After 21 years and eight state titles Newark Catholic’s John Cannizzaro pretty much has it figured out. Just keep doing it the way you’ve always done it.
Columbus – There are baseball coaches…and then there are BASEBALL COACHES. And how do you distinguish between the two?
Well, you start by asking the question, “Have you won a state title?” But if you ask Newark Catholic’s John Cannizzaro that question you might get looked at funny.
Meaning, of course, if you ask that question to the venerable coach of the Green Wave you phrase it this way. “How MANY titles have you won?”
The answer, of course, is eight, and counting, given that Cannizzaro has his team back at Huntington Park this weekend seeking its ninth state title in Division IV baseball. His team, his legacy at the Licking County school, has become the modern standard of excellence and consistency in Ohio High School baseball.
They’ve won so much in his 21 years of coaching that the next trip to Huntington Park for the state finals has become as predictable as a miserable spring in Ohio. In his second stint at NC, Newark Catholic owns titles in 1988, ’89, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’06, ’13, and ’15. The Green Wave finished second in ’87, ’07 (to Ft. Loramie), ’10 (to Ft. Loramie), and 2014.
A man of few words, Cannizzaro is a graduate of Ohio State University, but never played college baseball. Rather, he got his start as a Little League coach and worked his way up through the ranks in Newark over the years.
“I told the athletic director back in 1983 that if the job ever came open I’d like to be considered.” he says. “A couple of years later I got my shot. I’m very thankful now that I asked.”
Overall, he’s won 468 games at Newark, and lost 914. He’s never had a lot of kids to work with…but the ones he has had have been good ones.
“Probably the best-known pitcher from Newark is Derek Holland (Newark High School), who’s pitching for the Texas Rangers now,” says Cannizzaro. “I had him as a bat boy at Newark Catholic and I can tell you some stories. But he deserves to be where he is now because he was a good high school pitcher that really blossomed after he graduated.”
Small schools mean small athletic budgets, of course, and often meager facilities…neither of which has hampered Cannizzaro during his tenure of success. Benefiting from outstanding community support, Newark Catholic baseball boasts some of the state’s best facilities for small school baseball…and a legacy of winning passed down to succeeding classes over the years.
“Our kids have grown up playing a lot of sports,” he shares proudly. “We’ve not only been successful in baseball, but football and basketball, as well. They’re accustomed to winning because that’s the expectation. They don’t like to lose and they don’t like to be embarrassed. As much as anything I think that’s what’s kept the standard high over the years.”
But baseball? A non-revenue sport that gets only a smidge of the profile and attention of football and basketball?
“Well, we try to play the game the right way. We try to be very fundamentally sound. “And, we have good facilities,” he shares. “The John Edwards baseball complex in Newark has four fields that are really nice. Anyone would want to play baseball on those fields.
“As far as budgets go we’ve been very successful over the years in our fund-raising attempts to keep our facilities and standards high, and I think that’s been as enjoyable as the baseball itself. It brings a lot of people in the community together.”
Cannizzaro and the Green Wave face off on Friday afternoon with Ft. Recovery in the Division IV semi-final round of the tournament, the second year in a row in which the two teams have met. Newark won last year, 4-1. Currently tied with Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller for second on the all-time titles won list, with eight, Cannizzaro is looking past nothing, or no one.
“It never gets old,” he assures. “There’s new faces in our dugout every year and that’s why we’re here. We want to win this year’s title with the next group of kids. I don’t even look at things like Elder’s mark. If it happens someday, it happens.”