Buckeye Local's baseball program continues to search for continuity and stability. Enter Rick DeLuca.
A graduate and well-respected product of the school system, DeLuca's recent hiring as the Panthers' latest skipper appears more than a sound move.
Regarded as a no-nonsense, adept teacher of fundamentals, DeLuca already possesses a successful track record, having played an integral role reviving diamond fortunes at Bridgeport High between 2004-06.
"First, I'm very pleased to be returning to Buckeye Local where I previously served as (baseball) assistant and jayvee coach," DeLuca said. "Obviously, I've always remained close to the program and an anxious to meet with my players and begin preperations for the 2013 season."
At Bridgeport, DeLuca's initial Bulldogs' club was youth-oriented. In his first season, the 'Dogs' 14-player roster included eight freshman. "Naturally, it was a slow rebuilding process but I was fortunate to have a group of eager-to-learn players who basically needed to develop their skills," he continued.
"That's why teaching fundamentals has always been my main focus and top priority. I always told the kids to dedicate yourselves to becoming better players (today) than you were yesterday."
By his third and final campaign at the then-Kirkwood-based school, the Bulldogs were playing highly-competitive baseball and had gained an undeniable measure of confidence. "I felt like I left the program in much better shape than it was when I started," DeLuca advised.
A two-sport athlete at historic Warren Consolidated High, DeLuca competed in both football and baseball for the Ramblers. "I was able to learn under some outstanding coaches there," he stated.
His new plan of attack as Panthers' coach is re-establishing stability to a program DeLuca feels has an opportunity to have immediate success next spring.
"We'll return a fairly solid pitching staff which is a great place to start," he stated. "The kids, especially our seniors, will be under their third different coach in three seasons and that's something you never like to see. But I feel we'll have a very good chance to develop strong team chemistry which is always so important in the make-up of winning programs."
DeLuca points out he'll be stressing position versatility among his roster. "I feel it's extremely important as many players as possible learn to multi-task (learning more than one position). That just enhances our team development.
"I want our kids to learn something new every day and ask them to try and be as productive as possible. I'm also looking forward to meeting the parents I'm not already familiar with. I really hope all of them can come out, support us and enjoy watching us play all season."
It's a highly satisfying case of coming full circle for DeLuca whose 36-year-old son, Brad, is a former diamond standout at Buckeye Local and was a member of the school's first-ever season of existance.
DeLuca, a 25-year veteran of coaching summer baseball, now heads up the Panthers' program and takes over for last spring's skipper, C.J. Besece.
In addition to his diamond duties, DeLuca is owner/operater of Steubenville-based DeLuca Realty.