Monday was just another busy day for Bob Baird. He stopped at the bank, the dry cleaners, the library and, somewhere along the way found time to pick up a few Christmas gifts for his six children and 12 grandchildren.
“I went to like six places already today,” Baird said by phone. “I got more tired doing that than I do at work.
“I just turned 70 this summer. I don’t feel like I’m 70. People tell me I am.”
The day did not end, however, without Baird stopping by Stratford High School.
“I like that place. That was my high school,” said Baird, who recently retired after 20 years as the school’s athletic director. “Just like when I was at (University of Bridgeport), that was my college. I graduated from there.
“I feel pretty fortunate having been the athletic director at both schools I graduated from.”
The schools are homes away from home for Baird. He spent a good chunk of his Monday afternoon at Stratford High School — from where he graduated in 1965 — helping prepare his successor, Tony DeAngelo, for the position. DeAngelo previously was the assistant principal at the school.
“He’s a pillar of Stratford,” DeAngelo said of Baird.
Baird plans to continue serving as the South-West Conference softball chairman, which means he’ll still have a hand in high school athletics. However, now that he’s no longer saddled with daily on-the-job responsibilities, he can choose his hours more freely.
“I just don’t have to be there at 10 after 7 or quarter after 7 in the morning,” Baird said. “I used to check out sometimes and get home at 8:30 or 9 at night.”
That was the life Baird knew and loved. Everything changed, though, on Oct. 17, 2016, when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He wound up spending 77 days in the hospital and underwent four rounds of chemotheraphy. During that time, he also dealt with mononucleosis.
Fortunately, Baird was declared cancer-free in February. He returned to school in August, but thought to himself, “It’s about time to enjoy my life.”
“The doctor told me it was going to be a year to a year and a half before you really start feeling great again,” Baird said. “I said, ‘OK.’ … I wanted to retire in October, and they talked me into staying after the Thanksgiving (football) game (against town rival Bunnell) because it was our turn to host.”
There is one job Baird doesn’t plan on giving up anytime soon. It’s with the Stratford Brakettes, the women’s fastpitch softball team for which he has served as general manager for 30 years. He’s been with the Brakettes for so long that he jokes they will one day bury him under the pitching rubber at the team’s home ballpark, DeLuca Field.
Baird has also coached softball at both the high school and collegiate levels.
“That’s not work, that’s fun. That’s summertime enjoyment,” Baird said of the Brakettes. “They’ll always be in my life.”
Current SWC commissioner and former Bunnell athletic director Dave Johnson considers Baird one of his “closest and dearest friends.” Johnson said that Baird’s sense of humor will be missed, especially during long, stressful meetings.
“The great thing about Bob is not only did he always bring valued advice as an experienced athletic administrator,” Johnson said, “but he also always kept the meetings loose. He has a great sense of humor, that dry wit.
“Bob always had a way of just trying to get everyone to relax and laugh a little bit.”
Baird started teaching civics at Stratford High School in 1989. Prior to that, he was a sports editor/writer for the Bridgeport Post from 1969-88.