BILLINGS — At 83 years old, Ed Kriskovich has seen more softball pitches than maybe anyone else in the world.
"I’ve been doing it since I was 19. I started in the Marine Corps," Kriskovich said.
When asked if he had any plans of slowing down ...
"I think when you’re six feet under, you slow down," he said with a laugh.
Some may think that’s just a line, but Kriskovich had a heart attack less than a month ago and is already back to teaching pitching lessons multiple times a week. He never considered any other option.
"Why? I had COVID-19, and my heart stopped 4-5 times completely," he said. "People asked me, 'Did you see the light?' I said, 'No.'”
For Kriskovich's students, it's just the latest wild story.
"I’m always worried about Ed, but that’s just Ed," said Tatum Bush, an eighth grader at Ben Steele Middle School in Billings. "He always bounces right back."
"I saw him doing a lesson once, and he was carrying his little oxygen tank behind him," added Gianna Haney with a laugh.
Kriskovich, a high school dropout himself, started girls fast pitch in Billings in 1976, and then won over 500 games in 31 years as the head coach at Billings West.
Most would have figured retirement in 2016 at 76 would have been it, but not for Ed. There are still kids to coach.
"The thrill for me is to see them develop, to get better," he said. "You put the time into it. Get something out of that time.”
"Ed has changed a lot for me," Haney said. "He always has told me it’s OK to make mistakes — you’re human — and that changed my outlook on things. I wasn't afraid of failing as much anymore."
"He just helps me become a better player and person overall," Bush said.
Kriskovich shares credit of his success with Colleen, his wife of 60 years. They have five children and numerous grandchildren, basically all of whom played the game he loves and will continue to teach.
He said, "I just realized that I'm here for a certain amount of time, so give."