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Phillips honored by hometown magazine

By day, he is the president of Gardners Candies, but there is more to the world of Sam Phillips than making sure the Peanut Butter Meltaways come off the line. The New Jersey native has made an impact on the Tyrone community with his work at Gardners, and has been honored by the State College community for his work as State College Little League President and was named one of the Citizens of the Year for 2002 by Town and Gown magazine.
Phillips claims not to be the best athlete in the world, but what he does behind the scenes is what counts.
“In all honesty, this award belongs to many people,” said Phillips. “This award goes to the numerous parents, volunteers and coaches that work to make the State College Little League successful.”
The effort Phillips puts into the State College Little League is even more special because he doesn’t have a child playing in the league.
Phillips is the proud father of three children, Christopher, a Penn State grad, who is in the hotel business in Connecticut, Kevin, a sophomore film and art major at a school in Savannah, Ga., and Caroline, who attends State College High School and is a manager for the football team. Phillips wife, Laurene, is an editor at Penn State.
“Even though Phillips was honored, he refuses to take credit for his leadership.
“The State College Little League is a product of dozens of people who work harder than I do. I’m not the one who goes out there and lines the grass.”
With over 1,000 children playing Little League in State College, the task of keeping things focused is a job for more than one person.
“We have a Board of Directors who help organize everything,” said Phillips. “Everybody within the State College Little League is committed to giving the kids a great environment to learn and enjoy the game.”
One tough thing Phillips has had to deal with was the loss of the State College All-stars in the Eastern Regional Championship in 2001 to Danny Almonte and the Bronx Little League All-stars.
It was later ruled that Almonte was ineligible and State College was awarded the Eastern Championship, but never had the chance to experience the Little League World Series.
“That was a very difficult period,” said Phillips. “I felt very disappointed for the children who worked so hard.
The controversy didn’t slow Phillips commitment to Little League.
“That was a situation where some parents acted badly,” said Phillips. “It shouldn’t reflect on Little League. If anything, it gave us a stronger resolve to have a strong and fair program. You play to win, but it’s not the end-all of it.”
One person who knows Phillips commitment is Penn State football’s assistant head coach Fran Ganter, who has been a neighbor of Phillips for years.
“I can’t think of a better person who deserved this award,” said Ganter. “Sam is an unbelievable caring person. He is more than a neighbor, he is a close friend. He is a terrific, very caring and thoughtful guy.”
One of the goals of youth baseball on any level is to teach the kids the game, and let them have fun.
“Sam has never lost that goal,” said Ganter. “He is very careful in what role the ‘Little League’ mom and dad play. He makes sure the coaches have the opportunity to coach and the kids have the opportunity to have fun. He has never lost sight of that.”
Phillips has served as president of the Tyrone Chamber of Commerce and has been with Gardners Candies since 1992.
Many parents get involved in Little League when their children are playing, but when they move on to Teener League, their involvement moves on as well. With Phillips, that was not the case.
“Personally it is more rewarding now,” said Phillips. “I really enjoy doing what I do with the State College Little League. It keeps me busy.”
(Photo of Sam Phillips by Steve Tressler/Mountain View Studios for Town and Gown Magazine)