On Thursday, Nature Coast athletic director Kristin Peeples officially announced the hiring of Mike Ellison as the school’s newest baseball head coach.
“We were looking to hire someone internally within the school system, and somebody who could come in and build the program,” Peeples said. “He fit all the criteria. He’s already built one program before and we feel like he can do it again.”
In accepting the job, Ellison becomes the first person to serve as head baseball coach at four different county schools.
Most recently, Ellison coached for three seasons from 2008-10 at Central, where he works as a social studies teacher.
“I missed it,” Ellison said. “It’s something I’ve done for a long, long time and I missed being in it.
“The primary reason I got out of it was because of my grandson, J.T. (Simpson). He ended up going to college in Gainesville at Santa Fe and I wanted to be able to watch him. Now he’s playing up in Georgia, so I felt it was time to get back in it.”
Ellison, known as “Pappy” to many within the local baseball circuit, previously coached one season at Hernando in 1990 and two years from 2004-05 at Hernando Christian Academy.
During his six seasons as a headman in the county, he has amassed a 58-90 record, but also has three regional berths and a district championship to his credit.
Ellison said he and some friends recently had a laugh when discussing how many different teams he has helmed, though he had no idea he was the first to four.
“I don’t know what that means,” Ellison said. “It’s just an opportunity to coach baseball again. To me that’s the most important thing.”
Interestingly, Ellison won’t be leaving his job at Central. Peeples said Nature Coast simply has no openings in the social studies department.
Peeples added that both Nature Coast principal Toni-Ann Noyes and her new Central counterpart John Stratton have given their approval.
“With the way thing are going, teaching jobs are limited and coaching jobs are becoming more and more prevalent,” Peeples said.
Though he was not actually coaching within the school system at HCA, this situation mirrors Ellison’s tenure at the private school, when he was also still working at Central.
“I think that worked out OK as far as scheduling. I don’t see it being much different,” Ellison said. “Mr. Stratton OK’d it at Central. As long as I fulfill my duties it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Ellison won’t be returning as an assistant football coach for the Bears. He has spent the past few seasons working on Mike Einspahr’s staff.
The Sharks have endured a lengthy search for stability in the coaching ranks since Dan Garofano left the program he started in 2007.
From 2008-12, the previous year’s coach did not return. That doesn’t count David Brown, Garofano’s initial replacement who stepped down before he ever arrived.
After surviving the first few rounds of coaching changes enough to reach regionals for four straight seasons, 2007-10, the turnover finally caught up to the team.
Nature Coast’s last winning mark came in 2009, with this past season’s 12-14 ranking as the best showing since.
Vito Tambasco was the first head coach to last two consecutive years since Garofano’s departure. The Sharks went 19-30 during his run.
Tambasco, though, is not a teacher. His connection to the team developed while his oldest son, Tommy, played for the Sharks. Tommy Tambasco graduated in 2012, and his brother Vito Tambasco Jr. just completed his sophomore year.
“Vito (Sr.) did a great job and did bring the program around where it was,” Peeples said. “But Mrs. Noyes felt she wanted to go in a different direction. She wanted to get more and more people inside the system.”
“I’m relieved,” Tambasco Sr. said. “It (coaching) wasn’t what I thought it was. There was more to it, a lot more time-consuming and less rewarding than I ever thought it would be.
“So my hat’s off to guys who put the time into it and get badmouthed all the time, because now I’ve been in their shoes.”
The elder Tambasco and Ellison both said they have spoken, and said Vito Jr. would continue to play for Nature Coast.
A shortstop and pitcher, Vito Jr. hit .451 with eight doubles, a triple and two home runs to go with 14 RBI and 22 runs scored. On the mound, he went 5-6 with a 3.48 ERA, striking out 68 in 50.1 innings.
“I know Pappy and have no problem with Pappy. I think he’s a good coach,” Tambasco Sr. said. “It’s my son’s decision. He knows he has options if he so chooses. Right now he says he wants to stay at Nature Coast.”
Tambasco Sr. felt that he and his coaches had “put the program back on the right track, in the right direction,” and will hand over a club that has shown some promise.
Ellison admitted he didn’t know anyone else’s name on the roster beyond Tambasco Jr., but hopes to restore the Sharks’ former glory.
There is a significant issue on the horizon. The 64-year-old Ellison is set to retire from teaching in 2 1/2 years. He has expressed a desire to continue coaching, though he doesn’t know in what capacity he’ll be allowed to stay.
“I want to keep my hand in it,” Ellison said. “I want to win, but as for my first year, me not knowing what the talent is there, who’s coming back, my primary goal is to teach the kids how to compete and number two, how to get better.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge and I just want to build on what they already have.”
By the numbers: Mike Ellison
Year School Record
1990 Hernando 9-18
2004 HCA 11-11*
2005 HCA 13-12*^
2008 Central 7-16
2009 Central 12-13*
2010 Central 6-20
* Denotes regional berth
^ Denotes district championship
By the Numbers: NCT Baseball
Year Record Coach
2004 2-22 Dan Garofano
2005 10-15 Dan Garofano
2006 15-10 Dan Garofano
2007 20-8* Dan Garofano
2008 21-7* Bob Shepard
2009 13-9* John Frascatore
2010 11-18* Pete Ruiz
2011 8-16 John Frascatore
2012 7-16 Vito Tambasco
2013 12-14 Vito Tambasco
* Denotes regional berth