Gentile Loved Coaching with His All-Stars Club This Summer
The influence of every member of a team’s coaching staff is critical when it comes to that club’s success. This summer, Joe Gentile fulfilled that role by making significant contributions to the East Haddam-Guilford (EH-G) 12-U All-Stars softball team as an assistant coach. Joe, a Guilford resident, soaked up every moment of the team’s run to winning the District 9 and Section 3 titles, while coaching his daughter Ava along the way.
When Ava started playing softball last fall, she was introduced to Chad Eaton, who was also an assistant coach with the EH-G 12-U All-Stars team this year.
Eaton coaches in Guilford Little League during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. As Guilford continues to build its programs year after year, there are always opportunities for people to lend a hand with coaching both baseball and softball. Joe was presented with a chance to work with Eaton and ran with it when Ava joined Eaton’s team.
“At the first game, there was no one to do the book for Coach Chad. I haven’t done a baseball book since I was a little kid,” says Joe. “I asked him to do the softball book and started doing the book for him in the fall league. Then when they started playing spring ball, he asked me if I would mind helping him be an assistant coach on the team.”
This summer, Joe joined Eaton on the coaching staff with the EH-G All-Stars team alongside Head Coach Erik Jankowski and assistant Peter Dean. Joe took on the role without hesitation and was ready to do whatever he could to help the team succeed. Joe focused on making sure that the players had a fun and enjoyable experience, while also striving to help grow the Little League programs in both Guilford and East Haddam.
“These kids are only young once, so it’s good to get them outside, get them moving, and get them being around other kids again,” Joe says. “Guilford and East Haddam have great Little League programs and great people that live in their towns. I think the programs will only continue to grow within their baseball and softball communities.”
Joe credits his fellow coaches for making a huge impact on the success of the EH-G All-Stars this year. When the players from the two towns joined forces to form one team, Joe and his cohorts were amazed with the chemistry that they created before opening play in the District 9 Tournament.
“Initially, Guilford didn’t have enough players and neither did East Haddam. The first practice, all of the East Haddam girls were on one side of the field and the Guilford girls on the other. After our third practice, they actually became one team,” says Joe. “For me to be able to enjoy it with my daughter and meet some terrific families and coaches along the way, it doesn’t get any better.”
EH-G competed in the District 9 Tournament from June 23 to July 2. After going 4-0 in pool play, the All-Stars squad defeated Middletown/Haddam-Killingworth in a best-of-3 championship series to take the district title. EH-G went on to play in the Section 3 Tournament and claimed the crown by rallying for a thrilling 9-8 victory over Rocky Hill in the title game.
It was a surreal moment for Joe as he watched the team celebrate its victories. Now that the season is finished, Joe is still astounded by how well EH-G performed after forming its team on the fly just a few weeks prior. In the end, Joe couldn’t have asked for anything more than what the EH-G All-Stars accomplished this year.
“It was unbelievable. As a kid, you played in Little League and you played All Stars and you never advanced like this. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that these girls had,” Joe says. “They’re the first in our towns to ever go that far in what they were doing. This is going to be something that these girls remember for the rest of their lives.”
Coach Eaton feels that Joe’s guidance played an integral role in the success of the EH-G All-Stars team. Eaton says that Joe always kept the best interest of the players at the forefront.
“Joe is extremely supportive of all of the coaches and all of the kids at all times. He brought a calming influence, but a cheerleader’s mentality, to keep the kids engaged in the game and focus at the task at hand,” says Eaton. “Joe was all about the memories we created. He wasn’t focused on wins or losses. He was focused on the experience for the kids.”
Joe is looking forward to seeing how the team’s athletes continue progressing throughout their softball careers. Joe believes that the experience they gained while competing at the All-Stars level will prove a huge help to them down the road.
“The really fun part was watching these young kids develop as players. They went from Little League, where it wasn’t so competitive to where it was almost more fun, so when they started getting into the All-Star tournaments, everything became super competitive,” Joe says. “The heart and the level of commitment the girls had to one another really was the best part to come away with. Some of the Guilford girls and East Haddam girls will continue to play together in travel league, which is one of the best things I think came out of the whole picture.”
Joe has experienced many pleasant memories as a valued member of the Little League community in Guilford. Joe says that the recent success of the EH-G All-Stars team may just be the greatest memory of them all.
“It ranks up there as the best time I’ve ever had in my entire life, to be totally honest with you,” said Joe. “Being back on a baseball field with my daughter, spending that time with her through the fall, spring, and summer, it’s an experience I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.”