In the past 13 years, Coolidge baseball Coach Len Farello has endured the displeasure of waiting for buses that were either late or no-shows, the lack of support by the administration, the general absence of talent and the paltry coach's stipend of $650. At the end of last year, Farello decided to quit.
"It was just a combination of frustrations that had built up over the years," Farello said. "The umps wouldn't show, the teams wouldn't show. I got tired of fighting. I just didn't have the energy any more. Nothing had changed and nothing was going to change. I was getting older and I just didn't need the aggravation anymore."
Farello, also an assistant football and boys basketball coach, had planned to let his assistant, Roscoe Fleet, assume the baseball coaching position but "things just didn't work out and I decided to try it one more year."
Having virtually an all-senior team was another incentive for Farello to return. A handful of the players had played summer baseball, a rarity in the inner city, and Farello saw some much needed improvement.
"I saw a big difference in the guys," Farello said. "Most of the kids in D.C. play basketball and getting kids out for baseball is tough. I have good athletes but they just don't play a lot of baseball."
Farello's final year might result in a baseball title. Going into this week, Coolidge was 8-0 overall and in first place in the West Division with a 7-0 record. Included in the victories was a 10-9 squeaker over defending Interhigh League champion Wilson. Farello is especially pleased with this team because he has three starting pitchers, the entire lineup can hit and his players are knowledgable about baseball.
Despite the past problems, Farello's teams always have done well. In the previous 13 seasons, only once has Coloidge failed to make the postseason playoffs; and that team missed because five players were declared ineligible. Farello has guided his teams to seven West Division crowns, one league title and has been the tournament runnerup five times.
"I haven't won a tournament championship yet but I've never had three pitchers either. If it rains, I could care less," Farello said. "I always have someone ready to go where in the past, I might have one guy and had to pray for rain. And from top to bottom, the kids can hit the ball. The team is batting about .400 and our errors are down."
Leading the Colts are second baseman James Striggles (.400), shortstop/picher Patrick Williams (.450, 3-0) and third baseman/pitcher Terry Lewis (.475, 3-0 with 40 strikeouts.
Coolidge already has won the first half of the regular season with a 5-0 record. Farello made up a new format last year and the league office elected to put it in use this season. Instead of each team playing one another once each for a 10-game schedule (there are 11 teams), the new format divides the teams in East and West Divisions. Each team plays division opponents twice and the meets the teams in the other division once. Thus, teams play at least 15 games in a regular season. The overall record is used to decide the top six teams to advance to the league tournament.
"This format keeps things exciting for the league," Farello said. "There are more games, more competition and by meeting teams twice, teams have a chance to remain in the race.
"Something needed to be done. There's no reason our kids shouldn't play at least 20 games like they do in the other leagues," Farello said. "We have no jayvees and because so few kids come out (Coolidge had 16), you're forced to keep all of them and try to teach them the game. No one attends the games. Baseball is the national pastime and we (coaches) get paid part-time money. I consider baseball a major sport but I guess baseball is the Rodney Dangerfield of high school athletics. That type of attitude is killing me."
And Interhigh baseball as well.