Jeff Passaro has coached baseball or softball at Warren Area High School in parts of five decades.
After 10 years in his second stint as Warren head baseball coach, Passaro, 57, announced his resignation earlier this week.
"It's just time," said Passaro, whose father coached football and basketball at Youngsville or Warren high schools in the 1930's, '40's and '50's. "I've been thinking about this for a few years. I'm whooped at the end of the season; you're mentally and physically just drained. I like going home after school. I'm not going to miss the long bus rides. I've coached spring sports for 24 years. I didn't think I'd stay this last stretch 10 years as it is."
Times Observer file photo
After being an assistant and junior varsity baseball coach at Warren Area High School, Passaro was head baseball coach there from 1984-87 with two Tri-County Athletic Conference championships.
His second stint from 2003 through last spring included six league titles and ended with the school's first District 10 baseball title since 1977, a 2-0 win over Cathedral Prep at Ainsworth Field in Erie.
Passaro has joked that he was the "Marv Levy of high school baseball."
"I was 0-for-4 (before last year) in District 10 championships," said Passaro. "It was kind of a relief to get the monkey off my back. The same group of kids were in the finals three years in a row. They wanted that probably more than I did, which was fine with me. We've had a great bunch of kids; that makes the year a whole lot more fun."
Passaro admits he's a lot less intense coaching than he was when he started.
"I've let the kids do their thing, I've let the coaches do their thing, and I just tried to stay out of the way," said Passaro, who has a career record as Warren head coach of 175-83 - or 167-74 in the regular season and 8-9 in playoff games.
Passaro coached the Dragons to a school-record 19 wins in 2008. Warren's season records the past five years have been 19-2, 14-5, 13-9, 14-3 and 16-4.
"Each year is different," said Passaro. "One of my favorite years was when I was coaching J.V.'s. I think we had two losses. We had a bunch of smart kids, but only one or two ended up starting on varsity. We had a lot of fun in the early '80's.
"Dick Betts told me a story while I was playing (recreational softball) for Betts; my father was his football coach in high school. He said he didn't mind losing, but he sure loves to win," said Passaro. "I really enjoyed winning.
"The interaction with the kids is one of the main things I'm going to miss the most," he said, "not the baseball aspect."
He was also influenced by Warren County Sports Hall of Famer, the late Nick Creola.
"Nick was at every practice and at every home and away game," said Passaro. "He rode the bus with us from the time I played, through my coaching years in the '80's. He was always very supportive and he was more or less our hitting coach among other things, and loved working with the kids. I learned a lot being around Nick."
Despite graduating nine seniors that were the crux of the D-10 title team, Passaro thinks the program is in great shape - starting with the coaching staff.
"They are going to be competitive. They are graduating everyone, but (my resigning) really has nothing to do with how the season went last year," he said.
Passaro said he has written three resignation letters over the years, but only turned one in this past week. He has coached with Rick Eaton, Dave Papalia, Neal Kent, Mike Ishman and B.J. Salerno in recent years. Salerno is now an assistant coach at Jamestown Community College, and one of several players under Passaro who went on the play college baseball. Salerno was a catcher at Division I St. Bonaventure, and Brandon Schott is currently a catcher at D-I University of Maryland at Eastern Shore. Addison Dunn, a 2008 Warren graduate, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 45th round of the Major League draft.
"Rock (Rick Eaton) and I have coached together for eight years, and we won the region in six of those years, and in one of the years that we didn't win it, we made it to the district finals," said Passaro.
In the 1980's, Warren Area High School pitchers Terry Wilson and Jimmy Olson both went on to play professional baseball. Wilson played for Passaro when he was varsity head coach, and Olson played for Passaro when he was junior varsity coach.
"Each year is different, like I said. Last year, for example, I was basically in the right place at the right time," said Passaro. (Physically,) I can't throw batting practice anymore, which bums me out. If I throw B.P., the only thing I'm teaching the kids is patience and to be selective. It was always the kids that won the games, not me."
"He's excellent to work with and he's going to be missed," said Warren Area High School athletic director Jeff White. "He's not just a Warren baseball supporter, he's a Warren athletics supporter. Over the years, when his baseball players were playing in other sports, he was always at those events."
Passaro, who teaches at Warren Area Elementary Center, plans on being a huge Warren baseball fan.
"I won't be getting as nervous (watching) anymore, I don't think," said Passaro.