Family. School. Baseball.
For 22 years, in that order, those were points of emphasis Jim Carrese bestowed on his players at Shenendehowa High School. Now the veteran coach is following his own credo.
“It’s about spending more time with my family,” said Carrese, who announced his retirement as the Plainsmen’s varsity baseball coach Thursday. “I’ve got a 10-year-old son [Luca] and it’s time to coach him. I sincerely believe that this is the best time. I’m at peace with my decision.
“This is simply about my desire to focus my attention on the greater priority in my life, which is my family.”
Carrese is leaving the baseball program on firm ground after a 22-year run, just as Shenendehowa football coach Brent Steuerwald, boys’ soccer coach Mike Campisi and girls’ basketball coach Ken Strube did earlier this school year when they announced their decisions to step down.
Carrese’s 349 wins (against 163 losses) rank 15th all-time in Section II, and second among Suburban Council mentors behind Columbia’s George Czerno (373-207).
“When I took the program over I’d call it a seasonal program. We turned it into a high-end program. I’m proud of the product we put out there. People know what the word Shenendehowa baseball means now,” said the 55-year physical education instructor. “We were the first [Suburban Council team] to travel. We were the first to do a number of things, and others followed.”
The drive and commitment put forth by Carrese and his players resulted in 16 Suburban Council division championships and a 237-95 league record, 17 Section II playoff berths and five title-game appearances. The Plainsmen captured Section II and regional Class A titles in 1994 and 1996, and lost in Class AA sectionals finals this season, in 2006 and in 2005, each time in extra innings.
Shenendehowa’s 1996 team that featured Bob Keith, Matt Kalencki, Todd Caschera and Jarret Willis came within one win of the state championship.
“I’ve had some great kids and great coaching staffs,” said Carrese. “The coaching staff I have now [Greg Christodulu, Keith Lansley, Steve Decker, John Coletta, Ross Halpern] is as good a collection of leaders as you’ll find.”
Senior Miles Kelly led the Plainsmen on the field this spring, winning a school-record nine games including a Section II semifinal against Niskayuna. The Plainsmen placed first in the Suburban Council North Division before the playoffs, and chalked up 16 victories in all.
“Except for my coaching staff, I kept it quiet. I didn’t tell my players until today,” Carrese said of his decision to step down. “I didn’t want the kids to know anything about it. I wanted the kids to play out their season. I wanted the focus to be on the kids and not me.”
Carrese’s 22 teams have produced 83 college players, and nine of them signed professional contracts.
“This is high school athletics,” said Carrese, a graduate of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School and Cortland State. “The most important thing is seeing players years later and seeing how their life is, and hoping you had a little something to do with their success. I’d like to think my coaching legacy is about relationships.”
Carrese was recognized by the American Baseball Coaches Association as its Region I Large School Coach of the Year in 2005. He was honored as the Suburban Council’s top coach several times.
“The ABCA has offered me
opportunities in their international program. I’ve got my son’s travel team. I am the director of alumni for Shenendehowa baseball,” Carrese said. “I’ve got enough things on my plate to stay busy.”
Carrese’s athletic resume includes a sectional baseball title in 1975 while playing at Burnt Hills, Suburban Council baseball chairmanshp and Section II baseball committee membership since 1997, and football coaching stints at Linton, Niskayuna and Shenendehowa. He has been a teacher at Shenendehowa since 1986.
His 2011 baseball edition placed first in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Scholar Athlete Team Award program.