Beloit, WI – For countless fans across the U.S. the return of Baseball season is a definite reason for celebration.
For Beloit College Head Baseball Coach Dave DeGeorge, it's a lifestyle.
DeGeorge's Buccaneers will begin the 2015 season on Saturday against fellow northerner Loras College in Auburndale, Florida, over 1,250 miles from the friendly confines of The Ballpark at Strong Stadium. But to DeGeorge, a ball field is a ball field.
For DeGeorge it will be the start of his 25th season as head coach of the Bucs.
"In some ways the years have gone by quickly." said DeGeorge. "The program has improved so dramatically over the years – the coaching, the facilities and the quality of our players. When I think about those aspects, 20 plus years ago seems like another lifetime. When I think about individual players or big games, I remember them like it was yesterday."
DeGeorge, a 1989 Beloit College graduate and baseball team captain, is by a large margin the winningest coach in Buccaneer Baseball history, with 352 wins going into this season. In fact, he trails only legendary Men's Basketball coach Bill Knapton in Beloit College coaching victories (Knapton had 557 wins from 1957-97).
After graduation and a short stint in the business world, DeGeorge returned and never left. He was an assistant coach for 19 years – the first 15 working alongside his father, Ed, who was the head football coach. For the past six years, his focus has been solely baseball.
So how has coaching changed over the last 24-plus years?
"The coaching hasn't changed much, but the recruiting is very different than it was in the early 90s", said DeGeorge. "Recruiting has become a 52-weeks per year job. With phones calls nearly every night, camps, showcases and campus visits, there is never a break. Our team's success will always be tied to the quality of the recruiting. If you want to have a chance to win, you must do the work recruiting"
Over all those seasons, the memories have obviously multiplied many times over. But DeGeorge has no problem picking his favorite one.
"The 2009 Midwest Conference Championship was, for me, tops," DeGeorge said. "I was so happy, not just for myself, but for all the players and everyone who has been a part of our program. It was extra special, because I had my dad sitting next to me in the dugout and my son pitching the championship game. For my entire family, it is an experience and accomplishment we treasure."
"Over the years, there have been so many close relationships with players. Many of these relationships continue to this day. Within the last couple of weeks, I've spoken with several former players, some of whom played 20 or more years ago. The bond I have with our current players and with so many from past teams means a great deal to me."
So season number 25 begins on a far-off field and it all becomes new again. How much longer can the opening days keep happening?
"Unless they allow a 6-handicap golfer on the PGA Tour, I'll be coaching baseball at Beloit College for many years to come."