Vol 57 No. 8 : April 2005
Vol 57 No. 8 | Apr. 2005
800 Wins and Counting For Softball's Manarino
When Pete Manarino took over the CSULB softball team in 1984, he was inheriting a squad that had gone 8-35 the previous season. He promised to turn the program around, despite having only two scholarships, an inadequate practice field, no on-campus game facility and no tradition upon which to build. But, he won and won and won. On Saturday, against Cal State Northridge, he posted his 800th career Division I win.
“My philosophy has always been that I am going to take what I have and make the most of the opportunity,” said Manarino, now in his 22nd season. “I think that's what Long Beach State softball has always been about, making the most of the opportunity.”
In his first season, Manarino's squad went 27-23. Remarkably, two years later he had his team on the way to Omaha, playing in its first College World Series (CWS). In all, his teams have racked up 20 winning seasons in his 21 years and seem to be getting better, based on the fact the 49ers set a school record last season with 51 victories. Many of those 51 wins came during a period covering part of the 2003 and 2004 seasons when his 49ers went a remarkable 72-16.
The result of his 800-plus wins has been five trips to the CWS, 15 NCAA post-season appearances in all, four conference championships and five conference coach of the year awards. Believe it or not, though, it's not the wins that he cherishes most, but rather the relationships with fellow coaches, administrators and players he has worked with along the way.
“I have been surrounded by good people,” noted Manarino, who ranks No. 1 all-time in victories among all CSULB coaches in any sport. “My assistant coaches have been great. Kim Sowder has been here for 10 years as coach (she played for Manarino from 1989-92) and Ralph Levy is in his 16th year as a volunteer coach. They deserve a lot of credit. They have done a phenomenal job being by my side for a long time. You're as good as your staff.”
He also credits the athletic administration for his program's success. In the early 1990s, Manarino was given the full allotment of 12 scholarships to work with. A new on-campus field also signaled support as the wins just kept coming.
“I've considered myself very fortunate to be part of this and be given the opportunity to be successful here,” said Manarino. “(Associate Athletics Director) Cindy Masner and (Athletics Director) Bill Shumard have done a nice job supporting women's athletics.”
"Winning 800 games in any sport is an incredible milestone,” said Shumard. “The fact that Pete Manarino has accomplished it here at Long Beach State makes it all the more special. He has dedicated nearly half of his life to this university and our softball program and his legacy speak volumes about his dedication and perseverance. Long Beach State enjoys a superior reputation in women's softball, and Pete Manarino is, by far, the reason for that."
Throughout his career, Manarino has always put an emphasis on recruiting student-athletes whom he considers solid individuals. “I look more for character than talent because I think at the end of the day, the players with character are going to be there for you,” he said. “People like that are going to win games for you. That's not to say we don't recruit talented players, because we do.” In part, that also translates into academic success for his program, something in which Manarino takes extreme pride.
“We've been very competitive through the years, but at the same time there is more to life than just softball,” stated Manarino. “Academics is very, very important to me. I have graduated 98 percent of my student-athletes and that's just as rewarding to me as the success we've had on the field.” And the energetic 52-year-old Manarino clearly acknowledges that he could not have been successful without the support of his family, which includes his wife Cheryl, daughter Kristen and son Nicholaus.
“I have been lucky because Cheryl has allowed me to do this and has been by my side the whole time,” he said. “Anytime you are a coach, it does put a little strain on a family, but the family support has been great. My kids were always involved, traveling with us and being a part of it.”
And, an obvious question is whether he has an eye on 1,000 career victories.
“That's possible,” he said. “As long as I can work with young people, develop young people and enjoy it and the competition, I'm going to continue to coach.”
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