Spring Sports Preview: Finally Touching Home
Head Coach Mike Gambino
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
There are many niches in baseball. Is a pitcher better off as a starter or a closer? Will this player be able to drive in runs as the cleanup hitter, or should he be utilized as a speedster in the leadoff spot? For Boston College head baseball coach Mike Gambino, the journey of finding a niche in baseball has been a great experience that has led him to his dream job.
Playing professional baseball, coaching at the minor and major league level, and scouting for the MLB have given Gambino the skills necessary to fully help his players reach their fullest potential. Despite this cycling of roles in the baseball world, Gambino knew from a young age that he wanted to coach at his alma mater.
“[Gene DeFilippo] always tells a story,” Gambino said. “I remember doing this, kind of being a cocky 21-year old kid. After my playing career was over, I asked to meet with him, and just wanted to thank him for everything he did for the program. He’s been great for the baseball program over the years, and I wanted to thank him for that and the great experience I had, how much I liked Coach [Peter] Hughes, and how he helped our program. When I was leaving, I turned to him and said, ‘You’re going to hire me someday.’ Looking back now, what a cocky, obnoxious comment from a 21-year old kid.”
While it may have just been some youthful confidence when he said these words, Gambino always had the ambition to coach at Shea Field.
“This job was always in the back of my mind of where I wanted to be,” he said. “I debated between college baseball and professional baseball. Do I want to stay on the field coaching? Do I want to be in the front office? I had all of these things that I was wondering about, and thinking about, and debating. Sort of like everyone else, I was trying to figure out my career path, just like any 21, 22, 23 or 24-year old guy trying to figure out what he wanted to do, but really always in the back of my head, this is where I wanted to end up.”
Growing up in Garrison, New York, Gambino surrounded himself with baseball. While every young player’s dreams of being a major league player fizzle over time, Gambino was certain that his career path would stick to the sport he loved. He said his dad was an early influence on his love for the game, and the biggest influence on his career.
“Growing up, my dad and I always talked about baseball and watched baseball and played baseball,” he said of the influence on his career. “My dad coached me growing up. I guess, in some ways, I knew this is where I wanted to go.”
Although he, like most other players, desired to become a major league player, his ultimate goal was always to stay involved with the game, no matter what. This mindset led him to coaching.
“I don’t know about specifically [coaching] at this level, but I knew pretty much my whole life,” he said. “I wanted to play in the big leagues, but then, if my playing career ended at some point, I wanted to work in baseball. And I was always leaning toward coaching.”
Gambino’s on-field abilities were obvious from an early age. During his career at James I. O’Neill High School, he led his county with a .547 batting average. In his senior campaign, he only struck out twice. He also helped lead his American Legion team to three consecutive county championships. His high school prowess caught the eye of BC. Gambino knew it was the place for him the moment he stepped on campus.
“I came up for my official visit during my senior year, and, for all of us that go here, once you see this campus and meet the people here, it’s not a hard decision,” he said. “I grew up watching the Big East and watching Big East baseball and basketball. So, I kind of knew that I wanted to play in the Big East. It was kind of a goal of mine. I knew that I wanted to go to a really good academic school. I don’t think it took more than a couple of hours for me to realize how special a place this is. That’s not a hard thing for all of us who go here or went here to understand.”
Gambino continued his success at second base for the Eagles. Despite playing in the Big East with some of the best talent in the nation, he continued to make his name known. His senior season, he earned All-New England second team honors, finishing the season with a .363 batting average in addition to four home runs, 31 RBIs, 29 runs scored, and 15 multiple-hit games. He even earned a spot in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, playing for the Orleans Cardinals.
When reflecting on his playing career at BC, Gambino emphasized the importance of his coaches.
“I got to play for two different coaches,” he said. “I was able to learn a lot from Moe Maloney, and then Pete Hughes came in and had a huge impact on my career. Probably, other than my dad, Pete Hughes has as much of an impact on my baseball life and coaching and learning as anybody.”
Gambino went on to say that the experience of playing for the Eagles has given him a special insight into the kinds of players that fit into BC.
“I think one of the biggest advantages, specifically at BC, that helps me here is knowing how things work here, and knowing what kind of kids we want to recruit and the kinds of kids that are attracted to Boston College,” he pointed out. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that helps me with this, just knowing who we are. Knowing what kind of player we need to compete here, doing a great job in the classroom and to be able to represent both the program and BC the way we all want it represented, and be able to compete at the highest level of college athletics.”