Michael O’Keefe directed the varsity baseball program at his alma mater, Chelmsford High, for 25 seasons.
He won 300-plus games, and along with his staff, built a consistent winner with the Lions.
But with his son, Jimmy, starting his freshman year at Tyngsborough High, and his daughter, Katie, now a sixth grader, O’Keefe felt it was the right time to step away from the program. He submitted his resignation on Friday. He will continue to teach social studies at the high school.
“The program is in good shape, and I feel happy about that,” said O’Keefe. His 2019 squad, led by Globe All-Scholastic southpaw Shea Ryan, went 15-8 record and advanced to the Division 1 North semifinals.
“But I don’t want to miss the opportunity to see my own kids play. I would look back and regret that.”
Overall, O’Keefe finished with a 320-231 record, with six Merrimack Valley Conference titles and a D1 North championship.
“We had some seasons where we won more games than others, and had more success,” said O’Keefe, who took helm in 1995, three years after his graduation from Assumption, where he was a three-time Division 2 All-American.
“The proudest thing I would say, and I say the word ‘We’, the coaching staff, and the community built a very good baseball program, we built a tradition, and it has staying power,” said O’Keefe.
“A lot of the guys that I coached early on, they now have kids of their own that are playing. “
As word spread Friday, O’Keefe received a number of texts from his former players.
“A couple said, ‘We played the game the right way, we played the game hard,’” he said. “We were playing for excellence, striving for improvement.”
DeMarco done at Winthrop
By his own estimate, and he taught accounting at Winthrop High for 20 years, Frank DeMarco has played or coached baseball 60 of his 67 years on earth.
And now, after a 19-year varsity coaching run on the diamond at his alma mater, DeMarco is stepping away now, on his own terms.
“I’ve seen so many situations, with veteran coaches, who did not have the opportunity to go out on their own terms,” said DeMarco, who retired two years ago as a teacher. He was also the baseball coach at Matignon for three seasons (1995-98).
“I had a great career, and I am not talking about wins and losses, but I love the game of baseball.”
His 2019 team finished 6-14 overfall, but it was a fun year, he said.
“We graduated nine seniors, and they were the last students that I taught, and we had our first alumni game. Great turnout. Baseball has been my life. I’m physically fit, healthy, but it is time turn it over to someone else, and get a teacher in the building.
“We qualified for the tournament 14 of the 19 years, we found a way to get there, and we were the only Division 4 program in the Northeastern Conference.”
He has recommended Mike DeFelice, his 10-year assistant, for the position, but there will be other candidates too. DeMarco played baseball for DeFelice’s father, Bob, at Bentley from 1971-74, the start of what has been a legendary 50-year run on the Waltham campus for the coach.
“And [Bob] was my line coach at Winthrop High, too. I was a 115-pound sophomore. But it led me to a lifelong relationship.”
And his best moment as coach at Winthrop? “State tourney, 2003 or 2004, trailing Swampscott, 6-0, with two outs, two strikes in the top of the seventh inning,” he recalled. “Trying to get my seniors into the game. Worked a walk, scored seven runs go ahead, Swampscott ties it, 7-7, but Jared Herdt wins it with a three-run homer in the ninth. We get to the D3 state semis. Greatest game I have ever been a part of.
“Amazing how much better a coach you are when you have great players.”
DeMarco will still stay involved in the game, but not as a head coach.
MIAA partners with McLean
The MIAA has entered into a longterm relationship with McLean Hospital to become the “Official Mental Health Partner” of the association. The new mental health initiative will center around education efforts with students and student-athletes statewide.
“We are excited to announce this partnership with McLean Hospital as an example of their commitment to our schools and students across the state and our communities,” said MIAA Executive Director Bill Gaine.
McLean Hospital will work to increase awareness and reduce stigma around issues that often arise during adolescence, including bullying, anxiety, depression, substance use, and trauma.