Gilbert leaves Northeast for Dunbar Full-time teaching job takes alumnus from baseball job he coveted

September 25, 1997|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Don Gilbert knew one day his pro baseball career would end, and it did. But he never thought his days as Northeast baseball coach would end so soon.

Gilbert (29-30 overall) has been forced out at the Pasadena school, where he was an All-Metro shortstop in 1987 under the late Harry Lentz. Hand-picked by Lentz tobe his successor, Gilbert seemed a perect fit.

"If you cut Donnie Gilbert open, he would probably bleed black and gold," said rival coach Jim Simms, of Class 4A state champion Chesapeake.

But Gilbert, after three years as a full-time substitute teacher at Northeast, was passed over in July for a social studies teacher job awarded another coach.

"Three weeks after I had interviewed for the job, my mom heard in a grocery store that I didn't get it," said Gilbert. "The school didn't tell me. My mom did. I felt betrayed."

Northeast principal Roy Skiles, unhappy over Gilbert being ejected from a game last spring, did, however, renew his baseball coaching contract.

Gilbert said he confronted Skiles about the decision but was given "a lot of technical excuses.

"They had been trying to get in touch with me," he continued. "I was devastated, because I thought they liked me. I never had any problems teaching or coaching, and that's what bothered me. If I had done something, then I could understand it. If they didn't want me as a teacher, they probably didn't want me as a coach."

Attempts to reach Skiles yesterday for comment were unsuccessful.

Officially, Gilbert -- father of three young children, 1 1/2 to 9 -- resigned at the start of the school year. He took a full-time teaching position in August at Dunbar High in Baltimore, where he also will coach baseball.

"It was a tough decision -- do I teach at Dunbar and drive to Northeast to coach baseball? I had no choice but to resign at Northeast," said Gilbert. The commute from Baltimore to Pasadena would simply be too much to do things the right way.

Northeast was 3-1 in 1995 when Lentz (348-200, 28 seasons) died, and Gilbert, who was an assistant, took the reins, going 3-13 the rest of the way. The following season, Gilbert led the Eagles to the Class 2A state final with a 16-8 record. Last spring, his 10-9 team was the Class 2A East region runner-up.

After playing for Lentz, Gilbert went on to play at Winthrop (S.C.) College and briefly in the Baltimore Orioles' farm system.

"I knew I would one day be released by the Orioles but I thought I would be the second baseball coach to spend 20 years or more at Northeast," he said.

Like most county public schools, Northeast prefers its coaches to be faculty members.

Assistant principal Craig Reynolds said the school will not start interviewing for the vacant baseball position until winter.

Pub Date: 9/25/97

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