Baseball is in George Panebianco’s blood; it is his passion. Beginning with his days in Little League, Panebianco followed the lure of the game. He received a scholarship to Alleghany College, armed with the work ethic taught by his many coaches, eventually earning a juris doctor degree from Albany Law School. According to his wife, Cathy, “Part of the reason he is where he is today is because of baseball. It helped him get into law school by teaching him leadership and teamwork.”
For over 30 years, despite a hectic schedule, there has always been time for baseball in Panebianco’s life and for coaching, in particular. More than a game, he feels his coaching time is about families, team commitment, community, and giving back. When asked about the importance of baseball to Jamestown, the word, “vital” comes to his mind, saying he could not imagine the city without it.
As a coach, he often takes his Babe Ruth players to watch the Jamestown Jammers. Panebianco mused, “I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon or evening than going down to Russ Diethrick Stadium and watching a game. Not only do the kids learn about baseball, but they learn about life lessons.” Remembering times with his own father, he said, “If I could have one wish, it would be being at the stadium, having a hot dog, and watching a game with my dad.”
For some time, Panebianco’s worry has been that economic factors are denying many young people the opportunity to participate in the sport he loves. He is convinced the almost 70% drop in recent league enrollment is because families cannot afford the registration fees and equipment, or are unable to fund-raise.
In 2014, acting on his concerns, his wife decided the most fitting way to celebrate her husband’s 50th birthday was to throw a surprise party – but with a twist. She established The Play Ball Fund through the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and asked friends to contribute to it in lieu of gifts. The fund’s purpose is to provide money for disadvantaged youth so they might join in America’s national pastime. Thrilled with the idea, many of Panebianco’s friends eagerly responded.
Money raised will be used to support Jamestown Babe Ruth Baseball and will make financial assistance available for players in need. It can also be used to purchase equipment, to maintain playing fields, or for other unforeseen expenses.
For more information on this fund, or to make a tax-deductible contribution, click here.
To read more about the rich tradition of baseball in our community, click here.