After a career of 41 seasons and more than 1,000 victories that culminated in two national championships, legendary Ithaca College baseball coach George Valesente has announced his retirement from coaching.
From the early days of his college search, Ithaca College was a perfect match for a young Valesente, who spent time watching baseball at the college before becoming a member of the team prior to graduating in the class of 1966.
From his playing days as a student at Ithaca College, Valesente took to the professional ranks, reaching the AAA level of professional baseball before moving into the coaching aspect of the game.
After 13 years away from the program, Valesente returned to Ithaca and began one of the most legendary coaching careers in NCAA Division III history during the 1979 season. The success did not take long for Valesente and his teams, as the 1980 season was punctuated with the program’s first national title. The second would follow not long after, as Ithaca was once again the top team in the nation in 1988.
Fast forward to 2012, and Valesente was recording his 1000th career game, having spent time coaching three other schools prior to leading the Bombers. In 2015, he achieved that goal yet again, but this time reaching 1000 wins in his Ithaca career
“The challenge of being here and being successful every year is everything that I could have ever imagined,” said Valesente, looking back on his ability to maintain a winning culture. “The quality of athlete and the dedication were as good as I’d hoped and as dedicated as I was.”
After his more-than-four-decade-long career in coaching, Valesente amassed a 1196-547-8 record, with 1136 of those wins coming as the head man for the Bombers. His overall record has solidified his legacy as the seventh winningest coach in NCAA Division III history.
With a resume that will not soon be forgotten, Valesente was not exactly prepared to hang up his coaching hat, but he knew it was right
“My wife and I had been discussing this, on and off, for a couple of years, but it just seemed like the time was right,” he said. “I think the program needs to move in a new direction, a younger more progressive thinking [coach].”
The new coach, whoever it will be, will certainly have large shoes to fill, not just on the diamond but also in the community and in the lives of the young men who come through the program. Many of those young men who have worn the Ithaca College logo under Valesente’s leadership have been “homegrown” players from all over Tompkins County.
“When a good player, particular a local player, chooses your program, it’s an honor and a humbling experience,” he said.
Beyond the local players that have been a part of his team, Valesente gives a nod to the Ithaca College community for his longevity with the program and the success that he had.
“Ithaca is a wonderful place to raise your family and settle down,” he said. “Ithaca is a vibrant place to live, and with the college and the town, it’s natural; it’s comfortable.”
There is very little doubt of the impact that Valesente’s career with the Bombers has and will have on the program’s success and the drive by local baseball teams and players to achieve greatness.
There were ups and downs along the way to his storied career, but Valesente said that no matter what challenge, he loved what he was doing.
“In the 41 years that I’ve been here, there isn’t one day that it felt like I was going to work,” he said, reflecting on his motivations for coaching. “I got to deal with young people every day, and we had a mission and a goal for them to get better, mature, graduate and hopefully win some championships along the way.”
As the search for a new coach of the Bombers’ program begins, there is no question that
Valesente and his love for coaching and Ithaca College have set the bar for excellence.
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