All of the young football players surrounded Mike Krasel for an impromptu ceremony to celebrate the energetic man everyone calls, "Coach Mike."
Another coach, John Mix, of the Newport-Mesa Junior All-American Football Seahawks, wanted to talk about Coach Mike and how special he has been throughout the years. During a night practice at Bonita Creek Park, Coach Mike was reminded of how much they love him in Newport Beach.
It was clear this was his moment. But even in that moment, Coach Mike really didn't want it to be about him.
"Thank you," he said.
He wanted, like so many times in his life, to take a team picture with all of the players. This quaint ceremony, as short as it was, seemed perfect with the team photo, yet another memorable sports moment for Coach Mike, whose support for youth sports is legendary in Newport Beach.
The Newport-Mesa Junior All-American Seahawks and other families from sports programs in Newport Beach raised money to buy a new bike for Coach Mike, a 44-year-old man with special needs.
His other bike had been wearing down for all the times he rode it from one sporting event to the next. Mostly any game is a big one for a young athlete. And if it's a big game in Newport Beach, you'll be sure to see Coach Mike there.
He dances when he hears music. He always has words of encouragement for the kids. His care for the young athletes makes his words more meaningful and causes great motivation for them.
Growing Up In Newport Beach
There were days when Coach Mike was a young competitor himself in Newport Beach.
Because of his special-day classes, he ended up at Corona del Mar High School, where he ran for the cross-country team for Coach Bill Sumner.
Back then, Coach Mike loved to run and loved to practice. Basically anything dealing with sports he loves.
These days, he has found love for lacrosse, and water polo and swimming. The latter two sports he's found especially fun because his nieces, Carly, is a freshman swimmer at Newport Harbor, and Kate (Newport Harbor Class of 2015) played water polo and swam, and nephew Drew (Newport Harbor Class of 2014) swam.
Coach Mike lives with his older sister, Vickie Yasko, in Newport Beach. Yasko ran cross-country and track at Newport Harbor High before going on to compete at USC. But injuries changed her course and she ended up at UC Irvine, and then later turned to running for recreation and to keep in shape.
Sports have always been fun for Coach Mike, and very important during his development.
There were several times he was taken to various doctors and tested as a child. But there had been no one diagnosis placed on him, Yasko said. Tests showed attention deficit disorder and low-motor skills. But his speech and his outgoing personality compensated for a lot of his shortcomings, Yasko said.
"He has my dad's personality, super extroverted, talks to everybody," Yasko says of her younger brother. "He loves people and he loves sports."
There were challenging times while growing up with Coach Mike in Newport Beach, Yasko admitted. Not everyone was nice about Mike's struggles. Even now, there are some people, very few, who do not fully appreciate Coach Mike's work with youth sports teams.
There were times as a child when Mike would make noises while at restaurants or he would slip under the table and refuse to stay quiet, Yasko said.
Yasko's mother, Joie, would have to take Mike outside to calm him down and the father, Greg, and Vickie stayed at the table.
But Mike showed better behavior as he grew older, though he still found a way to embarrass Vickie during her teenage years at Newport Harbor.
Everybody Loves Coach Mike
Coach Mike found a home in sports, and at places like the Boys & Girls Club, in local gyms, and at baseball fields, especially for Newport Harbor Baseball Assn.
He quickly learned how to network too. He reached out and others reached out to him for rides to various sporting events.
Neighbors like Brian Theriot and the late Bill Gallagher wanted Coach Mike to be a part of their teams and sports programs so they made sure to bring him along.
"Coach Mike would gravitate to any team at the Boys & Girls Club," Theriot said. "At Junior All-American we were lucky to get him there. I would give him rides. He was always ready to go. He's quite a character."
Theriot really enjoyed when Coach Mike would break into his rendition of Snoop Dogg's "Who Am I? (what's my name?)"
The kids certainly loved it. They also got a kick out of Coach Mike's half-court shots. He can launch them underhanded and sink them into the hoop.
Coach Mike also had fun with Theriot on many occasions.
Theriot still laughs when he talks about the time he let Coach Mike drive his black Cadillac. That one wasn't so funny for Coach Mike's mom.
"Boy, did I catch hell," Theriot said. "He's always so good. Just a great guy to have around. People are lucky to have him around. I was lucky to have him for eight seasons."
Robert Stefano of NHBA saw Coach Mike as a treasure for the baseball program and all its players. Mike playfully called Coach Stefano, "Robster."
"There is just something special inside him and it's just a truly awesome message that he sends to everyone, regardless of the sport," Stefano said. "He's definitely one of a kind."
Richard Dunn, a former Daily Pilot sports editor who has coached youth sports teams in Newport Beach, likes to call Coach Mike, "Dancing Mike."
Coach Mike does love to dance and his dancing usually lightens the mood of the most intense situations during games. Sometimes the dancing proves to be a reminder that the young athletes are all out there to have fun.
"It's a beautiful thing," Dunn said. "He's a wonderful guy. He has a heart of gold. God has used him to be an inspiration."
Ben Mix, a 13-year-old with the Seahawks, wanted to do his best to help raise money for a new bike for Coach Mike. They also got him a bike jersey and Seahawks bag. Players like Mix will enjoy watching Coach Mike at games and knowing they helped with a new bike so he can get around.
"Newport Seahawks wouldn't be the Newport Seahawks without Coach Mike," Mix said.
For as much as Coach Mike loves sports, he also enjoys working as a volunteer at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach, near Newport Harbor High.
Don't you dare throw away a plastic bottle in an ordinary trash can. Coach Mike is a stickler for recycling.
For the past 15 years, Coach Mike has been a volunteer at the ENC, where he enjoys greeting visitors and performing various tasks to help out.
Coach Mike loves to use the wood chipper, said Bo Glover, the executive director at the ENC.
"Mike brings a tremendous amount of enthusiasm," Glover said. "He is a delight to work with. He has taken on many roles at the center … We have about 900 volunteers annually. Over the years Mike has put in more hours than any other volunteer at the nature center. We should all aspire to give back like Mike does."