Baseball coach to retire after three decades


Sidonie Brown

Varsity baseball coach Joe Campagna meets with his team before practice at Parsons Field. Campagna is now retiring after having won over 300 games in his 27 years of coaching.

Sidonie Brown, Arts Editor

Before Joe Campagna ever coached baseball, he was a boy growing up in Brookline. Before he played college baseball at the University of Massachusetts, he played with his neighbors on Eliot Street. And before he served in the army or started a family, he first discovered his love of a sport to which he would continue to dedicate his life.

Now, at 70 years old, Campagna is retiring after 27 years of coaching for the high school’s baseball team. His time has been filled with devoted work, meaningful relationships and unwavering passion for the game.

Campagna has experience playing and coaching many sports, among them football and basketball, but he has always been most interested in baseball.

“Ever since I was a little boy, the first I stepped on the field there was something I liked about the game,” Campagna said. “The one-on-one within the teamwork frame and the individual challenges and the way that you could get better if you worked at it.”

According to senior Charlie Brown, who is now spending his second season with Campagna, the coach’s ardor is passed down to the players.

“He’s played the game with such passion, and I think passion is such a big word because it’s going to be tough for him to step away from the game because he’s been playing it his whole life,” Brown said. “That kind of passion is something I look forward to, going on in my life and seeing what I want to do with baseball.”

Brown also noted that Campagna’s enthusiasm translates to his coaching style, which Campagna self-described as aggressive and competitive. In this way, senior and captain Silas Reed said that the coach’s seasoned game sense is helpful during crunch time.

“During the games, he’s always ready for whatever he needs to do. He’s always on top of knowing when the other team is going to steal and stuff like that,” Reed said. “He’s just always in the game, and he gets us a lot of calls…. He helps us win games.”

Campagna recently celebrated his 300th win, but it was not success from start. In his first three years, the team only collected nine wins and 51 losses. Since then, he has turned the program around, has been inaugurated into the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and is slated to enter the Brookline High School Athletics Hall of Fame in November for both football and baseball. Campagna said that, having done all that he has accomplished, the time to leave feels right.

“I want to go out on my own volition and on my own terms and while I’m feeling good… I’ve done just about everything I wanted to do,” Campagna said. “I think it’s time to give it to a younger guy. I think it’s fair for the kids.”

For Reed, it will be a bittersweet goodbye. He said that, since his first season with Campagna during his sophomore year, he has only gotten closer with his coach.

“It’s going to be good and bad at the same time because we’re both moving on to different parts of our lives, like new chapters,” Reed said.

Campagna has seen many of his players grow up and flourish after high school, many of whom he has managed to keep in touch with.

“It’s nice to see some of the players go on. And now a lot of my players I started with are obviously married with children. It’s good to see my players move on and have success,” Campagna said.

According to Brown, the new coach that will follow in Campagna’s footsteps will have a lot to learn from him.

“The legacy that he will leave behind is someone who definitely was on top of us, making sure that we’re doing the right thing at all times,” Brown said. “He just sets a good example for what a baseball coach should look like and how they should act, how should they respect umpires, how they should respect other teams.”

Through this lens, Campagna often takes the values of baseball and applies them to life lessons. He has three basic rules that he likes to tell his players: don’t make mistakes; be accountable for your actions on the field; and respect your opponents but don’t fear anyone.

“Be accountable for how you’re acting around your girlfriend, around your parents, around each other. And also, respect everyone you meet but don’t be afraid to ever go for a job or meet a challenge in school or meet a challenge in a relationship. Always reach for the stars but respect everyone around the way,” Campagna said.

At the end of the day Campagna gives the players the recognition for their success.

“I get a lot of credit because I push the kids, but honestly they motivate each other, and they push each other,” Campagna said. “They don’t criticize each other but they do push each other to be as good as you can be.”

This attitude is reflected in how Brown wishes to succeed in this last season as thanks to all that Campagna has given to the program, the players and the town.

“This is his last year, and we just have something to prove this year—something for us to go out with a bang for him,” Brown said.

As for Campagna, parting from coaching and the sport that has guided his life will be difficult.

“I’m going to miss it, no doubt about it,” Campagna said. “But I’m prepared. I think it’s time.”