Hernando Christian Academy announced on Friday that it has hired Tony Alvarez to take over as head coach.
Alvarez arrived at the Brooksville private school last year, taking a job as director of marketing and enrollment, and served an assistant baseball coach.
He takes over for Mike D'Ambrosio, who stepped down after three seasons.
According to HCA athletic director Mike Drummond, Alvarez's ascent was by design, as D'Ambrosio was struggling to juggle coaching baseball with his duties working security at St. Leo University.
D'Ambrosio, however, will remain the school's football head coach. Dwindling numbers forced HCA to move to 7-man football last year.
Likewise, difficulty finding players caused the Lions to play as an independent in baseball this past season.
It has been a sharp decline for a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 three times from 2006-09, and reached regionals five of its first six seasons within FHSAA district play starting in 2004.
Hampered by a lack of experienced personnel, the Lions went just 9-32 under D'Ambrosio, including 0-8 across an abbreviated 2012 schedule.
Alvarez is a former prep player at Tampa Baptist Academy (now Tampa Bay Christian Academy), where he paced Hillsborough County in hitting, garnered first team All-State honors and was a finalist for Florida's Mr. Baseball as a junior.
He transferred to Zephyrhills for his senior year, then played college ball at Division II Palm Beach Atlantic University prior to transferring to Hillsborough Community College.
After a 4 1/2-year stint as an assistant coach at Tampa-Cambridge Christian School, he arrived at HCA.
During his time at Cambridge Christian, the team was a repeat Class 1A state runner-up (2008-09) and went to the Elite Eight the following two seasons.
"He's a young guy. He's got a lot of energy," Drummond said. "He knows the game really well. The fact that he's on campus full-time, that definitely makes a difference. He's already part of the community in the school itself.
"But just the fact he's got a lot of playing experience. He understands the small-school situation. I think that creates excitement."
To help introduce himself to the HCA family and the Hernando County community, Coach Alvarez is having a baseball camp on July 31-Aug. 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The camp is open to everyone from third through 12th grades. There will be coaching and instruction for all levels of players given by Coach Alvarez, along with former Division I and Minor League pitchers and position players.
The cost of the camp is $40.
To register or for more information, call Coach Alvarez at (352) 796-0616, option 1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the numbers: HCA Baseball (2004-12)
Year Record Head coach
2004 11-11* Mike Ellison
2005 13-12^ Mike Ellison (24-23)
2006 13-11* Mike Sodders
2007 11-10 Scott Boer
2008 16-10^ Scott Boer
2009 19-7^ Scott Boer (46-27)
2010 4-12 Mike D'Ambrosio
2011 5-12 Mike D'Ambrosio
2012 0-8 Mike D'Ambrosio (9-32)