More than a year ago, Robert Burnside’s former players showed their appreciation for everything he did for them and the Eden baseball program when they showed up for a ceremony renaming the Raiders’ diamond “Coach Burnside Field.”
The next time they gather, it will be to say good-bye one last time to the man who not only showed them the fundamentals of the game but who also made their lives better.
Burnside passed away Sunday at age 73 from cancer. He coached and supported Eden’s athletic teams for more than four decades. Burnside won 414 games while serving as Eden baseball head coach from 1970-2002.
He served as co-coach with Eric Cooper in 2003 and once Cooper took over head-coaching duties in 2004. Burnside remained with the program as an assistant until his passing, even while battling health issues.
“What can I say about Coach Burnside, he loved Eden athletics,” said Raiders softball coach and athletic director Marisa Fallacaro. “If there was a home football, basketball or softball game he was there. And if it was baseball then he was on the bench or along the fence.
“The bond he had with many of the families in Eden is unlike any I have seen before. He donated to many of the teams at Eden but never wanted recognition. He truly is a staple of Eden athletics and his legacy is one we will not forget.”
Burnside played baseball and basketball in high school at North Collins. A University at Buffalo graduate, he began his teaching career at Eden in 1965.
Burnside led the baseball program to two Section VI championships and 17 division titles as head coach. Eden also won five division crowns and one Section VI championship during his tenure as girls basketball coach.
Cooper coached with Burnside for 19 years. He also played for "Coach" for three seasons. Cooper recalled springing Burnside from a medical facility to bring him to games this past season.
"When he was there he was back in the coaching role with the little things here and there," Cooper said. "He just had such a mind for the game of baseball. I know he had coached for 47 years. You would think not being around (all the time), it would take a little bit for him to get into it but it was instantaneous.
"We were very, very close over the years. ... He’s a legacy. He’s not someone who can be replaced. You’d have to search a million miles to find someone else like him,”
Friends are invited to call from 3-7 p.m. Friday at Laing Funeral Home, Inc. 2724 W. Church St., Eden. The funeral is at 10 a.m. Saturday at Eden Methodist Church, 2820 E. Church St., Eden.