New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
If there’s one sport Mark Stanley figured he’d be the head coach of during his career, it was baseball.
Yet the veteran mentor is known for his success as a boys high school basketball coach at Union and New Castle. Some others may know him from his more recent roles as co-head coach for Ellwood City’s track and field program or assistant basketball coach for the Wolverines.
Stanley hopes people will remember him for another role now.
Stanley was hired as the Union High baseball coach at a special board meeting last night, taking over for Gene DiGennaro, who resigned earlier this summer.
Stanley is no stranger to the game. He played first base and pitched at Geneva College in the late 1980s. He also was a standout pitcher and shortstop at Union High, graduating in 1984. He was an assistant baseball coach at Ellwood City for two years right out of college, but hasn’t coached the sport since. That will change come springtime.
“If there was something I thought I was going to coach right out of college, it was baseball,” he said. “It’s always been in my blood. I’ve always kept on top of it. It’s one of those things where a door opened and I stepped through.
“I’ve always loved the game, so I kicked the idea around (when the job opened). It was a good fit at this time. I’m familiar with the kids, I’m familiar with who coached them and the little league system, so I figured now is as good a time as any. And I’m not getting any younger.”
Stanley, 46, knows most of the team from when he was the Scotties’ basketball coach from 2000 to 2008. While the soon-to-be seniors were in kindergarten when he first started at Union, Stanley coached many of them in the summer program as they came up through the system.
“I always wished I could coach these kids before,” Stanley said. “I know coach Gene (DiGennaro) didn’t leave the cupboard bare. It’s not a dire situation. The foundation is there.”
The Scotties finished 13-8 last season and made the WPIAL Class A playoffs, dropping a 10-9 decision to Vincentian Academy.
Stanley is hoping to build on that success. He said he’ll use the tactics he learned from his college coach, Joe Hudak, who, like Stanley, is a member of the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame. Hudak, a Shenango High graduate, coached at Union in the late 1970s, but he’s best known for his success at the college ranks (Geneva, Mississippi State and Winthrop). Hudak also coached current Neshannock coach Mike Kirkwood.
“We were very fortunate to play for a guy like Joe Hudak,” Stanley said. “Everything he taught us and instilled in us, it’s baseball, it doesn’t get old. We were taught well. There are a lot of people who use this stuff who are successful. I talked to Bubba (Kirkwood), and I asked him how much of the stuff he learned from Hudak that he still uses, and he said quite a bit.”
The chance to bring his knowledge to his alma mater was one he couldn’t pass up. Stanley, who has two children playing 9- and 10-year old baseball in Union, sees plenty of potential in the current group of players. He said he’s followed their progress over the years and is excited about the future.
“They haven’t done bad, and they have some players younger than them that are good,” he said of the seniors. “That’s important at a small school like Union. They’ve played together for long time, so they’ve done some things. Hopefully they’re looking to do more.”