Oakville High baseball field renamed in Sturm’s honor

By STEPHEN GLOVER

For 17 seasons at Oakville Senior High School, Rich Sturm molded the Tigers’ baseball team into one of the best programs in the state.

Oakville paid its respects to Sturm April 21 when the high school’s baseball field was renamed in his honor during a ceremony before the Tigers’ 3-1 loss to Lindbergh.

“This was such a surprise,” Sturm said. “Anything like this is a surprise and it’s a pleasure to be honest.”

From 1983 to 1999, Sturm guided Oakville’s baseball team to a record of 261-111, including five district championships and two appearances in the Class 4A Final Four. In 1989, the Tigers reached the Class 4A championship game, dropping a 10-3 decision to Jefferson City.

Son Rich Sturm Jr., Oakville’s current head baseball coach, played shortstop as a junior on the 1989 squad. And like many players who have fathers as a coach, the elder Sturm was sometimes a little harder on his own son than the other players.

“Dads that coach their kids tend to usually be a little harder on their own kid,” the elder Sturm said. “I think that it made him a better coach and he’s doing a nice job making his own niche.”

Although he retired in 1999, Sturm Sr. remains a constant fixture on the Oakville bench as an unpaid assistant.

“My dad is not only my father, but also my mentor,” Rich Sturm Jr. said. “I’ve tried to pattern and model everything that he did. The one thing that many of his players bring up is the positive environment that he created. The kids had a lot of respect for him and wanted to go out there and give everything they’ve got for him.”

After Sturm’s retirement, Rick Seim led the baseball team from 2000 to 2003.

It was those four years that essentially gave the younger Sturm the time to eventually establish himself as head coach and begin an era of his own.

“It was probably a good thing that Rick (Seim) was the head coach during that time,” the elder Sturm said. “Rich was with me for a long time as a player and then as a coach, and I told him that no matter what I did, you’ve got to be your own coach.”

He entered the teaching/coaching profession in the mid-1960s as the sophomore basketball coach at Ladue Senior High. In 1968, he began teaching physical education at Mehlville Junior High School and coached the eighth-grade basketball team.

After several stints as an assistant basketball coach at Oakville Senior High School, Sturm took over the Oakville boys’ basketball team from 1975 to 1981. During those six seasons, Sturm’s Tigers were 94-68 and won three district championships.

He’s observed a lot of change over the past 30 years as Oakville’s enrollment has increased and the Tigers have switched from the Suburban South Conference to the Suburban West Conference.

“The school has grown, we’ve changed conferences and the competition has gotten better as time goes on, and the expectations also grew,” Sturm said. “I’m very grateful for what I’ve been given and I couldn’t have made it without the great assistants I had and a great group of parents and players.”