The Other Bronx Joe
By Michael Donahue
Joseph Giardino, long-time coach of Bronx baseball teams, has won the same number of championships as the New York Yankees: 27. One might say his job is harder than Joe Girardi as he works for free and his team is in grade school.
Giardino is currently the head coach of the Tony Melendez Select team, a 10 and under travel baseball team. He is the only Pelham Bay Little League coach to win three district championships with three different teams, including two back to back in 2009-2010. He has also won seven in-house championships within the league.
Giardino draws from his own years on the diamond in his coaching. He has 13 championships as a player, beginning in 1977, when he was five years old playing for Pelham Bay Little League. His last game as player was in 1989, a city championship game at Yankee Stadium, where he played for St. Raymond’s High School for Boys.
Giardino says he enjoys coaching more than playing and he prefers working with younger players. “”Being a part of my player’s development is priceless,” he says. “Every year, I get one of my ex-players a free sponsorship to play baseball in high school. That I do from the bottom of my heart.”
Giardino’s own junior varsity coach, Joe Werner, inspired him to pursue coaching. “Since I was only a pitcher, I spent a lot of time on the bench,” he said. “I used that time to observe how he handled his players and how he interacted with umpires. I knew I wanted to coach since I was 15 years old.”
Giardino has a full-time job with Con Edison but he always makes time for coaching, which he says has helped him through difficult times, such as a very bad divorce and the death of his mother. “Coaching has been nothing but positive for me,” he says. “It is one of the only things I am good at.”
Ironically, Giardino says he did not enjoy coaching his own children. “Coaching your own children is the hardest thing you can do,” he says. One might wonder why such a passionate and successful coach has never pursued a higher-ranking coaching job. “I never considered going forward with my coaching career,” says Giardino. “I liked where I was, helping young kids realize their dreams.”
Patience and more importantly passion are critical in coaching young athletes, says Giardino. Speaking with him, you can instantly tell he lacks neither of those qualities. However, coaching, working at a full time job, and raising two sons has been challenging, says Giardino, adding that he plans to take a year off when his daughter is born.
Much of the best talent in professional baseball is shifting from the seasoned veterans to the young bulls. One factor could be the fact that players are taking the game much more serious at a much younger age. Coaching plays a big role in a young player’s development. At a young age talent is key but without proper coaching, players might never meet their potential.