AFH Spotlight - Athletes for Hope

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AFH Spotlight

Beyond the Game: Lori and Skip Bertman’s Father-Daughter Connection

When Lori Bertman was a high school junior in 1986, she needed a parent to sign enrollment papers at the bursar’s office to start night classes at LSU. She asked her dad, Skip Bertman, to stop by and meet her on campus.

Skip, whose popularity was already booming as LSU’s baseball coach, met his daughter while wearing his full uniform, from hat to shoes. Lori still remembers hearing his cleats clicking on the pavement as they walked across the quad; the students staring and pointing.

“I was ecstatic that all of these boys were looking over,” Lori says now.

But it wasn’t Lori who captured their interest. It was the sight of the new coach striding through the quad. That was the moment Lori realized her dad goes to work in a uniform.

Skip was living out his passion each day, wearing the uniform that represented the game he had coached since he was just 14. Lori saw that her dad, unlike others who wore stiff suits to office jobs, had pursued his passion head-on.

Skip Bertman signs a baseball for a young fan while Lori Bertman watches and smiles

That moment has become a guiding principle in her life and wisdom she shares now:

“Do what you love and do it well. Be who you are, and make sure to surround yourself with people who will leap out of the dugout should you ever charge the mound.”

Lori Bertman, a board member at Athletes for Hope, and her three older sisters learned kindness and generosity from both of their parents.

Lori grew up during the pinnacle of her father’s career. He won five College World Series as head coach at LSU. She would leave school with her mom, Sandy, ride with her to the baseball field, and finish her homework in the dugout.

The Bertman family is tight, wound like the strings of a baseball. They traveled to the Olympics in Seoul and Atlanta and worked the concession stands together at summer baseball camp. The sisters rushed the field to embrace their father after LSU’s Tiger Warren Morris hit a last-chance home run to win the 1996 College World Series.

Baseball bound them together in spirit but separated them too. The sport’s tight schedules kept Skip from attending important events. He didn’t make it to some graduations, but Lori saw those missed memories as a chance to find her own path while knowing he would stand by her when she needed him the most.

Her mom, Sandy, was always the family’s utility player, and Lori says her mother deserves half the trophies for her dad’s success. She could teach a masterclass on how to be the perfect coach’s wife.

Sandy, along with her four girls, provided Skip with a support system that helped him thrive at work while also balancing a complete home life.

“To be as successful as he was, he really needed us to support him and be our own people,” Lori added.

Image of the Bertman family

Lori’s sister, Lisa, died of cancer at the age of 44. In a moment that was devastating for the family, Skip’s accomplishments and honors began to hold a different meaning.

“We all see him now as a human and care about his health,” she says.

As sports brought together Lori’s family, it paved the way for her to wake up every morning and do what she loves as well. She started working at the age of 14 and forming nonprofits by the time she graduated college.

“I love taking nothing and turning it into something by using community assets to fill gaps,” Lori said.

She serves as CEO of Louisiana’s largest private family foundation, the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, while also serving as a disaster philanthropy and community leader.

She continues to strengthen her bond with her father through different avenues, and her nonprofit work is an example of that.

Image of Lori Bertman and her two daughters with Skip Bertman.

Lori considers herself more like Skip than any of her siblings, sharing his entrepreneurial spirit.

“I learned from my father how to be a mentor and seek out mentorship.”

Lori Bertman

Skip began coaching baseball in his early teens, so it’s no wonder Lori was starting nonprofits by 21. Father and daughter worked together at Athletes for Hope and have partnered on community-based sports philanthropy.

Whether it be through youth sports, Miracle League, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the NHL or You Can Play, Lori believes wholeheartedly in the collaboration of sports and community. Most recently, she selected the Aspen Institute to study sports in the Baton Rouge region, a step toward leveling the playing field in sports and beyond.

“Anyone who wants to be a part of sports should have that opportunity.”

Lori Bertman

Lori ran marathons but didn’t really consider herself to be an athlete, not like the people who play organized sports and win championships. But working with Billie Jean King taught her that all people can be athletes, and Lori had a revelation: sports provide a chance for social change.

“Athletes for Hope has been my best partner in taking that on,” Lori said.

She brought her dad on board to help them organize and launch Athletes for Hope University, which remains an important part of their work together. Athletes for Hope is a tremendous organization, notes Skip.

Says Skip, “I’ve told her she would never have a statue in her honor, but that what she does is more important than anything that will be done on the sports field.”

The admiration is mutual. Lori Bertman appreciates her father for all he has done. Her experience growing up on the baseball field and the generational love for her father by fans worldwide has taught her that she can use sports as a platform for good.

And their relationship, both inside and outside the realm of sports, brings a special meaning to each Father’s Day. But the celebration this year was a bit different.

Image of Sandy Bertman with her three daughters.

Skip was at the College World Series to accept the honor of All-Star Coach, and his daughters stayed home to rally around their mother, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer.

He made it back just in time to enjoy the end of Father’s Day with his wife and girls. They ate their favorite, Doberge cake, and feasted on endless platters of food while gathering around the TV to watch the College World Series.

And so, Lori says, her dad’s biggest success is his original team – his wife, four girls, and grandchildren.