Following a disappointing 2-27 season in 2015, Emerson’s baseball team is determined to turn things around with a completely new coaching staff. Nick Vennochi, a 2011 graduate and former captain at the college, and his staff begin their first season at the helm.
Vennochi said he is the first full-time head coach in Emerson baseball history. He said has been satisfied with how the ballclub is progressing so far.
“The guys have worked really hard and bought into what I’ve been asking from them since the very first day,” Vennochi said. “They’ve made a commitment to sacrifice for the good of the team.”
The position was formerly filled by Dave Hanley, who had been Emerson’s head coach for the past 11 seasons. Vennochi played for Hanley, and praised his old mentor.
“He’s done more for the program than anyone combined,” Vennochi said.
Vennochi said Hanley hated to lose. The baseball team only won five games in the past two years.
“I think coach had decided it was time for a change,” Vennochi said.
The shifts didn’t end with the passing of the torch between head coaches. Vennochi brought in three new assistants, and all are his former teammates from the Malden Maddogs of the Yawkey Baseball League, a summer program in the Boston area.
Assistant coach Ryan Garber played alongside Vennochi at Emerson, and graduated a year behind him in 2012. Garber started at shortstop all four years, and was a captain during his junior and senior years.
“Ryan’s one of the best players in our program’s history,” Vennochi said with a smile. “He’s my right-hand man. Sometimes, I even trust his judgement more than my own.”
Joining Vennochi and Garber are two new pitching coaches, Blaine McClean and Kendall Chaves. McClean pitched for four years at nearby Bentley University, and Chaves pitched for two years at New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference rival Babson College. They both graduated in 2012.
McClean and Chaves share the same mentality as their fellow coaches, according to Vennochi.
“We all want players who want the ball,” Vennochi said. “We expect them to work hard, hustle, and believe in themselves and their teammates.”
McClean said he played alongside Vennochi last summer.
“Nick asked me if I was interested in the position because he wanted someone with a lot of experience,” McClean said. “From there on, I was ready to go.”
Sophomore first and third basemen Nolan Megna said he has been thrilled with the coaching staff so far. Megna said he is also going through an adjustment, as he just started his first semester as a Lion after transferring from SUNY Oswego.
“My coaches have made my transition to Emerson go smoothly,” Megna, a marketing communication major, said. “They’re so optimistic and teach us how to make adjustments in a positive way.”
Megna said the youth of the new coaching staff is one of the things he likes about playing for them.
“They’re all so young so they almost feel like peers,” Megna said with a chuckle. “They’re not intimidating at all, and everyone can relax and just be themselves. It’s like another captain’s practice.”