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Busy Coach, Big Heart–Red Sox host the Red Storm Challengers

Brian Markham is a loving husband, devoted father of three, and he earns his livelihood as co-owner of TSS Holdings, LLC, a placement agency specializing in intel and light manufacturing personnel. For the past dozen or so years, he has dedicated much of his limited free time to coaching his children’s tee-ball, baseball, and basketball teams.

So what sets this 47-year-old man apart from other Fairfield dads? Well, three years ago, Markham added another team to his coaching repertoire—the Fairfield American Red Storm Challengers, whose roster ranges from age five to young adult, all of whom have physical and cognitive challenges. The Red Storm play similar squads from Westport, Weston, Wilton, and other nearby communities. There are spring and fall seasons, too, so it seems Brian is always in uniform, always dispensing generous amounts of instruction, encouragement and praise.“I get more out of it than the kids do,” says Markham. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

In addition to serving as the Red Storm head coach and manager, Markham also pitches to his players during games. A few team members are wheelchair-bound, but each gets the opportunity to enter the batter’s box and hit the ball. When they connect, a parent or guardian will push them round the bases. Everybody scores. Everybody wins. Everyone in attendance feels their joy.

Sometimes, he says, it seems as though he is “coaching three teams at one time”—meaning the Red Storm and the town rec basketball teams on which Brian and Liz’s daughters, Maddy and Charlotte, play. They are in eighth and sixth grade, respectively, at Fairfield Woods. Their oldest child, Quinn, is a junior at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.

Unlike many of his counterparts in rec basketball and Little League, Markham arrived with coaching experience. As an undergrad at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, he was the assistant men’s basketball coach and head women’s coach at neighboring Dutchess Community College. He met his wife while at Marist.

When pursuing a master’s degree at Hofstra University, he served as a graduate assistant coach for two seasons under Jay Wright. Yes, the same Jay Wright who coached Villanova to two recent NCAA national titles. “We still stay in touch,” Markham says.

This summer, Markham was the catalyst behind one of the most unforgettable days in the lives of the Fairfield Red Storm players and families. They spent much of Wednesday, August 21 at Fenway Park as guests of the Boston Red Sox.

“I’d heard about the program the Red Sox run for challenger teams in conjunction with CVS,” he explains. “I went on line and filled out the form. I didn’t hear back from the Red Sox for many months, but then I got an email from them saying, “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted into our program.”

Although the Red Storm team “is definitely Yankee heavy, with only a smattering of Mets fans and Red Sox fans,” all agreed it would be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Markham said it a wonderful way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Challengers.

Red Storm team and family members—more than 70 in all—gathered that morning outside the oldest Major League ballpark still in service (Fenway opened on April 20, 1912, just five days after the sinking of the Titanic). At 11:15, they were admitted, Markham and players accompanied by one family member heading directly to the indoor batting cage, while other parents and siblings went up to a well-appointed skybox.

The Red Sox hitting coach, Tim Hyers, and his assistant, Andy Barkett, worked with each Red Storm player, both in the indoor and outdoor batting cages. “It was more than unbelievable,” Markham recalls. “They gave the kids ample opportunity to hit. Some of the kids even hit it to the outfield grass.”

The afternoon’s activities included lunch in the Red Sox dugout and skybox, a walk to the fabled Green Monster—as the wall in left field has been dubbed—and then a tour of Fenway Park for the entire Red Storm traveling party.

While the result of that evening’s game disappointed Red Sox partisans in the capacity crowd of 37,077 (the Philadelphia Phillies prevailed, 5-2), Markham took the long view. “Everyone had great seats on a lower level,” he says. “The whole day was truly magical.”

A TRUE HERO // Smiles seem to come easily to Brian Markham, the 47-year-old youth coach that led his team, the Red Storm Challengers, to Fenway as Boston Red Sox guests.

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