fter four straight years of coming in second to the Jesuit
Marauders, Rob Rinaldi this month celebrated his first Delta River title on
Jesuit’s home field and the victory was sweet.
“I was happy for them,” he said, referring to his
players, in an interview before the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs began. Especially the
way in which it happened.
The day prior, the Eagles took a 3-0 lead over Jesuit at home in the seventh. Ace pitcher
Zack Stilwell had kept the Marauders off-balance all day. He struck out the first
batter, pitcher Logan James. Then the next hitter hit a soft come-backer to the
mound, Stilwell wheeled and threw the ball away. And opened the gates for Jesuit, which poured five
runs across the plate.
“It would have been real easy to pack it in at that point,” Rinaldi notes. Especially, since up to
that week, Jesuit had owned the Delta River. “But they didn’t; they battled back and got the
In hindsight now, Rinaldi believes Pleasant Grove was fated to win
the title. “There were a few indicators (throughout the season) that this was going to be a good
year for us. Comin’ back against Jesuit on (that) Monday—that was a huge game. I want to give the
kids credit. It was not a fluke; they really played well.”
Rob Rinaldi started coaching at the JV level at Woodland High back when George Bush was president.
The first Bush. He played for Ralph Rago at Davis High
and then Phil Swimley at UC Davis. Rinaldi stayed in Yolo County for his first baseball job. A few
years later, he was promoted to Woodland varsity head coach. In 1992 his Wolves team claimed
the Division I Section title.
When Pleasant Grove opened seven years ago, Rinaldi started the Eagles new baseball program. That
first year, they only played JV. In the past six years they’ve fielded a varsity team, the Eagles
have gone 67-23 under Rinaldi in league and 122-55-3 overall (including the recent opening round
playoff loss to Franklin).
Asked what are the keys to building a winning high school baseball program, Rinaldi ticks off three
1. “Buy in” from
your players, parents and administration
2. Instilling a
work ethic in the players. “If they do the work, they will get better.”
3. Developing a
“mental toughness” that will see your team withstand a late-inning rally by the opponent and
forge your own come-from-behind victory, as Pleasant Grove did against Jesuit.
That’s a solid blueprint for winning a championship.
And Rinaldi’s players are the better for it.