(Windsor, Ontario) – St. Clair College was shocked to learn yesterday of the sudden passing of Athletic Department member Bernie ‘Chico’ LaBute at the early age of 54.
LaBute began his career with St. Clair College in the summer of 2012 after being hired as an Assistant Coach for the Saints Varsity Baseball team which began a run of immediate and unprecedented success for the program. LaBute was a driving force behind the recruitment and on-field instruction allowing St. Clair to win its first National Championship in Baseball that fall. The continued success over his six years with the Varisty Baseball team led to 6 regular season and Provincial Championships not to mention two OUA/OCAA crowns. St. Clair’s regular season record during that span was a gaudy 96-12 with an overall 171-31 record. After a National Silver Medal in 2016 the Saints added another National Championship in 2017.
LaBute was hired as a full-time administrator by the St. Clair Athletic Department in early 2013 working in Special Events and Advancement as well as fundraising for the Saints Scholarship program. Additionally, he helped launch St. Clair’s Summer Collegiate Baseball League team serving as both the Green Giants General Manager and Assistant Coach the past two seasons.
Chico, as he was affectionately known was an accomplished baseball catcher in his own right growing up in Tecumseh and winning championships for his hometown youth teams as well as Riverside before representing Canada as a member of the Junior National Team. This allowed LaBute to earn a scholarship to Western Kentucky University where he competed for four seasons. He represented Canada once again as part of the Senior Men’s National Team at the Intercontinental Cup in Edmonton and won further Provincial and National Championships locally with the storied Windsor Chiefs. All told he won 6 Canadian Championships and 8 Ontario Championships. LaBute also won numerous American Championships with Michigan’s Troy Jet Box as well as participating in several Roy Hobbs World Series Championships.
After his playing days were over he became a coach with the Tecumseh Baseball Club helping the Thunder to several Ontario and National Championships at the Senior, Junior and Midget. He was a gifted instructor and an extremely knowledgeable baseball coach imparting his wisdom over the years creating several talented players. The time he spent with local organizations as a coach and organizer made quite an impression on all that came into contact with him.
Saints Baseball Head Coach Dave Cooper lamented, “Chico was a bigger than life baseball character who loved the game and whose life was consumed with it. Local baseball has suffered a big loss today.”
St. Clair College will share details about upcoming arrangements for the celebration of Chico’s life but wishes to extend its heartfelt condolences to the LaBute family as well as his many friends across the region.
“When we hired Bernie “Chico” Labute, we knew we were getting one of the finest baseball minds in Canada. What we soon came to appreciate, especially after he became our Manager of Athletic Events and Advancement in 2013, was that we had someone who everyone at the College would cherish as a friend and as a mentor. Not just our baseball players but all of our athletes regarded him as a father figure who would advise and assist them, both with academic matters and personal problems. The College, local baseball and the community as a whole has suffered a crushing loss with Chico's departure. St. Clair extends its deepest sympathies to his wife, Ginna, and his family and friends. We think of Chico as a member of our College family and we both mourn and treasure his memory.”
St. Clair College President Patti France