Stu Bryant, a popular coach in the baseball community who inspired players on teams from Little League to Sacramento City College, died March 22. He was 61.
He died of frontotemporal degeneration, a rare disease that attacks areas of the brain that control personality and behavior. He lived in Ventura in recent years with his family, whose poignant struggle with his condition formerly known as frontotemporal dementia was reported last year in a Page 1 story in the Los Angeles Times.
Mr. Bryant was a widely respected coach and a positive influence in the lives of many Sacramento athletes. He grew up in the Land Park neighborhood playing baseball and learned the power of the sport to teach important values. A demanding coach, he dedicated himself to showing young people how to compete and how to believe in themselves.
"He was always available to hit balls or practice or whatever," said Greg Moraes, a former player who started a North Hollywood graphic design firm. "He taught us how to get better and push yourself for something that you really want. The hard work and principles I learned from him really helped me."
A Sacramento native, Stuart Milford Bryant was born in 1951. His father, M.B. "Bud" Bryant, was a longtime labor activist and senior board member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
Stu Bryant graduated from McClatchy High School in 1969 and started coaching for YMCA, Little League, Babe Ruth and Pony teams. He led his former team, American Legion Post 61, to the state playoffs and was named American Legion coach of the year.
He was an assistant in the 1970s under head coach Jerry Weinstein at Sacramento City College, a longtime baseball powerhouse. He was a "power of positive thinking guy" who taught SCC athletes to "ignore naysayers," Weinstein said.
"Stu would always challenge you to try to achieve something that he knew was in you," SCC assistant athletic director Paul Carmazzi said. "He was really big on the mental part of the game. He was a pioneer in that area."
Mr. Bryant moved to Southern California and sold cars while coaching baseball at Pasadena City College. He married Maureen "Moe" Rush in 1981 and had two daughters.
He returned to Sacramento in 1993 and coached baseball at Kennedy High School. An avid golfer, he went on to coach golf at Christian Brothers High School before moving to Oxnard 3 1/2 years ago.
Meanwhile, his family began to notice changes in his behavior. The upbeat, outgoing man who was always gentle and caring with his wife and children became rude and impatient. He withdrew and lost compassion and empathy for others, telling a woman in a restaurant that her tattoos were ugly.
A radiological scan discovered Mr. Bryant had signs of FTD, a little-known disease that progressively damages the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. He was enrolled in a clinical study program at UCLA. Although the disease robbed him of the ability to function alone in public, he continued playing golf every week until recently.
Even as his condition declined, "he remained a very gentle and sensitive man," his wife said. "The love that he had for me and his children was something most people never get, and that was complete and unconditional love."
Information about FTD from the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration is available at www.theaftd.org.
Born: Sept. 16, 1951
Died: March 22, 2013
Survived by: Wife, Moe of Ventura; daughters, Katelyn of Monterey, and Jessica of Ventura; sister, Paula of Sacramento
Services: Mass of Christian burial, 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 1066 26th St., Sacramento
Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Christian Brothers High School Stu Bryant Memorial Scholarship, 4315 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95820; or the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, AFTD Radnor Station Building 2, Suite 320, 290 King of Prussia Road, Radnor, PA 19087.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.