Gateway Class of 1968
Well Respected Teacher, Coach and Athletic Assistant


Growing up in Monroeville during the 50’s and 60’ was a dream come true for a young boy and young man. There were so many kids to play with and the community provided plenty of activities. Youth baseball and football were provided at an early age. I started playing baseball at 7 with a T-shirt team. This led to Little League, then Pony League, and Colt League. At 11, I started to play midget football which lasted for 3 years. A real highlight was playing before a Steeler Football game. We got crushed by a team from Clariton, but we got to be on the field while the Steelers did their pre-game workout. You can’t believe how huge they looked to a 12-year-old boy. Recreational basketball was offered on Saturdays and I played from 6th through 12th grade. I also played basketball my senior year for North American Martyrs in a Diocesan League.

During my years at South Jr. High I was introduced to something that was all new to me, male teachers. These men headed by Bob Holden (HOF) were primarily classroom teachers but they also acted as coaches, counselors, motivators and disciplinarians when needed. What these men were really doing was preparing us to be successful far past Junior High. I know many students benefited greatly from their guidance. For three years I was on the track team where I ran the 50-yard dash, the 4 X 100 relay, and the high jump. Track was divided by weight so that the smaller kids didn’t need to compete against kids much bigger. In 9th grade our lightweight team took 1st place honors at an all valley track meet at Shady Side Academy. As a freshman I was also able to wrestle for half a season for the high school junior varsity team. I really liked to wrestle, but I was just starting to grow and the last thing I wanted to do in high school was lose weight.

In High School I was on three baseball teams that had a combined record of 39-9. As a sophomore I had a really good seat on the bench. I did get to play a few innings in games that were far out of reach. Only studs played as sophomores, and one of them was my good friend John Rocco. That team played for the WPIAL championship at Old Forbes Field. I tell people I hit one over the 400-foot wall in left field. When they look at me like I’m crazy, I wait, then tell them it was pre-game warm-up and I was playing pepper on the warning track. My coach as a sophomore reminded me that if I wanted to play, I needed to take charge of the outfield. If a ball was in the air, I needed to go and get it. I did. During my junior and senior year, I lettered and we again won section titles. Those teams played three playoff games where we won one and lost two. I played right and center field. I was the lead-off hitter with some speed so a single often turned into a double because of a stolen base or two. This led to many runs batted in (RBIs) for two really good hitters at the 3 and 4 spot, John Rocco and Kenny Macha. During the summer between my junior and senior year an American Legion team was started by Rege Giles and Larry Hanley. Both are HOF members. That team included Paula Holzhu, Ken Macha (both hall of famers), John Rocco, and myself. We were the best 4-14 team in the league. The next year our team completely reversed and our record was 14-4. That team also included hall of famer, Randy Rovesti.

After high school I attended Edinboro State Teachers College. As a freshman, the school did not have a J.V. baseball program and freshmen were ineligible to play on a varsity team. As a sophomore, I made the varsity team and my college career lasted all of one inning. In our first scrimmage I was playing hurt. With runners on 1st and 3rd a ball was hit into the gap between right and center field. I cut the ball off and made a really good throw to the cut-off man. The only problem was I felt like my arm got to the cut-off man before the ball. I had Instant pain in my shoulder. When we came in to bat I was up first and I couldn’t even lift my arm. Needless to say, a very unsuccessful at bat. I took myself out of the game. The coach and I had a very different opinion about the situation which ultimately ended with me quitting the team. I didn’t even make it to the team picture. It was probably better because I could now really concentrate on my studies.

Upon graduating in December of 1972 with a Bachelor’s degree in Education, I began applying to different school districts. In January of 1973 I began substituting in the districts of Gateway, Plum, and Wilkinsburg. In August of 1973 I was hired by Gateway for an elementary position at the now closed Monroeville Elementary. I started what I didn’t know at the time would be a 35-year teaching career. During my first two years I went to night school at Pitt and received my master’s degree in education. During my first 15 years of teaching I taught grades 1 through 6 and I was in several different buildings, many of which have long been closed. I moved so much for those first 15 years that I had one group of students for first grade, fourth grade, and again in sixth grade. For the last 20 years I taught fifth and sixth grade at Mosside Middle School.

After several years of teaching, I applied for a baseball coaching position at the high school. I was told that elementary and secondary teaching schedules don’t coincide with each other, therefore I wouldn’t be able to coach. At the time I was looking for any supplemental contracts to help out with my teacher’s salary. In the winter of 1987 a supplemental contract for working boy’s high school basketball games in what is now the Auxiliary Gym, was given to me by the AD Larry Philips. Herb Riley, Steve Perry, and myself worked those games along with Larry Phillips. That gym was always packed and I continued working those games until the Furrie Center was opened. I then just transitioned to both boys’ and girls’ basketball in the Furrie Center. At that time, I didn’t realize it but a different 35-year career started. Gateway up until now has had 8 full time athletic Directors. Henry Furrie (HOF) was the first. I did not work with him, but he was a very important role model for me while I was in school. I have worked with, or for, the other seven men. Larry Hanley, Larry Philips, Paul Holzshu, Terry Smith, Randy Rovesti, all (HOF), Chuck Riley, and Don Hall. As the years moved on, more and more positions became available to work different athletic events and to work with each of the aforementioned athletic directors. I was able to watch some amazing high school athletes. I worked both boys’ and girls’ soccer. When I started this, I worked with John Sandor and the games were at Monroeville Jr High at 4 o’clock. I was the official scorekeeper. The only game played at the high school under the lights was senior night. All games were eventually moved to night, and Rege Giles, the voice of Gateway athletics was added to now make a crew of three. When either of the teams qualified for any playoffs, and there were a few, John and I went to the games and acted as the administrative representatives for the school.

As the years progressed more and more supplemental contracts became available, and loving all sports, I was asked if I would be willing to work. I became a ticket taker, and a ticket seller. Sometimes I acted as a form of security. At times I was a game manager or site manager. During football games, boys’ and girls’ basketball games, swimming meets and boys’ and girls’ volleyball, I took care of the officials. It was a common practice to work 2 or 3 nights during the week, then be at a varsity football game Friday night, then be back at the school on Saturday for a JV game. For many years I would help John Sandor set up his video equipment at home football games, and I would go with him for the away games. Just a quick note, John didn’t miss a varsity football game for 30 years. I even worked a few wrestling matches. When the Furrie Center opened, the swimming coach, Herman Demao asked me if I could sit by the door and make sure that only swimmers, coaches, and workers would be on the swim deck. I loved it. I got to see some very impressive swimmers, both male and female, set all kinds of school records. I was also able to be around for any WPIAL and PIAA playoff games for football soccer, softball, and baseball. I was gone so much working various sporting events and later on being at baseball conditioning and practice that my wife would teasingly call out to me as I was leaving there goes Mr. Gateway. When I think about it now, those 35 years really flew by.

I always liked the idea of coaching and when I was younger, I coached a Termite football team and a Pony League baseball team. In 1989 a baseball position at the high school opened and to my surprise, I was hired by Larry Hanley. I was to be the first true Head JV coach. That year a rule was passed stating that on the field coaches needed to be in uniform. A medical condition prevented the assistant varsity coach from wearing a uniform, so I was now JV coach and varsity assistant. Games were scheduled on opposite days so that I could be with both teams. With the JV team I was responsible for everything. With the varsity I was in charge of the outfielders, 1st base coach, calling the defensive plays, bench coach, assistant to the scorekeeper, and making sure head coach Rege Giles didn’t get thrown out. During my 9 years with Rege we had 1 section title with one playoff win. Sadly, that as of Nov.2023 that was the last team to win a playoff game. When I started coaching, only section winners made the playoffs and it remained that way until 2006.

After the 1997 year, Coach Giles retired and the AD, Larry Philips, hired me as the new head coach. For the next 8 years I worked very closely with Larry Philips, Paul Holshu and Terry Smith as Athletic Directors, and my good friend John Rocco as my assistant. He was like having another head coach because of all his coaching experience. During these 8 years, the Gators won 1 section title getting us into the playoffs. Again, sadly to say this was the last team up to Nov 2023 to win a section title. Our section then, and still is today very difficult. I believe three different state champions have come from our section. Our team in the spring of 2003 also took a trip on what I called our Tennessee tour. We went to Germantown, Tennessee and competed with 3 teams from Tennessee, one from Mississippi, and 1 from Kentucky. They, at the time, were all very successful high school baseball programs.

During the Spring of 2003, I, along with many coaches from all four baseball classifications, met to try and form a baseball coaches association. We wanted to petition the WPIAL and the PIAA to revamp the playoff schedules. We wanted more teams to experience the playoff situation. We also wanted our finishing date changed so that we didn’t need to rush our schedules to satisfy the PIAA for the state playoffs. The coaches did meet several more times over the next couple of years but no formal association was formed. Changes were eventually made. Classifications were changed from four to six. Now, not only one but four teams from each section qualify for the playoffs and finished dates for section games have been moved back.

For several summers, along with Bill Beebe from Riverview and Larry Wayman from Franklin we ran a summer baseball camp for boys up to 14 years old. The idea was to get kids from our own communities to participate. We used it as an early scouting and recruiting tool. It worked for me because several of the campers did eventually play at Gateway.

In 2005 the WPIAL wanted to boost interest in HS baseball. An AllStar game was scheduled at Washington Wild Things park. Class 1 allstars would play section 2 allstars, and section 3 allstars would play section 4. One of our players was chosen as a Post Gazette class 4 All Star. Chad Hoffner was asked to play in the game. Carl Fulmer of Plum and myself were asked to be the class 4 coaches. After the first game a torrential rainstorm hit and our game was canceled. Due to other commitments, our game was never rescheduled. It was a great idea and lots of fans were really excited, but because of schedules it was not never talked about again.

After 8 years as head coach, I decided to retire from coaching. After 17 years on the bench I was going to become the Gators biggest fan and become a spectator. Like Michael Corleone of the Godfather, I thought I was out, but I got dragged back in. A former player of mine, Jerry DalCanton was hired as the Varsity head coach. He called and asked if I would be interested in becoming one of his assistants. I didn’t even ask my wife. I immediately said yes. Over a span of interrupted 11 years I worked with Jerry, and head coach Bill Stoops, and two stints with coach Mark Wardzinski. I loved every minute of it. I got to coach without all of the headaches of being the head coach. During this time one of the teams played an exhibition game at Three Rivers Stadium. Also, each of these coaches had their teams experience at least 1 playoff game. A total of eight were played. Throughout my playing and coaching journey, I have been involved with 5 section championships, 12 playoff appearances, 3 playoff wins and one lost WPIAL championship. Our teams have been to 2 Major League stadiums; Old Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium. I have had the pleasure of working with so many talented players who have gone on to play at every level from junior college to division one. To list them all would take too long, and undoubtedly, I would miss a few. Over the years I have been involved in over 200 wins and I have seen or witnessed some really remarkable baseball feats. These six really stand out to me: a home run by John Beech to secure the last Gateway playoff win, a home run by Chris Hoover to help secure our last section championship, and no-hit games pitched by Kristofer Dick, Ethan Frenchik (2), and Brady Otterman. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I like to think that just like football, baseball has or can have a coach’s tree. The following are former Gateway players that somewhere along the line I coached. Hopefully I may have influenced their coaching style in some way.

Chris Hoover and Danny Stell have coached in other school districts. Robbie Wratcher, Chris Vergos and John Sarandis for several years coached the Senior Monroeville American Legion team.

The following former players have coached at Gateway:

  • John Beech – JV assistant and Varsity assistant
  • Jerry DalCanton – Varsity assistant and Varsity head coach
  • Kevin Dick – Varsity assistant
  • Darren Kuehn – Freshman head coach
  • Dom Pugliano – Head JV coach
  • Matt Rossi – Varsity assistant
  • John Ruane – Head JV coach
  • Mark Wardzinski – Freshman head coach, Varsity assistant, Varsity Head coach at 2 different times

None of the above could have been possible without devoted and caring parents Ralph and Vera Guzzo. They had enough foresight to build a home in Monroeville where they raised four college graduates and a nursing specialist. I, along with countless others, have had the opportunity to be with great teachers, coaches, and athletes who wanted to be Gateway Gators. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Randy Rovesti who over several months persisted and insisted that I send a short resume to the HOF selection committee who then selected me for this great honor. Lastly, I am so lucky to always have by my side my amazing wife Leslie, my children Andrea, Matt, and Bethany along with their spouses Jose, Suzie, and Grant and our seven grandchildren. They have always supported me in my teaching, working, and coaching endeavors. I’ll close with GO GATORS!


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