Clairbourn to Honor Mr. 1.000 With Batting Cage

John Paciorek will never forget Sept. 29, 1963. The warm Sunday afternoon marked the final day of the Major League Baseball regular season and the Houston Colt .45s were not going to make the playoffs. At the time, Paciorek was an 18-year-old prospect in the present-day Astros organization who had been called up for this one game as part of the team’s plan to briefly showcase its young talent. Right on cue, Paciorek wowed the home crowd during his debut, reaching base all five times against the New York Mets. He compiled three hits, two walks, four runs scored and three runs batted in. Not a bad first day at the office. Although the season was over, the future seemed bright.
But ensuing injuries relegated Paciorek to the minors throughout the next several years and he never could make it back to the highest level. He hung it up at age 23 with a perfect batting average of 1.000. Paciorek, who recently announced his retirement from Clairbourn School after 41 years as a physical education instructor and baseball coach, remains the only player in MLB history to achieve an immaculate batting average with more than two appearances at the plate.
To honor Paciorek’s lasting legacy and fruitful tenure at Clairbourn, the K-8 school has decided to construct a new batting cage on campus to benefit student athletics. The state-of-the-art structure, aptly dubbed “The Coach Paciorek – Bat 1.000 Batting Cage,” will include a pitching mound and pitching machine, AstroTurf flooring, a roof, custom safety screens, a storage area, and will be enclosed within a chain-link fence.
“It was a pretty easy call because John is all about baseball,” said longtime Clairbourn Headmaster Robert Nafie. “He knows all sports and he has coached all sports and he’s really excellent at all sports.
“He’s been so unselfish with the students over the years. It wouldn’t really matter what their ability was. Maybe a certain student might only have limited ability. Well, he would never hear that from John.
“It’s not just a matter of throwing up a little nylon net or something. It’s going to be a nice facility.”
Paciorek plans to retire from teaching following the current 2016-17 school year. His honorary batting cage is scheduled to be unveiled and ready for use next spring, just in time for baseball season.
“It’s a nice gesture on their part,” Paciorek said. “All the years that I’ve been here, we had this wooden-framed structure that was just not conducive to the most proficient batting instruction. We couldn’t do pitching in there.”
“This was the perfect opportunity with my retirement and Nafie jumped on it right away.”
Clairbourn is hoping to raise $60,000 through community and alumni donations to cover the cost of the project. Leading that effort is Clairbourn Director of Development Kyle Schaberg, who joined the school in 2008 as an assistant baseball coach. During the past eight years, Schaberg has come to appreciate Paciorek’s enthusiasm for the students and their athletic advancement.
“Whatever he’s doing, he’s excited about it,” Schaberg said. “He’s inspiring kids to do their best and he just lives and breathes sports. Anything that he can impart to the students of Clairbourn, he has done. His presence around campus will certainly be missed.”
But Paciorek isn’t ready to walk away completely next summer. The 71-year-old lives very close to Clairbourn and his grandchildren currently attend the school. He intends to visit them regularly and may even step into the batting cage on occasion to offer some baseball wisdom to future generations.
“It’s a transition in the sense of a different set of duties, but it’s not goodbye,” said Nafie. “He’ll be around and influencing kids. We couldn’t be more thrilled about that, but we’ll give more flexibility in his daily life.”
This extra time should allow Paciorek to devote more time to his writing, a side passion that has resulted in two published books. “Plato & Socrates, Baseball’s Wisest Fans” is a contrived conversation between the two Greek philosophers as they ponder the elements that make baseball their favorite pastime. The discussion also delves into ways that the sport could be improved. “The Principle of Baseball and All There Is to Know About Hitting” examines two of the game’s most critical fundamentals — batting and throwing — from both physical and mental perspectives.
“Working with the students is where I get all my information,” Paciorek said. “I have a pretty good knack of seeing what everybody does, whether they do it correctly or incorrectly. I’ve learned so much by just observing the kids. So all of my essays and all of my things that I include in my books have to do with what I’ve learned from the kids here at Clairbourn. Where else would I have gotten all that information? It all panned out so well for me. I owe a debt of gratitude to everything I’ve received from
Clairbourn.”

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