As pitcher for the University of Miami as a scholarship athlete, Havana-born Luis Brande faced fierce opposition on the playing field. Didn’t phase him. Took on all challengers. There’s no crying in baseball, after all.
But Brande, who died Tuesday from complications of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at 61, faced a much tougher crowd: junior high kids facing disciplinary action just short of suspension.
As SCSI (In-School Suspension) teacher at Coral Way Bilingual K-8 Center in Miami, as well as its physical education coach, Brande hit home runs on a daily basis.
“Every time he engaged somebody it was to lift them up and encourage them and pump them up to make them feel good about themselves. He took that approach in dealing with students at that after-school care program,” said brother-in-law Joe Guethon.
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Brande, who began his baseball career at 8 on Miami’s Los Cubanitos team a year after arriving from Cuba in 1961, used mentoring skills he had learned while playing at Miami Senior High, which inducted him into its Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, Miami Dade College and the UM. He was a relief pitcher under legendary UM coach Ron Fraser, from 1974-76.
“He was never judgmental or a disciplinarian, he was more of a life coach,” Guethon said. “His currency was the love and positive things he had to say. I’ve heard so many stories of kids who were headed to destruction and today they’re outstanding individuals with families who finished their education and had careers because of the investment and impact he had.”
Red Berry, one of his former coaches and colleagues in 1990, when Brande coached at Red Berry’s Baseball Camp in West Kendall, told the Herald in 2014, “he was a student of the game, and he was great with kids trying to play baseball.”
Brande also served as head baseball coach at Coral Park Senior High School and taught science from 1979 to 1981. For eight years, he left the sport to work as a pharmaceutical rep but returned to education in 1989 as Coral Way’s PE coach. He also created the Diamond Baseball Camp and was a part-time photographer before retiring from Coral Way in 2013 because of ALS.
Photography allowed Brande to shoot dignitaries who visited Miami, including President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. To Gemma Carrillo, the educational specialist for Miami-Dade Public Schools, who often drafted Brande as her go-to photographer, Brande was “royalty.”
Brande is survived by his wife Dora Brande, his sons Michael and Robert, stepchildren Alexandra and Michael. Services will be at 5 p.m. Friday at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn South, 11655 SW 117th Ave., Miami. Donations in Brande’s name can be made to ALS Recovery Fund, One Grove Isle Dr., #1602, Coconut Grove, Florida, 33133.