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Lions' Stabile a baseball junkie

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2001


Growing up outside of the Bronx and Yonkers in Riverdale, N.Y., Saint Leo University baseball coach Ed Stabile dreamed of reaching the major leagues. He played shortstop at Birmingham (Ala.) Southern and had a cup of coffee in the Chicago Cubs organization. Stabile changed his plans and became a coach, working as an instructor for Tom Emanski and as a University of South Florida assistant before coming to Saint Leo. Stabile takes a simplistic approach to the game, and after sitting down with staff writer Steve Lee, he discussed his dreams, reminisced about the game and revealed a no-nonsense personality.

* * *

SL: In preseason rankings, Saint Leo was near the bottom of the Sunshine State Conference and you were hoping for a .500 season. How was this team able to exceed expectations?

ES: I think it's a combination of everything. The total package of the program, but also attributed to the kids. These kids learned from the group before. They played better as a team.

SL: The University of Tampa seems to have your team's number, beating your team five out of six games this year. Are the Lions even in their league?

ES: We haven't been this year. I just thought they were better. They looked better on paper and they played better. But since I've been here we have gotten to that level. Two years ago we knocked out (Florida) Southern and Tampa didn't even get to the regionals.

SL: So, at this point, what is the pinnacle of your coaching career?

ES: I would say there's more than one, but the first one's got to be beating Florida State at Florida State my first year here (1998).

SL: PHCC signed eight Pasco players this spring. Why don't you recruit more county players?

ES: We have been, little by little. My first year here the team was already set. The next year I was more familiar with the kids from Tampa (Stabile was a University of South Florida assistant coach from 1994-97). Last year we signed three kids from the area -- Erik Shafer of Land O'Lakes and Springstead's Bryan Melko and Marc Sbraccia. It's hard, because some of the kids from this area have higher expectations. They think they can play at the Florida States so I get them later. They all think they're going to be drafted.

SL: For a Red Sox fan from Boston, it's hard for me to see all the Yankees mementos in your office. With you following the Yankees as a kid growing up in New York City, are their recent teams better than the glory teams of Ruth or DiMaggio?

ES: I would say there's more good players now than back then. Not that Ted Williams and those guys weren't awesome, but I think those Yankees were good, but there weren't as many good teams as there are today.

SL: Who's your role model?

ES: My idol was Mickey Mantle, but I wouldn't say he was my role model because of the way he was. But we didn't know all that as kids. As a kid he was like a monument, not a person. I don't know if I have one guy to try to be like. I try to take bits and pieces of everybody. The confident, calm, laid-back approach comes from my dad. The baseball and strategy and stuff comes from growing up watching games on TV. And my way of coaching just happens to be similar to the Yankees. They find ways to win games, they know how to win games. They have a subtle confidence.

SL: So who is Ed Stabile, the coach?

ES: I try to get my kids to do things they never thought they could do. I'm the biggest competitor I've ever met. I always have to win; with my sister playing games or my cousins. Everybody hated that, but I don't.

SL: You're in the office a lot, eh?

ES: Anywhere from 9 to 3, six hours a day. It should be 8 to 1, but since I watch ballgames (major league games on TV) until late at night I don't get in 'till late.

SL: A-Rod, worth it or not?

ES: I love A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez, who signed a $252-million contract with the Texas Rangers prior to this season). I have a hard time saying somebody is not worth the money if (team owners) are going to give it to (players). These people who say they make too much money, they're just jealous. I'm jealous.

SL: Do you think there will be a work stoppage in the majors after this season?

ES: I think the more I learn about the money and business end of it, the less I appreciate the game of baseball. I don't really want to know about all that. No matter what, the players still go out to win.

SL: Greatest lessons on the ballfield?

ES: Being humble and being even-keel. You can never get too high or too low, because baseball is a game that can put you in your place.

SL: Greatest lessons in life?

ES: A lot of it's about people and politics. Connections, who you know and how the world works. It's a very tough place. You have to bend a little bit and conform.

SL: Tell me your dream coaching job?

ES: Even though I'm not in line to pursue pro baseball, a guy like me who's never played (in the majors) could be a first-base coach in the majors. That would be awesome. But now, maybe a good Division I job in Florida like UCF (Central Florida) just so you get a good chance to go to a College World Series.

SL: Would you like to coach a sport other than baseball?

ES: I'd love to be a football coach in the NFL, like a defensive backs coach. I always loved football. To me, it's fascinating. Everything about that sport's awesome.

SL: Computer games indoors or going out to play?

ES: I love the kids I recruited my first year, but they were always in their rooms playing video games. Kids today would rather play baseball on video than on the field. I don't know why. We were always out playing, stick ball, street hockey.

SL: Most of your quotes must be edited for print. Why do you cuss so much?

ES: I think it's because everybody did it around me as a little kid. It was just a natural way of speaking. I'd be down at my friend Vinny's house and his old man was a bookie and he'd be swearing.

SL: Being Italian and growing up in New York, what's your favorite food?

ES: Pizza, probably.

SL: You're 42 and never been married, but now you're living with your girlfriend. Any wedding bells in the future?

ES: I'm at the point now where I have a job with a little bit of security where before I was scrambling, doing camps and coaching and trying to put ends together. I'm ready to settle down.

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