Friday, December 26, 2014

Baseball: Barth out, Rucci in at Gloucester Catholic

Baseball: Barth out, Rucci in at Gloucester Catholic

 

Mike Rucci can see Joe Barth Field from his fifth-grade classroom at Alice Costello elementary school in Brooklawn.

Starting in the spring, Rucci will be able to walk out of his school and across centerfield to his new job: As Gloucester Catholic's third baseball coach since 1976.

"I won't even have to move my car," Rucci said.

Rucci on Monday was named to replace Dennis Barth, who has resigned after a remarkable 19-year run as Gloucester Catholic's coach to take over the baseball program at Rutgers Camden.

Rucci, 29, is a former GC star who has been the head coach at West Deptford for the last two seasons. He teaches fifth grade in Brooklawn's elementary school, which is adjacent to Joe Barth Field -- home of Brooklawn's American Legion team as well as Gloucester Catholic's program.

"Gloucester Catholic was good long before I got here and they will be good long after I'm gone," Barth said during a news conference Monday morning at Gloucester Catholic.

Rucci played his GC career under Barth. Rucci is a 2001 graduate who helped Gloucester Catholic to three straight state titles and also led Brooklawn's American Legion team to the 2001 World Series title.

It was a typical GC move: Hiring one graduate to replace another. But Barth took the program to another level. His 24/7/365 commitment, baseball acumen and knack for getting the best out of his players as well as the advantages inherent in his owning a workout facility at Sportz Central and also coaching the Brooklawn program made him arguably GC's best coach ever, in any sport.

That 9-1 record in state title games speak to that.

"I'll never fill Dennis' shoes," Rucci said. "But I'm going to give it everything I have and embrace the tradition."

Barth said Rucci was an "extension" of the coaching staff on the field as player.

"He's the only catcher I ever had that I let call the pitches," Barth said of Rucci. "He was a coach on the field."

Barth said he will stay involved with Gloucester Catholic, helping with a fund-raising campaign to build an athletic campus in Deptford. The project, which GC officials believe is vital to the school's future, is slated to include state-of-the-art baseball and football complexes and fields for every other sport that the school offers as well.

"When we get lights and a new field in a couple years, we'll really be good," Barth said.

Barth said he intends to remain as the head coach of Brooklawn's American Legion team, which always features several Gloucester Catholic players.

"We're joined at the hip," Barth said of the GC and Brooklawn programs. The field at Brooklawn is named for Barth's father, legendary Brooklawn American Legion founder Joe Barth.

Barth was GC's coach for 19 seasons. He replaced Al Radano, who was the coach from 1976 through 1993.

Barth went 495-94-1 and won nine state titles and six Diamond Classic titles.

In typical fashion, Barth said he "failed for 19 years" because his big goal was to go undefeated. His 2000 team, which had Rucci as a junior catcher, came closest with a 33-1 record and a No. 1 national ranking by Baseball America.

"Mike's going to do that," Barth said of going undefeated.

Barth's last three teams won state titles. His 2012 team beat nationally ranked Don Bosco Prep to capture the NP A state crown in June.

Rucci was the head coach at West Deptford for two years. His 2011 team won the SJ 2 title as a No. 10 seed.

Rucci said former GC pitcher Justin Mendek would join his staff at their alma mater.

Barth said former GC assistants Josh Copskey, Bryan Barth (the coach's nephew) and Mike Brown would join his staff at Rutgers Camden.

"It's a real good school," Barth said of Rutgers Camden. "We've got a lot of work to do but we're going to try to win the whole ball of wax."

Rucci said GC's tradition is the strength of the program.

"It's like a family," Rucci said. "When you are part of this program, you have a bond with everybody else who was a part of this program. I want to maintain that."

Starting this spring, Rucci will walk out the backdoor of his day job in an effort to keep that going.

- Phil Anastasia

 

About this blog
Born and raised in South Jersey, Phil Anastasia prefers standing on the sidelines at high school football games on Friday nights to sitting in the press box at Eagles games on Sunday afternoons. He’s a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in English. Reach Phil at panastasia@phillynews.com.

Phil Anastasia Inquirer Columnist
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected