Dan was the man!
By CHRIS LARICK
The chief executive officer of the Major League Baseball Alumni Association
will never deny his Ashtabula County roots.
"I realize that Ashtabula County athletes, teachers and coaches' school
spirit is as good as anywhere in the country," said Dan Foster, a 1965 Edgewood High School graduate.
"The things you learn there will serve you well in life. They provided the
discipline and academic platform for me, specifically."
Foster, who will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation
Hall of Fame on April 2 at the Conneaut Human Resource Center, is currently
circulating among the "Cactus League" teams currently in spring training in
Arizona. Foster already made the rounds of the "Grapefruit League" teams in
"During spring training, I speak to the players about the things available
to them when they're done playing," Foster, 57, said. "To the players it's
pretty much the gospel about what life after baseball is all
"They're very receptive to me. It's great. We talk about things like
personal appearances and health care."
To Foster, the public gets a slanted view on former baseball players from
negative reports in the media.
"There are as many good stories as bad ones," Foster said. "There are a lot
of good guys."
Foster was an outstanding basketball player in his day, first in high
school, then in college, then as a professional, though that career was
He played on a Jefferson High School team that had big plans for the 1964-65
season. The Falcons had completed Foster's junior season with a 12-8 record
with a team that consisted primarily of juniors. Foster himself had averaged
16.2 points and 13.7 rebounds a game, shooting 42 percent from the floor and
82 percent from the foul line.
Before his senior basketball season began, though, a school bond levy failed
and all winter sports were canceled. With hopes of a college scholarship at
stake, Foster and his parents racked their brains for an idea.
"The situation was extremely stressful," Foster said. "We looked at our
options. One option was to transfer. My parents and I decided I'd go to
Jefferson's loss was Edgewood's gain. When Foster transferred, the Warriors
were 1-4. With their new 6-foot-4 swingman contributing almost 25 points and
17 points a game, Edgewood went 15-2 the rest of the year, sharing the
Western Reserve League championship with Fairport, an eventual Class A
The Warriors themselves didn't do badly in the tournament, upsetting
top-seeded Geneva in the first round and moving to the district finals at
Eastlake North, where they suffered a 73-55 loss to Cleveland East in the
district final. In the semifinals, Edgewood scored 30 points, pulled down 17
rebounds and set a tourney record by making all 16 of his free-throw
attempts in 73-58 triumph over Conneaut.
Meanwhile, just three weeks after Foster's transfer, Jefferson reinstated
"It was unbelievable," Foster said. "But there was nothing I could do. My
transfer had already been processed."
Back in Jefferson, the Falcons made the most of their reprieve but could go
just 6-9 in an abbreviated schedule. Though the Falcons had good players
left in Rick Stevens and Rick Havens, they found themselves unready for the
Foster was good, but the Falcons had lost Mickey Zigmund from the previous
year's team to graduation. Those two had been a good one-two punch for
"Mickey (Zigmund) was pretty good," Havens said. "They (Foster and Zigmund)
were pretty close. (In our junior year), Mickey was our outside threat and
Dan was our inside guy. Dan was playing against some very big kids. Jim
Gilbert at Ashtabula was 6-11. Everybody had somebody.
"Dan was very smart. He knew how to use his height. Someone on the team
would get the ball into him and he'd kick it back out. They'd throw it in
and he'd kick it back out. About the third time, he'd fake the kickout and
pop it in.
"He was a very heady ball player and an excellent shot. As sophomores, we
played JV ball and went 15-3, beat Geneva when they were their toughest. Our
junior year, we ended up second to Fairport. We had a chance to beat them.
We were up about eight or so with three minutes to go, but we wound up
losing that game. Mickey was the only senior on that team.
"We had a very good group coming back. At that point in time, you were
allowed to scrimmage other teams after the season until the (state)
tournament was over. No one came within 35 points of us. We weren't big, but
we were quick and played excellent defense. We were looking forward to our
With winter sports supposedly canceled, the Jefferson players spent their
time playing backyard football in the snow and rain during Christmas
vacation. Then came the decision to have sports, after all, and the Falcons
"It'd been a month-and-a-half," Havens said. "I got shin splints. We were
behind everybody. We weren't in shape and Danny was gone. It was kind of a
miserable year. Dan was such a good shooter, had to be in the high 80
(percent)s as a foul shooter."
The highlight of Foster's senior year (and the lowlight for Havens and the
rest of the Falcons) came against his former team. Foster wound up scoring
49 points in a 92-52 victory in the second of three games between the teams.
It was probably a fluke. In the other two meetings, the Warriors won just
53-40 and 62-50. But Foster was on fire in that game.
"It was a situation where I was trying to miss but I couldn't," Foster said
later. "That was a real bittersweet moment for me."
"It was a storybook finish for me, but I had to take the harassment back in
Jefferson," Foster said in the recent interview. "It was eerie. All those
guys were my friends and had been since the first grade.
"I remember I had 30 points through the first three quarters. I told the
coach (Clint McConnell) that the game was over. But they gave me the ball
all the time and I scored 19 in the fourth quarter. I don't think it was
revenge or thoughtlessness (on McConnell's part). I don't think he did
"We couldn't stop him," Havens said. "Our coach pulled us out after the
third quarter, but their coach kept (Foster) in. Dan didn't enjoy it. He
came over and apologized.
"Dan was a good student and a good friend. Rick Stevens was on our team and
they grew up together. They were like brothers. That was the hardest thing."
In high school, Foster scored 324 points as a junior at Jefferson and 554 as
a senior at Edgewood, totaling 878. Had he played varsity as a sophomore, he
would have doubtlessly achieved the 1,000-point plateau, but the Falcons had
a great varsity team Foster's sophomore year, posting an 18-3 record and
winning the Western Reserve League championship.
For Havens' part, that basketball season was a bitter experience.
"We lost an opportunity to see what we could do together. There's no doubt
we would have been a better team than Edgewood with Danny."
At Ohio Northern University, Foster did surpass 1,000 points. In fact, he
finished his college career with 1,746 points, a school record that stood
until at least 1994. Jeremy Thompson holds the current record, 1,976 points,
scored between 1997 and 2000.
"That's since they got the 3-pointer," Foster, who played without such an
advantage, pointed out.
Foster started the fifth game of his freshman year and every game afterward
until graduation. Though his career point record has been passed, he still
holds ONU's free-throw shooting marks for a game (17), season (185) and
career (536), even after 37 years.
After college, Foster had tryouts with the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the
Miami Floridians of the ABA. He eventually went to Israel to play for a
professional team in Tel Aviv.
"It was a shot," Foster said. "It was the only place I could go. You always
think you have a chance. It was fun and I was young."
The Tel Aviv experience lasted a year. Then, Foster came back to Ashtabula
County as a math teacher and freshman basketball coach at Ashtabula High
School. From there, he returned to the Ohio Northern area, where he taught
and coached both at a high school near there and as a helper at ONU.
Then, after a year, he used his accounting degree from ONU to obtain a
banking job, staying in that position for six years before becoming sales
director for Hawaiian Tropics suntan products, spending six years in that
In 1984, two years after the MLB Alumni Association was formed, Foster took
a job with the group, starting as the organization's director of special
events. He eventually worked his way up to the CEO position he now holds.
"I've been working for the MLBAA for 21 years now," he said. "I had my
degree in accounting and a graduate degree in finance. I had a sports
background. That's what they were looking for. It's been a great career."
Though former Baltimore Oriole Brooks Robinson is president of the
association and other former players like George Brett and Robin Yount are
listed as vice presidents, those positions are largely nominal ones.
"They're volunteers, whose names people on the street know," Foster said. "I
have a staff of people who do all kinds of things - celebrity golf outings,
personal appearances, health care, those kinds of things."
Does his success in the business world make up for the fact he never made it
in the professional basketball world?
"I don't think I was ever disappointed," he said. "Reality sets in. I wasn't
good enough; that's the way it is. Some guys don't handle it well, the
reality of not making it. But I don't think I ever suffered delusions of
Foster married Margaret ("My lovely bride," he says) 15 years ago after
meeting her at a celebrity golf tournament, where she was serving as the
head of the American Diabetes Association in Houston. Margaret is a Texan,
having been born and raised in Lubbock.
He and his family live in Colorado Springs, where the MLBAA is located. The
couple has a son, Austin, 11.
"It's all good, my life now," said Foster, who didn't marry until he was 42.
"I coach my son in basketball. He's into a lot of things, snowmobiles and
Much of Foster's life is spent on airplanes, though.
"There's a lot of traveling in this job," Foster said. "But it's not all
bad. I get to go to the All-Star Game, to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame
induction and to the World Series.
"It gets old. Traveling is a pain. But there's a lot of exciting things
going on. You've got to do it right or you won't be there. But it's still
Though his life is far away now, Foster won't forget where he came from.
"I feel grateful for coming out of a good place," he said. "Northeastern
Ohio doesn't have to take a back seat to anybody."