(Editor’s note: This story, written by Mike Gross and featured on Lancaster Online, was published in August 2021 and is reprinted with permission by the LNP Media Group. The featured athlete, Augie Sylk, grew up in Pacific Palisades and attended Palisades Charter High School.)
At the beginning, baseball bored Augie Sylk.
“They put me out in right field,’’ Sylk, now a starting pitcher for the Barnstormers, then a little kid in Pacific Palisades, Calif. “I probably had the same attention deficit disorder as every other kid. I’d pick at the grass. My eyes would wander. I was so bored.’’
Sylk did play basketball and soccer and ice hockey and lacrosse as he grew up, but he also had a life, outside of sports, that probably made playing T-ball right field seem a bit, let’s say, quotidian.
Sylk hung out around celebrities, on movie sets, and attended Star Trek conventions. His mom, Denise Crosby, is an actor with credits that include recurring roles on “Star Trek: Next Generation,” (as Tasha Yar and, later, Commander Sela), and “Mad Men,’’ and whacking Eddie Murphy with a baseball bat in the 1982 film “48 Hours.’’
Sylk’s dad, Ken Sylk, is also an actor and screenwriter his son calls, “the best storyteller in the world.’’
Augie isn’t bad himself. During an afternoon in the Clipper Magazine Stadium press box last month, he charted pitches and told the remarkable story of a unique American family.
Ken’s grandfather was an Ellis-Island immigrant from Poland who settled in Philadelphia. Ken’s dad, William, started working at age 11 and worked himself through Temple University and Penn Law School.
William Sylk eventually bought a small drugstore and turned it into a chain of 200, expanded into ownership TV and radio stations and, in 1949, joined a group of investors in buying the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ken was recruited to Penn State to play football when Joe Paterno was an assistant to Rip Engle (Silk’s freshman-team coach: ex-Ohio State head man Earle Bruce). Sylk tore his knee up in a motorcycle accident, transferred to Villanova, was injured again and went to film school.
Denise Crosby’s grandfather is Bing Crosby.
In case you skated past that last bit: Yes, that Bing Crosby. The “White Christmas,’’ guy. Bing Crosby’s great-grandson pitches for the Barnstormers.
Denise never even met him.
Her father, Bing’s son Dennis, and her mother, Marilyn Scott, were not married. Dennis soon married another woman, prompting a paternity suit that was a very big deal in 1957, and from which Bing Crosby kept his distance.
“It was very scandalous, when I was born,’’ Denise said Aug. 3, during a visit to her son in Lancaster.
“It was a different time. Bing’s public persona was quite different from his personal one, and there was a conflict there.
“For myself, it has been a process, a reckoning, of having someone that famous and (his) not having anything to do with you.’’
Crosby went to college intending to go into broadcast journalism, got talked into auditioning for a school play, got the part, after which modeling opportunities opened up, leading to a role on the soap opera, “Days of Our Lives,’’ and a lifelong career.
Fast-forward to around 1990, 30 Rock in New York City. Sylk had a meeting there, and was riding an elevator down when man got on the elevator, befouled it with flatulence for a few floors, then got off.
Crosby got on the elevator, and intrigued Sylk. Sylk repulsed Crosby, who assumed he was the source of the befouling. He tried to convince her otherwise all the way down to the street, where she escaped into a cab.
A couple of years later, Crosby and some friends were going for a hike in the Santa Monica mountains, before which they met with more friends at the house of a guy named Ken.
That led to their true meeting: “Wait, I know you, …. Didn’t we meet in an elevator, … Oh my God!’’
That house is still their home. August William Sylk was born in 1998. Twelve years later, Augie and Denise were walking their dog in their neighborhood when they noticed a kid at a local field getting personal instruction from a coach.
Augie, who had never played baseball after that brief, boring taste of T-ball, watched closely, intrigued.
“Wait here,’’ he told his mom. “I’m going to go get my glove.’’
“I didn’t know he had a glove,’’ Denise said.
Soon Augie was 6-4, lefthanded, and throwing 90 miles per hour. He chose hometown USC over a number of West Coast Division One Schools. In two years there, he threw just four innings for the Trojans, but was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2019.
Sylk was a 38th round pick, and thus not a giant investment. His job with the Royals was eliminated with the downsizing of the minor leagues. He’s just 22, the youngest Barnstormer and incredibly inexperienced for an Atlantic League regular.
“This is really my first pro season,’’ he said, and arguably his first real season since high school.
“I’m learning so much being around guys who’ve been in the big leagues. If I was still with the Royals, I’d be in high-(class)A now at best. It’s been a great opportunity to come here and learn how to pitch.’’
Hope he makes it, if only for the trivia. His great-grandfather owned the Pittsburgh Pirates at the same time his grandfather co-owned the Eagles. During that time, the Pirates won a World Series and the Eagles an NFL championship. Both in 1960.
Sylk was born on the 17th. That’s his favorite number. Whenever he’s had a choice of uniform number, he’s chosen 17.
He learned recently that Bing Crosby, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, played college baseball at hometown Gonzaga University.
Guess what number he wore.