Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Casey Zylman remembered

The Coleman community remembered the legacy of recent Iraq war casualty and 2003 Coleman graduate Casey Zylman Friday at one of the places he loved most.

Before Coleman closed out its regular season against Meridian, both baseball teams honored the 23-year-old fallen U.S. soldier and former Comets' leftfielder with a moment of silence at the Coleman field.

For Coleman coach Dave Mammel, the tribute cast a melancholy mood.

"It was kind of hard to get things started when you're on such an emotional low," said Mammel, who coached Zylman when he played for the Comets. But the feeling quickly changed when Mammel, former teammates and friends had the opportunity to reflect on Zylman's zeal for baseball and for life.

"He played the game hard," Mammel said. "He loved the game, and he was just a really good teammate."

Mammel added that Zylman didn't receive much playing time as a junior for the Comets, but he came back determined to contribute during his senior season.

That year, Coleman jumped from Division 4 to Division 3, but the Comets rose to the level of tougher competition. In Zylman's senior year, Coleman defeated powerhouse Clare -- one of the top-ranked teams in the state -- in the district tournament. Zylman started in left field.

"He was solid," Mammel said. "And he was aggressive."

After the Comets pulled the upset, Mammel said Zylman and other teammates were celebrating so excitedly, Mammel tried to calm them down since the team still had another game to play that day. His efforts proved futile.

"'Coach, we just beat Clare,'" Mammel remembers Zylman as saying.

Reflecting on the story, Mammel could only smile.

Meridian manager Mark Novak didn't coach Zylman but remembered watching him play American Legion in the summertime.

"He was just the kind of ballplayer you'd want playing for you," Novak said.

Novak's star pitcher, Blake Weakman, played one year with Zylman on the Sanford Post 443 American Legion team and said Zylman "made everybody laugh."

"All around, he was a great guy," Weakman said. "I loved to play with him."

Mammel also had Zylman as a student and described him as a polite kid who said, "sir," "thank you," and "please."

"All those things you strive so hard as parents to hope that your kids do right, and he was one of those kids who did them," Mammel said.

Zylman visited the Coleman community this past winter and attended a Friday night Comets' basketball game. He received an ovation from the crowd for his service in Iraq.

"That would have been the last time I saw him," Mammel said.

From the Midland Daily News

Related Link:
Casey P. Zylman dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'