Michael Simmons and Mike Giardi
Photo by Pam Simmons
If you’ve attended Marblehead sporting events over the past twenty years, you’ve likely encountered one of the town’s most ardent supporters. Michael Simmons can be spotted chatting with coaches, players, parents, students — always eager to share his infinite knowledge of the players, their stats, their ages, and what they bring to the game. His effusive energy fills the venue. His parents, Bob and Pam Simmons, both Boston College graduates, taught Michael a lot about sports, life, and the importance of lasting connections.
While playing professional baseball post-college for the Yankees, Giants, and Expos minor league teams, Mike Giardi began running baseball camps in the off-season out of Salem High School in 1994. “It was a different time, when recruiting kids was primarily done through snail mail and word of mouth,” recalls Mike. The late David Stern, Marblehead youth sports coaching legend, was an indispensable part of bringing Bob Simmons of Marblehead into the process. The introduction was fortuitous, given Bob’s integral connection to local sports. When Mr. Simmons asked if his 8-year-old son, Michael, could come to the camp, Mike was thrilled.
Michael’s first camp experience was in 2004, with weeklong sessions in February and April, followed by a summer camp. “There were 130 kids at those first camps, and Mikey always stood out, that’s for sure,” Mike said. “He had a blast.”
Things had gone so well, Michael was offered a job as a junior counselor the following summer.
“He comes in and helps us out. He knows the camp. He knows what we’re doing. He’s interactive, and we try to keep him on task by giving him a set job so he knows what he needs to do. And he’s really good at it,” Mike said.
In the years that followed, Mike’s career blossomed at Marblehead High School. As a full-time teacher of Algebra 2 and AP Calculus, head baseball and basketball coach, and offensive coordinator for the football team, Mike was known to spend an inordinate number of hours with students in the classroom and on the field. Michael Simmons became a benefactor of that kind of devotion, marking the beginning of a lifelong mentee/mentor relationship. “When I started coaching baseball and basketball at the new high school, Mikey jumped right onboard with us,” Mike said. “It was a great way to keep him involved.”
More than 20 years after they first met, Mike Giardi looks forward to having his mentee help with this year’s summer camps and football season this fall.
“Mr. Giardi has inspired me my whole life. We talk about everything — high school sports, BC football, Harvard football. We joke around all the time,” Michael, who turns 28 this fall and takes his work seriously, says. “I am punctual. I have a good attitude. And I’m a hard worker.”
Mike says Michael Simmons has been with him since the very beginning.
“He’s had a lot of fun, and the other kids are really drawn to him because he has such an energetic personality,” he said.
“I’ve been a sports guy my whole life” Michael says. “Mr. Giardi is so proud of me.”