If anyone can appreciate 46-year-old Harvey Krupnick’s performance in the Boston Park League this summer, it’s longtime friend and Massachusetts Envelope general manager John Kelliher.
“I played baseball in this league until I was 38,” said Kelliher, “and by that time I knew I had to stop because I couldn’t do it physically anymore. But Harvey’s eight years older than that and he just hit .392 for the season.”
Mass. Envelope missed the Park League playoffs by one game after a slow start, but Krupnick, a resident of Framingham who coached the Holliston High team to the Eastern Massachusetts Division 2 title last spring, didn’t miss a beat all season long.
“He seemed faster this year than the previous five or six,” Kelliher said.
The oldest player in the oldest continuous amateur league in the country, Krupnick, who is nationally known among the coaching fraternity for his videotape and lectures on batting technique, timed himself running around the bases at a Holliston varsity practice in the spring.
“I did it in 16.5 seconds,” he said, “and I remember that 30 years ago, when I attended the Ted Williams baseball camp in Lakeville, they timed me in 16.4. So I’ve lost a 10th of a second in 30 years.
“What’s funny is that when I was younger, they said I was too slow. Now my high school players and Park League teammates say, ‘Hey, for an old-timer, you run pretty fast.’ ”
Krupnick has been a physical education teacher in the Holliston school system since 1967 and began coaching baseball in 1968 — the first year he played for Kelliher in the Park League with the old Connolly Club.
After two years in the service, Krupnick began 20 years of uninterrupted double duty as a high school baseball coach and amateur baseball player, which has produced some hectic logistical moments.
“There have been a lot of days when I’ve hopped in the car after high school practice, grabbed a sandwich, ate in the car and then got to the field in time to throw batting practice for Mass. Envelope,” he said. “I’ve thrown batting practice for both teams in one day and then played at night.”
That would be grueling enough for someone half his age — which most of his Park League opponents are — but for right fielder, first baseman and designated hitter Krupnick, the physical demands are met because of a rigorous off-season regimen.
“My hitting skills, throwing skills and running skills haven’t diminished enough that I’m unable to compete with 20-year-old kids and the skills are there because of my off-field activities,” said Krupnick, who grew up in Athol. “I have a batting cage in my yard and I’m always teaching and talking hitting. And from September to the beginning of the baseball season I run twice a week for 30 minutes, including 10 100-yard sprints and running up and down the bleacher stairs. And I also lift weights.
“Physical fitness and lifetime happiness go hand in hand,” he said. “My motivation in the off-season is that I have a goal to continue to play and compete.”
Krupnick graduated from Athol High, where he was an All-North Worcester County outfield selection, in 1962. He was also a quarterback on the football team, a guard on the basketball team and was voted the school’s best athlete his senior year.
Then it was on to Adrian College in Michigan, where Krupnick was the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Most Valuable Player and an all-conference choice as a junior and senior.
A stickler for statistics who has played baseball for 39 consecutive summers, Krupnick, since his junior year of high school, has been at bat officially 2,891 times with 1,035 hits, for a .358 batting average. Including walks, he has been to the plate 3,381 times and has struck out on just 270 occasions.
“The key for me as a hitter, and what I try to teach, is effective use of the hands,” said Krupnick, who was signed to a minor league contract by the Tigers and spent part of one season in professional ball. “How you manipulate your wrists at the end of the swing, plus balance and positioning of your body, are the essentials of a good swing, but it all comes back to the power generated by your hands and how they propel the bat.”
Krupnick’s theory has been put into practice many times.
This season, when a lot of guys his age were sitting at home watching cable TV, Krupnick, on four consecutive at-bats for Mass. Envelope over two games, hit a three-run homer, a bases-loaded triple, another three-run homer and a double.
En route to his incredible .392 campaign, Krupnick was up 94 times, struck out just four times and had an on-base percentage of .556 while driving in 22 runs.
“Beyond that,” Kelliher said, “Harvey was a mentor and a great role model for our younger players. I mean, he’s been with us for more than two decades, has a full-time job 30 miles outside the city and still rarely misses a game. And he even recruits and scouts for us.”
His involvement in the game doesn’t end on the field.
Krupnick was president of the Massachusetts High School Baseball Coaches’ Association in 1980 and for 14 years has been cochairman for the coaches’ hall of fame banquet and clinic.
He is currently working on updating his hitting video — which has been distributed nationally and internationally since 1983 — with the help of a Natick production company and some of his high school players because, he said, “I’ve got some new ideas on wrist hitting.”
Holliston second baseman Bob Henderson, who is going to Bentley College in Waltham this fall, said his coach’s enthusiasm and teaching technique are impressive.
“I went to his hitting school when I was in eighth grade and went back the next year,” said Henderson, “and coach Krupnick has always stressed how everything has to come together when you’re at the plate, but especially the wrist action.”
Krupnick has a ball bag full of memories, but none clearer than the time he was 16 years old and a camper at the Ted Williams baseball school.
“It was at a camp all-star game and I hit a grand-slam home run,” he said. “When I rounded third base, a guy sitting in his car kept tooting his horn — it was Ted Williams.”
The stroke was still there at age 39, when Krupnick exploded one night for Mass. Envelope with nine runs batted in on a grand slam, a three-run homer and a bases-loaded single.
“In retrospect,” he said, “I have no excuses about not making it with the Tigers.I was a 5-11, 170-pound outfielder and either you’ve got to have super speed or a lot of power to make it in that position. Maybe I would have had a better chance if I had been an infielder, but it was a brief opportunity that didn’t work out.
“After that experience, though, I still wanted to see how long I could play and how far I could go.”
The answer, according to Kelliher, is as long as Harvey Krupnick wants to.
“He’s one of the most dedicated ballplayers I ever worked with and as long as I’m around, there’s a place for Harvey on this team.”
Copyright © 1990 Boston Globe, all rights reserved. Written by Marvin Pave.