Brock and Lisa Pappas

Brock Pappas, left, plays baseball for Washington Township. His and the Senators' most vocal supporter is his mom, Lisa Pappas, whose phrase, "Get dirty, ole boy," can be heard all over Senator Park or wherever the team is playing.

Her yell is unmistakable, piercing the spring air at Washington Township baseball games like a line drive.

Get dirty, ole boy!

"That's ole, o-l-e," Lisa Pappas said.

Any Senators fan knows Pappas, also the school's boys volleyball coach. Opposing schools only know her as that lady with the big voice.

"At (Kankakee Valley on Friday), their whole team started to do it," oldest son Bryce Pappas said. "She's the loud mom. We're kinda used to it. It would be weird if it was quiet. We'd know something was wrong. We give her a hard time sometimes, but if it makes her happy, we're happy. It's nice to have the support."

Bryce graduated from Washington, where he played volleyball, basketball and baseball, the same sports as Brock, a senior. It's the eighth year that Lisa's cheers have energized Senators games, though they actually date back to the boys' Valparaiso Americans Little League games.

"They've been hearing it since they were little," she said. "My husband (Steve) coached them when they were younger. Sometimes, I wouldn't know a kid's name, so I'd just say 'ole boy,' and it just kind of stuck. They grew up with that. We're their biggest fans."

A Portage graduate, Lisa played volleyball and softball. A spark plug on the court and field, she was the person who was always making sure teammates knew what to do and where to go. Before the boys, she and Steve, who played baseball, traveled nationally for elite slow-pitch softball tournaments.

"It's kind of in our blood," she said. "I guess I've always been a talker. I'm a whistler, too. People say, 'Oh, I wish I could that.' Being a coach, encouraging kids, it just comes to me. It's fun. I love to get them fired up in a positive way."

Sometimes, the "ole boy" is prefaced by another phrase, but the "get dirty" line is the trademark, catching on to the point that it's been printed on T-shirts, two words on the front, two on the back.

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"I played (softball) on aglime, so I was always getting scrapes on my knees. My dad used to say, 'No one's going to date you with legs like that,'" Lisa said. "I'm pretty competitive. I think they should be diving every time. They shouldn't go in to the base standing up. You should come out of the game with a lot of dirt on you. If you're not dirty, you're not playing hard. If I don't say 'get dirty,' fans will say, 'Wait, you didn't tell him to get dirty.'"

The boys get a kick out of their mom's exhortations. Not every parent comes to their kids' games, let alone are as passionate as Pappas.

"She's got some powerful pipes," Brock said. "When you're playing, you always want to have some support. You hear her yelling, it puts a smile on your face, not just me, any player on the team. To have someone tell me, good game, or if I have a bad one, to lift my head up, it gives you all the confidence in the world."

On the rare occasions Lisa, an administrative assistant with the Valparaiso University education department, has to miss a game, come late or leave early, there's a noticeable void of silence. One time, Brock said, she even called another mom so she could yell to him by phone as he batted.

"A couple tried to say 'ole boy' and it just wasn't the same." Lisa said.

Bryce attends VU and Brock, a two-sport team captain, will be going there as well, so it's not like the Pappas nest will be empty. It just won't be the same without Senators baseball, which dates back to middle school for the family.

"I'm so proud of the boys and the whole team," Lisa said. "They have a wonderful coach who is dedicated to the sport. (Randy) Roberts has brought them a long way many years. This group of seniors has been with him since they were little. He's not your typical coach, but he loves them and he loves the sport. They respect him. You don't see that respect for adults anymore."

While she won't have a son on the Senator Park field anymore, it's hard to imagine Lisa not showing up for some games. She's already agreed to come back at least another year to coach volleyball.

"I can't believe it's coming to an end. It's so crushing to me," she said. "It really hits home, 'Oh my gosh, this is it.' Brock's favorite sport is basketball, but he really lives the camaraderie of baseball. I don't know what I'm going to do. They're all asking me to come back, (saying) 'We need you to cheer us on.'"

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.peters@nwi.com.


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.