Imperioli all smiles at the end
ALTOONA — Former Mount Union baseball coach Nick Imperioli stood in the PNG Field home dugout, arms crossed, a wide smile across his face.
The Trojans just captured their 18th District 6 championship in 28 appearances and the first title since 2012 after beating a game Philipsburg-Osceola squad 1-0 in the ninth inning, thanks to a Grayson McClain walk-off RBI single with the bases loaded.
Imperioli stood soaking it all in. A look of contentment, satisfaction and pure unadulterated joy on his face. The architect of the Trojan baseball dynasty watching his handiwork reach the top once again.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world. You coach the guy, you’re happy to be the assistant coach. We’re running the same program and look at the results — the same results,” Imperioli said. “I tell you what, I couldn’t be happier if it was my own son. It’s just fantastic. All the guys here we’ve been together for all these years and it’s fantastic to see us continue this.”
Imperioli coached 17 of those district championships along with three PIAA titles (1989, 1993 and 1995) for good measure. Tim Hicks is the first coach to win a district championship at Mount Union not named Imperioli. A former player for Imperioli, Hicks took the first step on Friday of emerging from the long and successful shadow of the legendary coach. In fact, Imperioli sees himself in Hicks.
“We weren’t here since we lost in 2013 and we won in 2012. They way we practice and the way we work and Tim’s here. When on the field, it’s almost like watching myself down there,” Imperioli said. “We’re all on the same page with everything we do. We definitely have a great program and a terrific guy to succeed me. Here’s the proof right here today. He’s done a great job since he took over.”
The journey to a first district championship was eerily similar for both men. Imperioli won his first championship in his third year as coach, against Philipsburg. Hicks did the same thing on Friday.
“It’s a funny coincidence — we were just talking about this. His first district championship came in his third season as coach. It was his third year and my third year and ironically it was against the same team, Philipsburg,” Hicks said. “Our coaches are great. I couldn’t be more proud. Our staff is into it as much as the players are. I’m happy for those guys too because it’s been a long time and it’s well deserved for our players.”
Imperioli knows the program he built and made great is in good hands. The tradition of Mount Union baseball is alive and well in 2019 and it thrills the wise old sage the direction the program is in. He looks forward to watching the Trojans capture more championships in the future, either as an assistant coach or a fan.
“This is our 18th championship but what people really need to know is this is our 28th appearance in the finals and that’s incredible,” Imperioli said. “I hope I’m around to watch more of this. This is just fantastic.”
The small little town in Huntingdon County has a baseball dynasty still going strong, thanks to one Italian-American with a love of Shakespeare and a passion for the grand old game of baseball.