Lake Forest's championship in Sunday's 13-and-under "B" Flight of the Lake Shore Feeder Baseball League on Sunday has been three years in the making.
Coach John Muscarello began working with this group of Scouts when they were the 11-and-under team. He has shepherded them through a difficult beginning to a 6-5 victory over Park Ridge in Sunday's league title game at Community Park West in Glenview.
“At 11 they really struggled,” Muscarello said. “They only won three or four games.”
The next year, the Scouts jelled into a contender only to fall 2-1 to Evanston in the title contest. This season they were primed to take the extra step.
“It felt really good. We’ve been trying to get there for three years,” pitcher Luke Bauder said. “After last season we needed to show him (Muscarello) we could do it.”
Bauder threw nine innings of one-run baseball over the course of the tournament.
Keep Baseball as a Passion
Muscarello began his coaching career seven years ago out of a desire to raise the interest level for baseball in Lake Forest. He recognizes young people play a variety of sports and wants their passion for baseball to continue as they grow older.
“We have plenty of good athletes in this town. Keeping them motivated and playing baseball is the hard part,” Muscarello said. “Baseball is their No. 2 or 3 (sport), and I want them to still play it.”
When Muscarello began coaching as an assistant, his son, Johnny Muscarello, played on the team. , is one of his father’s assistants.
“I get to teach him how to coach,” John said of the experience with his son. “For me coaching with Johnny has been a huge benefit to both of us. We talk a lot of baseball.”
Younger Assistants Help Bridge Gap
For the younger Muscarello, it was an opportunity to see his father in a different light.
“It’s pretty cool to see him coach different groups. He works hard and you do too,” Johnny said.
John Muscarello’s other assistant is . It was Corigliano’s first championship as well after a lifetime of Lake Forest baseball.
“It felt great,” Corigliano said, echoing the young players. “It was great to see how happy the kids were, how excited they were and their parents were.”
The experience also has given Corigliano a new look at a game he loves. Whether now or later as a career, the idea of mentoring younger players is on his radar.
“I really love it,” Corigliano said of coaching. “I see the game from a whole new perspective. As much fun as I have playing, I enjoy teaching fielding strategy and hitting strategy.”
John Muscarello gives much of the credit for the team’s success to Corigliano and his son. He has coached long enough to understand the 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds relate very well to teenagers like his assistants.
“The kids listen to them,” John said. “They’re not interested in what an old guy like me says. They’re interested in the young guys who drive the fast cars.”
Pitcher Clay Lawrence enjoyed playing for Corigliano and Johnny Muscarello, but he credits John with developing the pitching skills that enabled him to allow only one run over five innings in the title game against Park Ridge.
“I didn’t know how to grip a baseball so he really helped me,” Lawrence said.
In the title game, the coaching was more sophisticated.
“He asked me to throw a change-up a lot. I got some strikeouts,” Lawrence said.
Baseball Teaches Life Skills
John Muscarello’s passion for baseball goes beyond coaching a game he loves. He also wants the players to develop a sense of responsibility. He has the players clean the dugout after each game, rake the infield and bring their own equipment.
“It’s not their parents’ job,” he said.
Johnny finds his father’s approach unique. In his experience, only his father and Lake Forest High School varsity coach Ray Del Fava make such a demand.
“He’s the only coach who would do that,” Johnny said of his father. “He teaches us to be young men out there.”
Johnny and his sister, , a former standout hockey player for the Scouts and now at St. Norbert College, always have had chores at home.
The accountability lessons are not lost on the players either.
“We learn to be self-reliant,” Bauder said.