David Patraeus was a tough competitor as an 11-year-old in Cornwall (N.Y.) Little League. More than 40 years later, he was selected by President Bush to head the Coalition Forces in Iraq.
A lieutenant general in the United States Army, David Howell Patraeus was unanimously confirmed in January by the Senate as Commander of Multinational Forces-Iraq, succeeding Army Gen. George Casey.
“He was shy, but if you gave him the ball, and told him to do something – he’d do it,” Mr. Goldsmith, a retired facility manager with the New York State Parks Service, said. “When you spoke to him, it was like talking to a grown-up. He was very smart, and a well-disciplined young man.”
Mr. Bloom, who passed away several years ago, and Mr. Goldsmith, 74, appreciated the opportunities that playing Little League afforded the players. Many of the lessons that baseball can teach come through in real-life situations, which was always a point of emphasis in the duo’s coaching philosophy.
“There was more to Little League than just baseball,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “Teamwork and sportsmanship were important to us. It was a thrill for us to be with the kids, because we were teaching things for life.”
In 1974, nearly 10 years after Gen. Patraeus graduated from the Cornwall Little League program, he was commissioned as an infantry officer following graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
General Patraeus was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Class in 1983; and later earned a Master’s degree in public administration, and a Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
“I knew he was going to amount to something,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “He would encourage others to do their best, and then go ahead and work on his own game. As a player he was quiet, but sincere – a go-get-’em type of a player.”
Gen. Petraeus has held leadership positions in airborne, mechanized, and air assault infantry units in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Before his tour in Iraq, he was Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations of the NATO Stabilization Force, and Deputy Commander of the U.S. Joint Interagency Counter-Terrorism Task Force in Bosnia. He has been wounded at least twice in the line of duty.
In a military career that has spanned more than three decades, the numerous awards and decorations earned by Gen. Petraeus include, the Distinguished Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.
“I’m not surprised at all that’s he’s been successful,” Mr. Goldsmith said when told about his former player’s achievements. “David was going to be a star no matter what he did. I’m certain that if there is anybody who can straighten out Iraq, he can.”
(Photo provided by Getty Images/taken by Jim McIsaac)