The athletic world offers few certainties, but one is that on any given day of a Wyoming spring or summer, baseball diamonds across the state are filled with games producing winners and losers. Sadly, everyone in the Cowboy State was a loser this last Thursday when an icon of American Legion Baseball was suddenly taken from among us.
Ross Kesterson, longtime manager of the Evanston Outlaws American Legion baseball program, was driving on wet roads in heavy rain last Thursday evening when a traffic accident claimed his life. He was returning from northern Wyoming in order to coach his team Friday morning in the Stampede at the Springs, an invitational baseball tournament being held in Rock Springs. Kesterson was 56 years old.
“Wyoming has lost a champion of youth and the game,” said Paul Eastridge, Wyoming American Legion Baseball Chariman . “I remember Ross hitting home runs out of Casper’s Tani Field during his youth,” Eastridge said, “and Ross was eventually drafted- I think by the Minnesota Twins.”
It was common knowledge that Kesterson- who preferred that his players and fellow coaches merely call him Ross- funded the Outlaw program mostly from his own pocket book, an act of generosity toward youth and a love for baseball made even more impressive when considering today's poor economy.
Yet, to merely say that Ross had a passion for his players and the game would be a gross understatement. Anyone that ever witnessed Ross in action over the years can attest to his willingness to help players of any team be successful. Keterson was always eager to lend his baseball expertise to whomever asked for it, yet he was just as content to give advice when it was not requested, especially with umpires.
While not a certainty, it is a safe bet that every umpire in the region knew Ross Kesterson and knew him as a manager that was quick and capable of keeping umpires on their toes. Kesterson was a colorful, uninhibited, and high-decibel figure when it came to discussing differences with umpires, but it is another safe bet that those who experienced his baseball scrutiny nonetheless carried great respect for the coach . . . and the man.
Kesterson’s peers also held him in high esteem, as evidenced by a release that carried the tragic news to baseball coaches and American Legion officials around the state. Nate Perleberg, manager of the Gillette Rough Riders, finished the sad announcement with strong words of praise for his fallen friend and condolences for the Kesterson family.
“Ross was a great man and coach . . . what a tragic loss to our Wyoming Legion Baseball family,” Perleberg said. “May your thoughts and prayers be with his family."
The recent words of a current Evanston Outlaw player provide insight regarding Ross Kesterson’s ability to deeply touch those he coached. In a statement made on the day of, but prior to, the accident, Outlaw player Terry Morrill discussed how Ross had positively touched his life.
“(Ross) told me something that really is a true compliment I feel,” Morrill said. “I was told that (Ross) wishes more people had my work ethic and that I am a self made player and how we need more of those kind of people on our team.”
It is more than appropriate that rain shut down nearly all of the baseball action across Wyoming on the weekend after Ross Kesterson passed. It is as if the weather felt the need to enforce a baseball moratorium so that the many people positively affected by Ross would have the opportunity to pause and reflect on the man who had donated his time, money, and expertise without ever asking for anything in return.
Services are pending for Ross Kesterson, but another certainty of Cowboy State baseball is that many, many past Evanston players, opposing players, parents, coaches, and American Legion officials will be in attendance to honor a man whose presence was taken for granted far too long, but whose memory will last even longer. Wyoming American Legion Baseball is reeling from having lost a most remarkable presence, but it has been a winner for the many years Ross unselfishly served.
As Wyoming mourns its loss and celebrates the life of Ross Kesterson, the words that best fit can only be:
“Thank you, Ross, from the many, many people whose lives are so much better for having known you.”