MEET BIG BLUE-MIKE BILINSKI-LATEST ADIRONDACK BANK 12TH MAN
Mike “Big Blue” Bilinski – Our Newest 12th Man Award Recipient
Fans, followers and friends of My Hometown Sports and The Cheap Seats radio show know him as “Big Blue”. We tune in to ESPN Radio Utica-Rome every Thursday during the high school football season to hear him break down the upcoming weekend’s scholastic gridiron match ups and wonder what he’s going to have to share about our favorite high school teams.
What most of us may not know, is that “Big “Blue”, is Dolgeville, New York’s very own Mike Bilinski, and during those Thursday afternoon calls, Mike is usually setting up the P.A. system and the scoreboard at Dolgeville’s Bill Bynon Field for that day’s Blue Devil modified football game.
For Mike Bilinski, our latest Adirondack Bank 12th Man Award winner, his volunteer duty at the Thursday modified game is just 1/7th of what he does for the kids of Dolgeville, each and every week.
The other six days of the week during the fall, Bilinski, 42, who was born and raised in Dolgeville, can be found traversing New York State as one of Dolgeville’s advanced scouts (along with best friends “Coach” Ed Morris and “Turbo” Tim Edwards), or running the scoreboard for the Dolgeville varsity team, on Saturdays that the Devils are home, presiding over the rejuvenated Dolgeville Pop Warner Football Association, coaching a flag football team in the same association.
Oh, and in his spare time, “Big Blue” can often be found working with his Dad, Stan, with the Dolgeville Football Booster Club or the Blue Devils Football Hall of Fame.
Football, or life, as it is known to many residents of Dolgeville and definitely to Mike Bilinski, has been a part of “Big Blue” since he was “Little Blue”, starting out as an 8 year old in the Dolgeville Pop Warner.
“There was no flag football back then, you just put the pads on and went out there and played tackle football,” Bilinski explained. The passion for football didn’t start there for our newest 12th Man however, that might have started at the age of 9 months when his father pushed him in a stroller to Bynon Field to watch his first Dolgeville vs. West Canada Valley game. “My dad said that’s when I attended my first game and it was all down- hill from there,” Big Blue said with a chuckle.
In his senior season, Mike was an Inter-Valley All League Tackle on another Section III championship Devils team that finished 6-2-2.
Mike Bilinski credits success in life to his parents, Stan and Linda Bilinski. “My Dad always told me one thing that still rings true today, if you start something, finish it.
Never quit what you start, because that will make you a quitter in life,” Bilinski told MHTS, adding, “My family and I live by that motto today.” Mike also wanted to be sure to thank his Mom for washing all of his dirty uniforms throughout his football career and more importantly always being able to come home to a warm meal after practice or a game.
Stan Bilinski obviously lives by his own standard, as he was the loyal scoreboard operator and P.A. announcer at all Dolgeville varsity games for over 30 years. Stan also played Blue Devil football himself in 1962 and 1963.
Mike Bilinski’s pride for his father beamed through like sunshine on a cloudy day when he recalled the fact that his father was unable to play his senior season in 1964 due to the death of his father, which required Stan to work at the family business, Cornhill Groceries, in order to keep it going. “That’s my father,” Mike said of Stan Bilinski, adding, “and that’s the way I was raised.”
Besides the solid as oak family foundation Mike Bilinski enjoys, he also credits longtime Dolgeville coach Jerry Walczak with his success in football and eternal love of the game. “Coach Walczak was something.
He inspired confidence in me. I just wanted to go out on the field and do the very best I could for him,” adding “He was not a yeller or a screamer, but he wasn’t buddy, buddy with you either. He was just the boss and all of us players just had mountains of respect for him.”
Coach Walczak is a member of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame and remains the coach with the most wins in Section III football history with a 264-37-11 record from 1969-2002.
After graduating from Dolgeville in 1988, Mike went on to receive his Bachelors Degree in History from St. Bonaventure University and then a Masters in History from Central Michigan. “I was hoping to be a History teacher, but in the mid 90′s the economy wasn’t cooperating, so I joined the Army,” said Bilinski. So, from 1996 through 2000 Bilinski began what has become a life of service as an All Source Intelligence Specialist in the United States Army.
He was stationed for a lengthy period in South Korea and other parts of the world, before returning to Ft. Stewart, Georgia where he served the last portion of his tour. Bilinski was the recipient of the Army Commendation Medal and the Achievement Medal during his enlistment.
In 2000, Big Blue met the future Mrs. Blue, Kathryn and the two became engaged and were married shortly after his military service ended.
The Bilinski family (Blue Crew) now includes 9 year old Emma and 6 year old Jared. As is usually the case with a person who devotes as much time to the community as Mike Bilinski does, the home base is usually rock solid. No exception here, to be sure.
“Kathryn has been incredible. She’s not just my wife, she’s my very best friend,” Mike was quick to point out, adding, “Our typical week is just unreal with the kids going to football, soccer, wrestling and karate, as well as my schedule for Pop Warner and Blue Devils football. I can’t do any of it without her unbelievable support.”
In his “spare time”, Big Blue likes to take his kids fishing and also coaches his son Jared’s baseball team in the spring. Since 2000, Big Blue has been a Systems Analyst at the Air Force Research Lab in Rome, New York. His wife Kathryn is a teacher at Dolgeville High School.
In 2004 Bilinski, along with brothers Rich and Darryl Lyon and Renee Coonrod, went on a crusade to revive the defunct Dolgeville Pop Warner program. Over the past six years, Dolgeville’s Pop Warner program has grown to have two Flag teams, a Mitey Mite team, a Junior Pee Wee team and a Junior Midget team, along with two full cheer squads.
When speaking of his role as a scout for the Blue Devils varsity team, a real sense of pride and enthusiasm comes right out. His “job” along with “Turbo” Edwards and “Coach” Morris is to travel to Dolgeville opponent’s games and videotape them, from both sides, then break the tape down and provide a report to the Blue Devils coaching staff.
“We absolutely love it,” Bilinski said of the experience, adding “The three of us have traveled to Buffalo, Syracuse, Weedsport, down state, literally all over the place to get the most information we can about our next opponent and even a potential opponent come playoff time”.
The scouting team and reporting is obviously working, as the 2011 Blue Devils are undefeated with a record of 4-0 and currently ranked 4th in New York State. This past weekend Bilinski, Morris and Edwards, also known as the “three amigos”, were at the Westmoreland vs. Cooperstown game, which saw Westmoreland come out on top 33-6.
“Oh man, that game is going to be a great one, ” Big Blue said with a smile, of the October 2nd showdown between the (4-0) and 14th ranked Bulldogs and the Blue Devils at Westmoreland.
Mike Bilinski, we thank you and commend you for your unflappable devotion to the entire community of Dolgeville as a coach, volunteer and genuinely fine person. To hear you speak of Dolgeville as just “home” was an honor and a pleasure. Keep up the great work and…GO BIG BLUE!