In the last five-plus decades, there have only been two head coaches for Escalon varsity baseball.
Bob Loureiro – who had the baseball field named in his honor – came back on Friday, May 6 to toss out the ceremonial first pitch as his successor, Greg Largent, is retiring after spending parts of five decades with the school system and baseball program.
A longtime teacher at El Portal Middle School, Largent has also served as head coach of the varsity baseball program at Escalon High School for the past 17 years, taking over from Loureiro. Between the two of them, they have amassed more than 900 wins and have provided leadership for the baseball team for 58 years.
During Largent’s tenure, the Cougars have won 10 Trans-Valley League championships, three Sac-Joaquin Section titles and two California State baseball championships.
“I didn’t do that on my own,” Largent said of compiling a record that features more than 330 wins and the multiple titles.
The ceremony prior to the Friday afternoon game saw many former players turning out to celebrate with and honor Largent, and his familiar ‘9’ was painted on the field behind home plate.
As a teacher, Largent began his career spending three years at French Camp Elementary in the Manteca Unified School District and then moved to Escalon, where he joined the El Portal Middle School staff in 1990, serving 32 years there.
He taught history for three decades and also taught PE for a few years as well.
“Those are my two passions,” he said, noting that he was happiest when his schedule was filled with teaching US History and PE classes.
Before taking on the varsity baseball head coaching duties, Largent served as an assistant with Bob Loureiro starting in 1983. He also was a varsity football assistant coach, spent time as head coach for both the freshman and JV boys basketball teams and spent several years as head coach for varsity girls softball at EHS before making the move to baseball.
In 2019, he was awarded a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Model Coach Award.
Largent said many people helped him shape his caching philosophy and also provided great insight into how to be a better teacher and person through the years.
“Bob Loureiro gave me the opportunity in 1983, he taught me about loyalty,” Largent said. “Steve French taught me about organization and patience; Mike Backovich taught me preparation and commitment.”
Other coaches also were inspirational, Largent said, each providing a key piece of his approach to the game and life.
Those coaches and their wisdom included: Mark Loureiro, motivation and focus; Rusty Fachner, passion and enthusiasm; Jon Pearce, honesty and understanding; Pete Arellano, creativity; John Paladichuk, discipline.
He also pointed to the legacy of Lloyd Engel, another longtime teacher and coach for whom the football field is named.
“I didn’t get coached by Lloyd but I spent time with him in the press box at football games and he was an inspiration,” said Largent. “That’s what this world needs more of, guys like this.”
Downplaying his own accomplishments, Largent said it takes plenty of people working behind the scenes to create a successful environment, a winning tradition.
Many friends, parents of players and former players have come back to help over the years with coaching including this year’s assistants Harold Hood, Mark George, Bill Grogan and Ben Hood, who especially worked with the pitchers this season. Others that have assisted through the years include Matt Valencia, Don Nickerson, Dave Satnat, Kelly Bird, Rob Steves, Jacob Caton, Steve Largent, Ross Brayton, Brandon Hoover, Dave Anderson, Dusty Fox, Andy Gaspar, Vince Cowan, Bob Brayton, Alec Nerland, Ray Guevara, Gio Brunetti, Travis Bartelink, KJ Vandagriff, Kyle Dunn, Wes Evans, Mark Yost and Steve French.
Also, current JV coach Ken Baptista and former Escalon assistant-now Linden head coach Gino Franceschetti.
“I want to thank all my coaches,” Largent said, adding that he believes in the saying that ‘you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with’ and he feels he has been surrounded by the best.
Once school is out for the summer, Largent said he will take a deep breath, relax a little and figure out what is next. He does plan to spend more time with his grandchildren and also has been approached by Modesto Junior College about doing some scouting.
“I’ll stay involved somehow,” he said, not ready to leave the game he loves, but ready to slow it down.
Above all, he remains appreciative of the chance to pursue his passions.
“I’ve just had a tremendous amount of community support over the years,” Largent added. “I look at all those banners in the (EHS) gym and you take a little bit from all those guys and create your own style; I had some great mentors.”