It has been almost 19 years since Old Forge’s Tony DiMattia led the Blue Devils to the 1992 PIAA Class 2A State Baseball Championship as a player. Now he’s ready to lead his alma mater there as its coach.
DiMattia was unanimously named the Blue Devils skipper at the district’s monthly school board meeting on Feb.16. He replaces Rich Beviglia who left after just two seasons because of a conflict with his full-time employment.
“I am really overwhelmed (in being hired),” said DiMattia. “It is something I have always wanted to do ever since I graduated high school. It’s the only uniform I have ever wanted to wear. I am really excited to get started.”
DiMattia inherits a program that has won four straight District 2 Class 1A crowns and reached the PIAA Eastern Final twice during that time span. But that success is something the former three-time Lackawanna League all-star catcher knows a thing or two about.
“The expectations are always there at Old Forge,” said DiMattia of the program’s success. “From the point we won the state title we were expected to battle for division and district titles and move on in state playoffs.
“I think its every coach’s dream to get to the state title game and win it. As a player that is your goal, and was our goal in ’92. Once you get to the state playoffs everyone has an equal shot. But our first goal is to win the first game, and then the second and after that we will go from there.”
Besides his resume as a player, DiMattia brings with him the experience of coaching at the junior college and collegiate level as both an assistant and head coach.
The King’s College graduate served as an assistant coach at Lackawanna Junior College for two years under Mike Bartoletti before taking over as the head coach for five years when Bartoletti moved to the University of Scranton. DiMattia then followed Bartoletti to the U of S and served as a Royals assistant coach for the past six seasons, where he was in charge of game-day preparation for hitters and catchers, and also coached both first and third base.
“At Scranton we wanted to move the game along, force the game,” said DiMattia of his baseball philosophy. “We are going to be the same way at Old Forge. I am pretty aggressive and want us to put pressure on the defense. We will play high tempo.”
Assistant coaches Gary DiMattia – Tony’s younger brother by a year – and Bill Smedley will return to be part of the staff, allowing for an easier transition. Both were a part of Beviglia’s staff the past two years, and the younger DiMattia has served as the Blue Devils pitching coach for the past six seasons.
“Keeping the staff will help my transition and the kids transition in getting to know each other,” said DiMattia. “I will lean on them in the beginning, but I believe that being from Old Forge and knowing how my teammates and I played the game, and how this team plays the game, we have the same mentality. That will take some of the pressure off me.
“My personality won’t be any different than what is already there. I am really excited and chomping at the bit to get started.”
Practice starts March 7 for the Blue Devils with their first Lackawanna League Division II game scheduled for April 4 at Dunmore.