- May 3, 2018
The Cardinal Mooney High baseball program has always taken a communal approach to coaching.
The varsity and junior varsity teams practice together, and coaches at both levels get their say in what adjustments are made. There are coaches at both levels, sure, but they always value what their assistants say.
Even now, as one coach leaves and another steps up, that approach isn't changing.
Mike Mercurio was named the Cardinal Mooney varsity coach on May 19. Mercurio will take over for Greg Mulhollen, who stepped down after 13 seasons. Mulhollen, who compiled a 226-98 record at Mooney, will take an assistant position with Sarasota High. Mercurio was an assistant under Mulhollen for nine years and coach of the Cougars' junior varsity team for three years. Mercurio, a former three-sport athlete at the school, said not much would change under his watch, at least initially.
"Everyone is counted on," Mercurio said. "This isn't one way or the highway. Our guys have a lot of different experiences, from the pro level to college ball. That's why it has been successful. It is foolish to think there's only one way to run a program or strategize for a game. There's always an open line of communication."
Being a small school, the program faces challenges other schools don't have. The Cougars' field doesn't have lights, for example. But Mercurio pointed to the team's hitting facility, a new addition, as an example of how the team can grow and remain competitive even with limitations. And make no mistake: continued growth will always be the goal.
This summer, Mercurio, a lieutenant with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, plans to retire after 34 years. That means he'll have more time to be around campus, and Mercurio said he plans on taking advantage of that. No one on the baseball staff has a day job at the school, so it's difficult for coaches to do things like talk with teachers and make sure their student-athletes are living up to the "student" half of that moniker.
Asked if he ever considered stopping coaching alongside his Sheriff's Office retirement, Mercurio said no.
"As long as I have something to contribute to the team or a player, I'm going to keep doing it," Mercurio said. "My family will tell you I thought about baseball 24/7 before, but I'm thinking about even more now."
Mercurio has done more than coach. He's also kept the program looking sharp in other ways, like taking care of the field or making repairs when needed. Before a game last season, Mercurio had to rewire the scoreboard just to get it to show the score. He'll never complain about it, though; if it helps out the boys, it's worth it to him.
Sounds like the Cougars made the right hire to me.