before 9 p.m. and hop into bed. He did have most of this summer off, though, mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I didn’t do any coaching in the summer,” Mort said. “We were going to do T-ball, but it was canceled because of COVID-19. I actually coached one game later this summer. My great nephew, Max, his coach is Ted Gorman (principal at Steubenville High School). The day they had Big Red’s graduation, all the coaches were teachers and administrators. That was the only day I coached all summer, and we won.”
Mort has coached from the youth level all the way to high school. He said there is no difference between coaching somebody as young as 7 to that of a senior.
“Somebody else probably would tell you something different, but I don’t do anything different that I do with my high school kids than with my little guys,” he said.
“Everything is the same. I was a member of the CCHS baseball championship and two Babe Ruth championships. This might sound crazy, but the feeling for winning it all is exactly the same.”
For all of the children he helped along the way in his life, Mort does not have any children of his own. If anybody would ask if he has kids, though, his answer is yes.
“I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I have 105 of them in eight periods.’ If I was coaching a team, I would say, ‘Yeah, I have 15 of them,'” he said with a laugh.
“It just wasn’t in God’s will for us to have kids. We did everything we could.”
Mort, 63, and his wife, Susan, live in Steubenville and have been married for 34 years. She is a paraprofessional for Steubenville City Schools.
Although he teaches at Indian Creek, Mort still has a lot of love for his alma mater.
He was the guest speaker at the school’s Hall of Fame banquet on Thursday because many of the nominations were on the 1994 championship team.
“Baseball has opened so many doors for me, professionally and everything,” Mort said.
“Everywhere I go, somebody calls out, ‘Hey Teek’ or ‘Hey coach. Do you remember me?’ And they’ll be with their family and say, ‘Hey, that was my coach!’ That is just awesome. Coach is such a reverent term. That really validated everything that I’ve done in my entire life, especially when someone introduces you to their kids. It’s the absolute best.
“I feel like (coaching) definitely keeps me young. We had a game with our little guys (a few weeks back), and we’re not very good. We haven’t won a game until that day, and just that energy and excitement from the kids, I was jumping and running around with them. I was just feeding off of that. It’s just the energy the kids feed back to me is what keeps me going in coaching.”