Baseball Coach Chris Cicuto Honored

Derek Stowe

Glendale was behind 8-6 in the bottom of the ninth in the second game of Saturday’s double-header playoff game against Cypress College at Stengel Field when coach-of-the-year Chris Cicuto assessed his Vaqueros’ last chance to close the gap. It would take some doing.

Sako Chapjian homered to left-center to make it 8-7, but soon there were two outs. What could have easily been a Cypress victory all boiled down to one routine throw for the Cypress shortstop, who up until that moment had fielded a perfect game.

But the ball just grazed the first baseman’s glove. It was too high, allowing Glendale’s Sean Spear to score from second and Josh Canales to safely reach second base. It was now tied up, 8-8. Cheers boomed from the stands.

That’s when Chris Stroh doubled up the right-field line to win it, 9-8, and for the first time in Glendale history, the Vaqueros clinched the first round of the regional playoffs.

In the midst of the uproar of cheers and ensuing flow of players and coaches onto the field was the proudest head baseball coach in the world, Chris “Coach C” Cicuto.

“That’s why you play all 27 outs,” said Cicuto. “It’s like a chess match. As long as you cash in on certain opportunities, you can win. Josh went hard on that last ground ball and forced a wild throw, and Stroh came up with a big hit.”

Cicuto, 34, who was voted 2011’s coach-of-the-year by his fellow WSC southern division baseball coaches, is the first Glendale coach to receive the honor since 2002.

Every year, the California Community College Athletic Association recognizes the top coach in each division. Typically, the coach with the best record after the regular season captures coach-of-the-year honors along with the WSC Southern Division title, which Glendale earned April 28 after beating Bakersfield.

The division coaches vote for someone who shows commendable leadership along with high ethical values as a role model for student-athletes and future professionals.

Coming from behind is nothing new for a team that faced a roller-coaster season due to a string of injuries. But overcoming adversity is what it’s all about, and that’s what kept fans on the edge of their seats throughout the day that started out with Glendale one game behind in the best-out-of-three series. “Anything can happen in baseball,” said Cicuto.

“Winning that [coach-of-the-year] honor is a testament to the quality of our coaching staff,” said Cicuto. “Without my assisting coaches, we wouldn’t be in that [No. 1] position. It’s a shared award for sure. I’m grateful that the coaches of the league voted for me.”

Cicuto’s six-man coaching staff comprises Alex Kocol, the infielders’ coach who co-directs offensive game strategy as third base coach, Brady Anderson (hitters), Ivan “Woody” Lopez (pitchers), Matt Stone (bull-pen and first base coach), Chris Casey (outfielders), and Jason Plourde (catchers).

“He’s one of the most selfless guys that you’ll ever meet and it’s genuine,” said Kocol. “Other coaches would monopolize control and grandstand to take all the credit for what the team does offensively.. It’s a convergence of a lot of things. We have great players this year and Coach C has done a great job evolving as a coach.”

Part of Cicuto’s job description is to help Vaqueros mature socially and academically so that they can attain an athletic scholarship to a four-year college. He said, “A student-athlete should become a gentleman first, a good student second, and a fine athlete third.”

The athletic program’s three-fold mission was designed 30 years ago by former GCC football coach, John Cicuto, along with former Men’s Athletic Director and PE Division Chair, Jim Sartoris.

John Cicuto is Chris’s father and the current director of the athletic department. He said, “It’s a joy to come to work every day and be able to spend time with your own son.” Chris is an only-child and has learned a lot about coaching from his dad.

“Coach Cicuto has been extremely supportive on the field and off,” said third baseman Chapjian.

“Athletics give students a motive to stay in school and keep their grades up,” said Coach C. “Some kids need a kick in the butt; others really need a pat on the shoulder.”

Cicuto has had a positive impact on each and every player.

“I think Sako is a lot more disciplined [now],” said Geoge Chapjian, Sako’s father.

“We’ve been tough on Sako for the last two years,” said Cicuto. “And this year we didn’t have to be because he grew up. He matured. He understands the value of academics and exemplary conduct on the field. And athletically, his effort has always been strong.”

Cicuto was hired as an assistant baseball coach in 2000. He was the hitting and position coach.

In 2001, the Vaqueros won the WSC title while setting a school record in wins. In 2002, the team broke that with a record of
34-13, ranked fourth in
Southern California.

Cicuto spent the summer of 2003 coaching for the Cape Cod League, the nation’s top Division I hitters for the Chatham A’s. So he had to fly back for his GCC interview. He was hired on the spot and has been the head baseball coach since 2004.

“Chris redesigned the entire athletic website,” said John Cicuto. “He has his roots here, and he really does the best he can for the college.”

“That’s just our whole life: baseball-football,” said Cicuto’s mother, Sally.
Cicuto grew up playing little league, high school and college baseball mostly because his father coached football in the fall but was free to take his son to baseball games in the spring.

Cicuto suffered a shoulder injury, however, that made him face a hard fact: he probably wouldn’t be signed by a pro ball club. That’s when he decided to get his bachelor’s degree in education from UC Riverside and his master’s from Azusa Pacific.

“When I was a teenager, I realized the allure of coaching when my father received a poem with the line, ‘A coach is like the father I never had’,” said Cicuto.

Since then his students have performed with more and more gusto giving Glendale improved season results and Cicuto more and more positive feedback.

“Coach C is one of the nicest coaches I’ve ever had,” said second baseman Ryan Daniels, who is now in his third season with Cicuto. “He really cares about us. I’ve seen people 10 years after they’ve been here come back and act like they’re one of his closest friends.”

Thanks to its persevering, talented ball players and one of the best coaching teams in the state of California, Glendale is now fifth in the southern conference and will face fourth-ranked Palomar College in the super regionals Friday at Whittier’s Rio Honda.

“He deserves [to be coach-of-the-year],” said Cicuto’s wife, Kelly, who accompanies him to every game. “I’m amazed and overjoyed at the same time. He and his team work really, really hard, and Chris loves his job.” Together now eight years, Kelly and Coach C were married three years ago, have an 18-month-old daughter, Samantha, and are now officially expecting a second addition to the Cicuto family.

The best days are still to come.

For more information about Cicuto and his historic baseball team of 2011, readers can go the Glendale College website, keyword search: athletics.

To see the play-by-play game stats for all three playoff games versus Cypress, visit: http://www.gvcstats.com/cccaa/playoff11/glen.htm#team.his.