Change in lineup

Three Anne Arundel coaches - all who have state titles - have stepped down from their positions for various reasons

Softball

May 30, 2007|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,Sun Reporter

Before the start of the 1998 softball season at Glen Burnie, coach Bob Broccolino made a pledge to his players that if they brought home a state championship, he would shave off his mustache.

Later that spring, the group delivered the program's third state crown, leaving Randazzo Park with a championship plaque. And, sure enough, Broccolino went home minus his mustache.

"The kids brought a shaving kit and everything they needed to the park. I had that mustache since I was in the Army back in 1971, and nobody in my family had ever seen me without one," said Broccolino, laughing at the recollection.

Next year, Anne Arundel County softball also will have a new look.

Broccolino, Northeast coach Marianne Shultz and Severna Park coach Jeff Shepherd - all of whom have won state titles and combined to win 691 games with their respective teams, covering 44 seasons - have stepped down from their positions for varying reasons.

While winning is the obvious trait they all share, their dedication to the sport and players they coached stands out even more.

"Broc, Marianne and Jeff - they basically lived for the kids through softball," said Chesapeake coach Don Ellenberger. "It was strictly about the kids, and none of them particularly cared about their records. It was, `Get better for the stretch run and see what you can do.' All three of them have state titles, and that says a lot. And the flip side to all three of them is that they're great and genuine people."

Broccolino, 57, was a first-year teacher at Glen Burnie in 1979 when Tom Newman was named varsity coach and went looking for a junior varsity coach.

"I was like, `Softball?' But he introduced me to my wife [Sara], so I had a hard time saying no to him," said Broccolino, who teaches math at Glen Burnie.

After spending six years as the junior varsity coach, he became a varsity assistant to Newman in 1986 to help the Gophers win their first state title. He took over the next year and, in 21 seasons, went 303-120 with seven county championships and two more state crowns in 1989 and 1998.

Broccolino's biggest win of all, however, came off the softball field. In the fall of 1983, with Sara seven months pregnant with their first child, Beth, Broccolino was 34 and diagnosed with melanoma.

"I had worked in a hospital for seven years before and knew melanoma was not a good thing. I wondered why, when I had a cancer that most people died from, was I spared? But God spared me for a reason, for what I'm doing now: teaching kids," he said.

A home run was a big factor in Broccolino's decision to step down. It came off the bat of his son, Michael, who is a standout junior catcher at St. Mary's College.

"He called me and said: `Dad, I hit my first college home run.' It was one of two times this year that I wished I hadn't been coaching because I could have seen it," said Broccolino, who will be able to follow his son's senior season more closely next spring.

After 14 seasons that brought 227 wins, Northeast's ninth state championship and two other appearances in the title game, Shultz decided to step down as part of looking at the bigger picture for Northeast.

In October, she took over as the school's athletic director. With that job and all the soccer and softball committees she is a part of, she didn't feel she could give the softball program the commitment necessary to maintain the excellence it has enjoyed over the years.

"It's hard when you don't feel that you're giving the kids enough of your time and dedication because you're pulled in so many directions," said Shultz, who also coached softball at Andover for two seasons in addition to coaching varsity soccer at Andover and Northeast. "I feel I can now do that as an athletic director in a bigger capacity as far as helping build the entire athletic program for all sports."

After spending two seasons (1991-92) as an assistant coach to Lynn Pitonzo, who led the Eagles to seven state titles at that point, Shultz took over the program in 1993. Pitonzo wouldn't have had it any other way.

"She's done a remarkable job and is just so generous. She would do anything for the kids," Pitonzo said.

In winning and losing under Shultz, the Eagles always played with dignity and showed the utmost sportsmanship. It was never more apparent than in the team's heartbreaking, 4-2 loss to Walkersville in the 1996 state title game.

With two outs in the seventh and runners on second and third, the Eagles appeared to have had the game tied on a double. But the umpire ruled that the batter never touched first base on her way to second, ruling a force out that took the runs away. Video of the play appeared to show she did touch first base.

"The kids were crushed," said Shultz, 43. "But I remember my mother telling me how proud she was of me by the way we kept our composure and showed sportsmanship after the game. That's a life lesson and leads into how you handle things later in life."

At Severna Park, Shepherd was helping the girls soccer team when one of his players suggested he help coach the softball team. He spent one season as junior varsity coach in 1998 before taking over the varsity in the 1999 season.

"I've always had a love for the game, and I was fortunate to have great kids to work with," said Shepherd, 47."I basically took a crash course and bought every book and video I could get my hands on. The philosophy I had was if you're aggressive and force the action, good things come your way."

In nine seasons, he went 161-48 with five regional titles, two county crowns and the program's second state title in 2003.

Shepherd stepped down to spend more time with his wife, Karen, and their two grown children. He is an assistant coach in the Green Hornets' program and also is hitting instructor.

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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