PITTSFIELD >> Over the last several years, Tom Rizzo has wanted to get a coaching gig at a local high school.
Now, Rizzo has been granted his wish.
On Friday, Pittsfield announced that Rizzo will take over the baseball program after the retirement of Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Moynihan.
"They are big shoes to fill," Rizzo noted. "But I think that I can definitely fill them."
Rizzo has deep ties to the Berkshire County baseball community. A 1983 graduate from Taconic, where Rizzo was an All-Berkshire selection as a senior, Rizzo played his college ball at North Adams State College in the mid 1980s, and was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1988. He played three seasons in the minor leagues before joining the Air Force. While serving, Rizzo was able to play for the Anchorage Bucs in the National Baseball Congress from 1992-1995. Rizzo returned to the Berkshires to coach at MCLA as an assistant starting in 1995, and stayed on with the Trailblazers through last season. The 49-year-old has also coached the Pittsfield Babe Ruth teams over the last two summers, including last season's trip to the Babe Ruth World Series.
Through all of his experiences both playing and coaching, Rizzo said his goal at Pittsfield comes down to one simple idea — teaching.
"I found that a lot of the kids coming up to college, they didn't understand the game of baseball," Rizzo said. "That's why I went down to Babe Ruth, to figure out what was going on. I'm glad I did it, really. It's all about teaching the game. It's not about winning or losing, it's about teaching the game. That's where the wins come from."
Rizzo is a self-described offensive coach, with an emphasis on batting technique, which he learned from Joe Zavattaro at North Adams State. He wants to bring that philosophy to the Generals.
"I just want to go in and kind of continue that success with Pittsfield High School and just bring my element to the school," Rizzo said. "I'm a very offensive-minded coach.
"I think one thing that I really, really bring to the team that I coach is intensity, fundamentals and knowledge of the game. The physical part is easy, the mental part is the hardest part for the kids to comprehend. That's what I really pride myself on."
While Rizzo will be new to the high school ranks, his ties to Pittsfield have him familiar with what comes next. Rizzo estimates he's coached about 70 percent of the current Pittsfield players through Babe Ruth, and he knows a handful of current coaches.
"It's a good transition. We are familiar with each other. They understand where I come from and I understand where they come from," Rizzo said of his players.
"There's a lot of talent in Pittsfield and Berkshire County," Rizzo added. "The more they are developed and understand the game, then they can go to college and play baseball. I think it's important to have good coaches like Kevin [Stannard], Steve [Messina], Tommy Hankey. I don't know the others, but I'm sure they are well-qualified also. I think it's great for Pittsfield to have some quality coaches in the system."
Rizzo will have a few months to get himself situated in the new gig. With winter sports just beginning, the start of the baseball season is on March 21.