|Larry Radloff, d3photography.com|
ITHACA, N.Y. – Ithaca College legendary Hall of Fame baseball coach and alumnus, George Valesente '66, has announced his retirement after 41 seasons, effective in August 2019. Valesente has been the head coach at his alma mater since 1979 and departs South Hill with a career record of 1,136-507-8 at the helm of the Bombers program. He maintained the tradition of excellence in what is Ithaca College baseball for four-plus decades and guided IC to 38 seasons with 20 or more victories. With a 31-9 campaign in 2019, Ithaca continued the nation's longest streak of consecutive winning seasons (in all divisions) to 81 years.
"I can't thank Ithaca College enough for giving me this opportunity 41 years ago. Time has gone by quickly and it's been more than anything I could have imagined," said Valesente. "The administrative support has been amazing over the years. I wish to thank everyone for their assistance with the baseball program in such an outstanding way."
Valesente, a 1980 IC Hall of Famer and 2005 inductee into the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame, has coached collegiately since 1973. He served as head coach at Brockport, New Paltz and Maritime prior to his return to Ithaca and owns an overall record of 1,196-547-8. Valesente ranks seventh all-time among Division III coaches in victories.
He won his 1,000th career game in 2012, and his 1,000th exclusively at the helm of Ithaca's program in 2015. Valesente's 1,100th career victory at Ithaca came on May 5, 2018 against Wells College - versus his son, David, the head coach of the Express.
"George Valesente is synonymous with Ithaca College excellence," said IC Director of Athletics, Susan Bassett '79. "He personifies Bomber values of professionalism, respect, integrity and sportsmanship. He has led IC baseball with the same passion from his first year through his 41st."
"Coach Val's teams achieved the ultimate goal winning two national championships with the understanding that it is not just what we do but how we conduct ourselves that matters. We do things the right way."
Valesente guided Ithaca to a pair of NCAA Division III Championships in 1980 and 1988, and 10 total trips to the College World Series. Ithaca's most recent trip to the DIII Championship occurred in 2013, where the Bombers finished third in the country with a 41-8 record.
"I would also like to thank my assistant coaches over the years, especially Frank Fazio, Geoff Wright and John McNally. Without their technical coaching abilities and loyalty to me, none of the team's successes would be possible," Valesente stated. " I also want to say a tremendous thank you to all of the former players who chose Ithaca College and gave their all to the success of this program."
On July 20, 2012, Valesente's name was forever tied to Ithaca's home field as Freeman Field was updated to Valesente Diamond at Freeman Field.
In 1980, Ithaca overcame a first round loss to Upsala in the College World Series by capturing four straight games to win the championship. That team led Division III in batting with a .363 average and in earned run average as well, with a 2.15 mark.
The 1988 title was also dramatic, as the Bombers rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the final game to defeat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 7-5. Four members of the 1988 team signed professional contracts: outfielders Steve Graham and Vince Roman, catcher Fritz Hamburg and third baseman Brian Parrotte.
Out of the 41 seasons in which Valesente mentored the IC baseball program, the Bombers made 35 trips to the NCAA Tournament. He has also coached 31 All-Americans since 1979 and 42 players have signed professional contracts under the tutelage of Valesente – most notably Tim Locastro, who is currently playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in Major League Baseball.
Valesente guided the Bombers to 17 Empire 8 Conference championships in 20 seasons, including eight straight since 2012, and has been named Empire 8 Coach of the Year 11 times during that span. Outside of the Empire 8 success, Valesente has been honored many times for his coaching accomplishments. The Ithaca Journal selected Valesente as its male Coach of the Year in 1980, 1988 and 2013. He was voted the ABCA Division III Coach of the Year in 1980 and 1988, and he earned district coach of the year recognition in 1980, 1981, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1994 and 2013. In 2012, he was named D3baseball.com's inaugural NCAA New York Region Coach of the Year.
As a three-sport athlete during his time as a student, Valesente lettered in soccer, basketball and baseball, and played on NCAA playoff teams in all three sports. In three varsity basketball seasons, he scored 745 points, and at the time of his graduation, he ranked third on the all-time school scoring list. Valesente's success carried over to baseball, where he entered the professional ranks upon graduation. He spent four seasons in the minors, advancing as far as the Triple-A level with the International League's Buffalo Bisons, the top farm team of the Washington Senators, in 1969.
"I have been blessed, with my great wife, Dianne, our family and a job that never once felt like work. My sincerest thank you to all of you," Valesente concluded.
"On behalf of Ithaca College and our athletics department, I thank Coach Valesente for his commitment, leadership and professionalism. Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him and learn from him these past six years," expressed Bassett.
A national search will begin immediately with the anticipation of hiring a new coach by September.