The sun was shining brightly on the first Friday this May. A slight breeze from the west shook a few cobwebs from the flagpole beyond the centerfield fence at the Home of the Trojans baseball field, and varsity baseball coaches Mark Pendred and Dennis Petrowitz meticulously went about their business of grooming what could only be described as an immaculate playing surface.
A year ago on that same field, on an otherwise normal Monday in May, Ed Outslay – distinguished professor in accounting at Michigan State University and long-time assistant baseball coach at East Lansing High School – suffered a fatal heart attack after having thrown a few rounds of batting practice prior to that day’s game in the Diamond Classic at MSU.
Outslay began volunteering with the ELHS baseball coaching staff in the spring of 1995 when his oldest son, Mark, was a freshman. Petrowitz was the head freshman coach in ’95 when he met Outslay for the first time at tryouts. He knew him for the next 25 seasons as well as anyone on the Trojan baseball staff.
“I’ll always remember that voice,” Petrowitz said earlier this week. “Nobody had a voice like his. You didn’t have to see him to know who was speaking. He also forgot more baseball than I’ll ever know.”
East Lansing Info is honoring Outslay, 67, a Crystal Award recipient in 1996, with its “Trojan of the Week” designation for the countless hours he devoted to the success of ELHS baseball. The time he spent on the diamond was not unlike his community service and dedication to Meals on Wheels, River Terrace Church or to MSU’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
He walked the walk, too.
“He had a passion for baseball, tax accounting and his family,” Petrowitz said. “He and his wife, Jane, would have been married 45 years this spring.”
A New Jersey native, Outslay played baseball and earned his undergraduate degree at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and his master’s and doctorate at the University of Michigan. He taught at the MSU School of Business for more than 38 years, and was considered an expert in the field of taxation. He taught and mentored thousands of students and wrote frequently on his area of expertise.
Not surprisingly, Petrowitz said, he loved “situational baseball. Men on first and second, first and third; one out, no outs. What’s next? He was always thinking one step ahead. One of the smartest guys I’ve ever known, and one of the most unselfish, too.”
He earned the nickname “Commissioner” because he was in charge of the “Dairy Queen Challenge” on the Trojan baseball team’s annual spring trips to Florida. He and Jane shared a love of concerts, zoos and museums.
“A true intellect,” Petrowitz said.
Outslay already had been moved into a waiting ambulance and was not breathing when Petrowitz arrived at the field. After a brief discussion with a police officer, Petrowitz called Jane and drove her to the hospital.
In the meantime, the Trojans completed their pregame drills and headed over to McLane Stadium for a first-round date in the Diamond Classic against Pewamo-Westphalia, not knowing their coach’s condition. A lengthy pregame huddle outside the dugout with heads bowed indicated that something wasn’t quite right.
The game ended in a close loss, but the question that was on everyone’s mind was answered shortly after the final out had been recorded when Petrowitz, having returned from the hospital, shared the news with Pendred.
The day Outslay died “was one of the dark days in East Lansing sports,” Petrowitz said to me outside the stadium gate. Pendred maintained his composure the best he could when addressing the team with the incredibly sad news.
On that glorious, sun-kissed Friday afternoon earlier this month, Pendred and Petrowitz were edging the warning track and raking stones along the reddish-orange path in front of the outfield fence. An unusually warm spring day that, in most years, would have included a game or two.
The pitcher’s mound, groomed to perfection for many years by Outslay, was covered by a protective tarp. Had anyone moved it, Petrowitz surely would have heard that voice.
Some things you’ll just never forget.