Allan Gillespie stares into the distance, far beyond blue-painted caged fence and orange-tinted mountains in the distance.
What Gillespie, in his first year as the head baseball coach at Marana High School after more than a half-decade as an assistant, is looking at, is unclear.
It’s unclear whether he’s trying to compartmentalize the Tigers’ 6-2 defeat at the hands of a visiting Sunnyside squad, or whether he’s just lost in a train of thought.
What is clear, however, is that the Tigers’ coach is in for the long haul, waxing about the quality of his players, and how they have what it takes to resurrect a wayward program that’s won 12 games total in the last two seasons.
He’s well aware of the challenge in front of him, with a fresh-faced squad that features only two seniors in its everyday lineup.
He also knows the quality of his players, both on and off the field, and knows what they’re capable of with the right guidance.
“It means a lot to me because I love working with these young people, love working with Marana kids,” he said. “We got some great kids out here. It’s a great place to be right now and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
In for the Long Haul
Gillespie knows there aren’t any shortcuts to success in baseball, and that the road to prosperity takes time and patience.
“I want to bring a good energy to it and just teach these guys baseball because athletically they’re here,” he said. “We just got to teach different approaches of play, get them ready to hit, different things where they’ve got to be defensively.”
The evolution of the Tigers’ program goes beyond the must-win culture that’s invaded all levels of sport, to trying to teach the love of the game to a squad that’s long on ambition but short on experience.
“These kids can do something special,” Gillespie said. “We’re hoping for that, we’re working for that. We can’t control wins and losses with these guys. All we can help them to develop is how to control effort and attitude, and if they do that and do it right, I think they’re going to win more than they lose.”
Gillespie’s long-run viewpoint doesn’t mean his team is without ambition. Far from it, as junior catcher Sebastian Borsini can attest to.
Borsini, who figures to see lots of playing time, both behind the plate and at various positions around the horn, expects the Tigers to take the state by surprise this spring.
“We want to keep a winning record,” Borsini said. “All I want to try to do is get that regional championship.”
The Tigers are a long way from that lofty goal, with a 2-3-1 record as of print time, but have plenty of time to make believers out of those who question their resolve.
Gillespie said the first step to righting a program is by instilling that defeat is not acceptable, and making players understand how important each game is in the course of a long season.
He believes this year’s team is the first that’s truly taken that message to heart, and that it’s the start of a golden era of baseball at the school on the Northwestern frontier of Pima County.
“Every year we kept pounding and pounding,” he said. “We got a little better, we’ve had some ups and downs over the years, but I think we’re in a prime position with the talent that we have here to really do something special.”