He is still a rather youthful diamond mentor even at age 36, although his experience quotient with 17 seasons of football and baseball coaching on his résumés would indicate that Ron Gavazzi is a grizzled veteran in terms of guiding teams – whether it was guiding Bayley-Ellard baseball through the school’s final sporting event before closing its doors in 2005 or working on longtime Montclair State University coach Rick Giancola’s staff for a number of years.
He is now in his second stint at Montclair High where he re-revived a baseball tradition during his eight seasons at the helm through the 2013 season, including winning the Greater Newark Tournament title in 2012. That was the Mounties’ first since 1963 in the granddaddy of statewide in-season tournaments.
Working alongside his good friend and former assistant Anthony Genchi, who headed the MHS diamond program for the three seasons, Gavazzi was gone from 2014-16, the experienced coach is excited to be concentrating solely on baseball again after giving football his full energy. That included recent stints at both state power Don Bosco with the since-displaced head man Greg Toal and a season at Kean University on Dan Garrett’s staff.
Now nearing the conclusion of his first season back on the Woodman diamond after a three-year hiatus, Gavazzi, a physical education teacher at MHS, is quite happy to be back concentrating on baseball. But football is not completely out of his blood since he also served as a coach for the Mounties’ freshman gridiron squad last fall.
“I love teaching and coaching the kids at Montclair and I’ve had the opportunity to explore different opportunities in football, but I’ve decided I really wanted to be back coaching baseball here and working alongside Anthony who is a great friend and terrific coach,” said Gavazzi, who grew up in Clifton. “I enjoy being around our players, the coaches and the game itself. We’ve all blended well together and the camaraderie here is tremendous.
“We feel that the program is definitely headed in a positive direction.”
The Mounties, who entered this week with an 11-12 record, were scheduled to open up North 1, Group 4 state tournament action Monday (May 22) at Passaic Tech as they began pursuit of a sectional crown after and up-and-down season in the rigorous Super Essex Conference-American Division. The regular season features home-and-home matchups with the likes of state powers Seton Hall Prep and Millburn, and little letup against everyone else in the county’s top baseball division.
“The SEC-American is very challenging baseball on a day-in, day-out basis and we look forward to the great competition we see,” said Gavazzi. “We like to see what our capabilities are against the best teams out there and we certainly have the chance to do that in our conference.”
The sixth-seeded Mounties impressed with their recent GNT run, defeating third-seeded Livingston, 6-1, in the quarterfinals behind the solid starting pitching of Post University-bound senior right-hander Makhi Booker and then giving second-seeded SHP all it could handle in the semifinals before winding up on the short end of a 1-0 ball game despite receiving exemplary relief pitching from senior Henry Brooks.
Gavazzi and Genchi were made co-coaches this spring with Gavazzi designated as the head man, while the coaching staff is blessed with other former high school heads including Jamie Bittner (Bogota) and Mountie alum Angelo Intitle (Clifton).
“I will put the experience and capabilities of our coaching staff right up there with any other school out there,” said Gavazzi. “Our players have a lot of ways to turn for any question they might have about this great game.”
And that is what is ultimately what it is all about for Gavazzi, who simply loves baseball even though he has a large place in his coaching heart for football as well and is a big fan of high school basketball.
“My favorite high school program to watch through the years has been (coach) Bob Hurley’s great St. Anthony teams,” he said. “I live for high school sports and love to go to all the games in every sport.”
And, there is still plenty of time for Gavazzi to enjoy his second tour of duty as the Mounties’ diamond mentor. As he’s just emerging from his mid-30s there is plenty of hope and aspirations for some great seasons ahead for MHS baseball.
In addition to impressive sophomores on this season’s squad, including pitcher-shortstop Conor McGrath and the versatile Evan Chaladoff, there is word emanating from throughout MHS diamond circles that the successful Mountie freshman team will provide plenty of talent for the future. And a bevy of outstanding eighth-grade pitching prospects from the middle schools are also on their way next fall.
“Baseball is such a challenging sport and you always hope that the young talent simply continues to develop and the kids stay healthy,” said Gavazzi. “We feel the baseball talent is definitely here in Montclair both in the present and in the future and we’re excited about the prospects for the program moving forward, that’s for sure!”