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Veteran heads up Dunedin squad

LAURA LEE
Published May 27, 2004

Long-time youth coach Vince Ionata will be Dunedin's softball coach next season.

Ionata, who has spent 16 years coaching baseball and softball in the Little League organization, will take over for Tom Ward, who stepped down.

"His qualifications and reputation in the community are outstanding," Dunedin athletic director Tom Brittain said. "When we interviewed him it was like a glove. It was a good fit."

Ionata, who attended Dunedin but graduated from Clearwater Central Catholic in 1975, led an all-star baseball team to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn., in 1991. Several years later, after switching to softball, his Senior League all-star team went to the World Series in 2002.

Ionata, one of two candidates who interviewed for the Dunedin job, said he is the only coach who took baseball and softball teams to the World Series. Little League officials could not be reached.

Brittain said Ward had hinted at leaving, but did not make the final decision until after the season was over. Ward, who coached at Dunedin four years, will take time to follow his daughter, Tina, who graduated from Dunedin this month and will play softball at St. Petersburg College, Brittain said.

"I hope I'll be able to expand on what Tom did and bring the program on to the next level," Ionata said. Having coached many of the girls currently playing softball in the county, Ionata is familiar with the talent in the area. While he plans to continue to coach in the Little League organization, he looks forward to coaching high school ball in a district with teams such as state champions Palm Harbor U., Countryside and East Lake.

"One of the things I like about it is the district; it's a highly competitive district," Ionata said. "I love the challenge."

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