For the seventh summer out of the last eight, Nature Coast found itself searching for a new head baseball coach.
On Thursday, the school hired a veteran of local dugouts, tapping former Springstead headman Frank Vitale.
“He’s experienced, with over 30 years coaching baseball,” Nature Coast athletic director Kristin Peeples said. “He’s proven to be a successful coach within this county. We felt like he can come in here and bring some consistency.
“The key for us with the baseball program is we want consistency. The inconsistency is unfair to these kids, and we need someone who will be here for these kids.”
Vitale spent parts of nine seasons guiding the Eagles, compiling a 118-98 record and twice leading Springstead to regionals, collecting a district championship in 2011.
Previously the Eagles had not won a district title since 1996, which also marked their only prior regional appearance.
The team got off to an 8-1 start in 2012 before Vitale was suspended and eventually dismissed.
Following that decision, Vitale said he had been slapped on the back by a junior varsity player in an overzealous greeting. Vitale responded, he said, by saying he would punch the player in the chest if it happened again.
At the time Vitale said he understood the suspension, but vehemently disagreed with losing his post. He admits now he’s still very bitter about the situation.
“Coaching has been my passion all my life and especially baseball,” Vitale said Thursday. “I’ve really missed it the last 2 1/2 years. There’s been a really empty feeling inside of me not being on the field. It’s my passion and I’m really happy to start with a clean state and start a new chapter in my life.
“In the county there’s only four other high schools and the old administration didn’t want me coaching baseball at Springstead.”
Vitale will remain a teacher at Springstead, and thanked new principal Carmine Rufa for allowing him to coach at Nature Coast.
He inherits a Shark squad that finished 11-13 this spring, and hasn’t had a winning season since 2009.
After setting a then county record of four straight regional appearances from 2007-10, Nature Coast has struggled to regain its footing with constant coaching changes.
“Nature Coast has some talented kids over there. They’ve had some ups and downs, but I’m looking forward to it,” Vitale said. “Stability is an important thing and I’m hoping to bring some stability to that program.
“It’ll take lots of hard work and you’ve got to have some talent. I’ve got a challenge ahead of me. I know with my work ethic and the amount of time I put into it, I’m looking forward to being successful over there.
“I don’t like to jump around. I’m looking forward to being at Nature Coast for a while. If the Springstead job were to open up, I’m not interested.”
Currently Vitale is coaching the Spring Hill Dixie Baseball Majors (ages 17-19) All-Stars. Two of the Sharks’ top returning players, Vito Tambasco and John Peloro, are on the team.
So he’ll get an early start with those two and upon meeting the rest of the roster, Vitale intends to employ the same team-first philosophy he utilized at Springstead.
“I think he’ll do a great job and he’s proven he can do the job,” Peeples said, “and we’re excited about that.”
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
2014 11-13 Mike Ellison
* Denotes regional berth
By the numbers: Frank Vitale at Springstead
^ Denotes district champion
* Denotes district runner-up