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Beloved county softball coach loses battle with cancer
By SCOTT PURKS
Published March 2, 2006
TAMPA - Pete Monteleone was big and loud with a thick mustache, and hundreds upon hundreds of girls adored him.
Adored him like a father, a coach and a friend; usually all three at once and almost always within the lines of a Little League softball field.
Early Wednesday morning (March1, 2006), hundreds around Tampa mourned his death at age 58, which came after a long bout with cancer.
"Losing him is no less than devastating to the (south Tampa) community," said Jennifer Burchill, the county's assistant director of athletics who in 1981 played for Mr. Monteleone as a 12-year-old on the first Tampa Bay Little League team to make the World Series. "He was a local hero."
On Feb.19, the love for Mr. Monteleone overflowed as 250 people came to a Tampa Bay Little League reunion game to raise money for his medical bills. Burchill said more than $10,000 was collected.
Erin Kennedy Bohacek, coached by Mr. Monteleone at Tampa Bay Little League and Berkeley Prep, said she heard women at the game say, "My years playing under Pete were the best years of my life."
"People loved him so much because his whole life was dedicated to coaching girls at softball," said Bohacek, whose three sisters, Kristen, Barbara and Carol, also played for Mr. Monteleone at Tampa Bay Little League. "He didn't really have any long-term jobs to speak of. I think he felt his job was to coach girls at softball."
Bohacek acknowledged it might seem strange to have a big, loud, burly man coaching little girls for 30 years, but she said Mr. Monteleone's integrity or intentions were, "never, ever," called into question.
"His heart," she said, "was as pure as it gets."
Chamberlain High softball coach Bob Diez remembers Mr. Monteleone as a top-notch athlete in the mid 1960s when the two played baseball, Diez at Jefferson, Mr. Monteleone at Jesuit.
In the mid 1970s, Diez and Mr. Monteleone played for a fastpitch softball team, the Tampa Pirates. Diez was an infielder, Mr. Monteleone a catcher, which was where he developed his knowledge of how to pitch, a skill he taught to hundreds of girls.
Only one time, Diez said, did he and Mr. Monteleone coach against each other. It was in the early 1990s. Diez was at Chamberlain, Mr. Monteleone at Berkeley. "And he beat me 8-7," Diez said. "He always made sure to remind me of that. He'd say, "You've beaten a lot of people, but there's one guy you never beat. Me!'
"He was funny like that. Fun-loving. He was a great guy, and it's sad that he had to die so young. He had so much to give. So much."