During the baseball team’s best road trip in six seasons, Head Coach George Valesente ’66 celebrated a milestone that has been reached by only 50 coaches in all levels of college baseball. But he didn’t know it happened until his players began to celebrate the achievement with him.
“To be perfectly honest, I didn’t realize it was 1,000 wins,” he said. “I don’t pay attention to that. But as soon as I was talking to the team, they dumped a bucket of ice on me and started hollering, and then I made the assumption.”
In his 40th year as a head coach, Valesente earned his 1,000th career victory when the Blue and Gold defeated Pomona-Pitzer College 9-5 on March 16 in Claremont, Calif.
Valesente began his head coaching career in 1973 with the baseball team at SUNY-Brockport and had stints coaching the baseball team at SUNY-New Paltz and the men’s soccer and baseball teams at SUNY-Maritime.
Before the 1979 season, Valesente took the baseball team’s head coaching job at his alma mater after Carlton “Carp” Wood retired, and has held the position ever since. During his 34-year tenure coaching at the college, Valesente has maintained a record of 910—402—7 on South Hill.
Senior pitcher Tucker Healy said the long-term dedication Valesente has shown to the college makes his benchmark more noteworthy.
“In this day and age, longevity is rare and scarce,” he said. “So to accomplish something like getting 1,000 wins is amazing.”
However, Valesente was quick to downplay the personal success of the career milestone. He said it wouldn’t have been possible without the support he has gotten from assistant coaches and players during his four decades of coaching.
“This is a kind of accomplishment that should be shared by many people,” he said. “It’s a testament to the number of people that have contributed to this and helped make it possible.”
Hitting Coach Frank Fazio, who played on the college’s baseball team with Valesente, said Valesente’s characteristics rub off on his players.
“He’s a committed, dedicated, hardworking individual that expects the kids to do the same thing to be successful,” he said.
A three-sport athlete at the college, Valesente said his intuition and competitive nature helped him become a successful coach.
“I coach by feel and instincts,” he said. “I was very competitive as an athlete — everything I played, I played to win — and that is the philosophy and mindset here.”
Fazio said Valesente acts as a teacher to his players. Healy said his coach’s nurturing style engenders respect from the players.
“He’s a great guy and he’ll do anything for us off the field,” Healy said. “He treats us almost like we’re his children.”
Valesente said though he is glad to have reached his 1,000th win, he realizes he still has a full season ahead and doesn’t want to focus on it until his coaching career is over.
“I have a tendency to not be enamored by all this because I believe that I just go to work every day and try to do the best I can,” he said. “The numbers and results shouldn’t be appreciated until I’m retired and sit back and look at it.”