By Tim Morris
Bo Scannapieco is ready to move on past his historic 1,000th-career win milestone with the Brookdale Community College softball team.
On the bus ride back from Montgomery, Pennsylvania, after the Jersey Blues swept a doubleheader from Montgomery County Community College, 19-1 and 19-0, April 2 to bring their head coach 1,000 career wins (the most of any Division III junior college coach), he told his team, “The season starts on Tuesday (April 5). It’s all the matters.”
With his club struggling more than it has in recent years at 10-10, Scannapieco believed the countdown to 1,000 (he started the season with 990 wins) had been a distraction.
“I don’t like being the center of attention, but I understand why,” Scannapieco said.
Now that the countdown is behind them, Scannapieco believes his team can turn things around and make a run at defending its Region 19 championship and returning the national championship tournament, which he has won three times — most recently in 2010.
“We’re really good,” he said. “Our record hasn’t shown it yet. We’re just not doing it. The effort has been there and if we continue that effort, the results will be there.”
Brookdale’s early-season struggles (there are still 34 games left in the season) has the Jersey Blues — a team accustomed to being the target of every team they play — in the unfamiliar role of underdog.
“Teams look at our record and are saying we’re very beatable,” Scannapieco said. “It’s extra motivating for the team.”
The doubleheader sweep in Pennsylvania could turn out to be the turning point of the season for Brookdale. Besides putting the countdown to 1,000 behind them, the Jersey Blues put all three facets of softball together for the first time this spring
“We played really well,” Scannapieco said. “I played all 18 players. All were a part of it, which made me feel good.
“This is a real special group of young women. They’ll be successes in life.”
Watching his players improve on the diamond and mature into young women is what has kept Scannapieco at Brookdale since 1987 — the year he took over the softball program. Of course, foremost is the love of the sport itself. But having the opportunity to watch his players grow and turn into leaders is what is most satisfying.
“I don’t necessarily go for the best player,” Scannapieco said of his recruiting process. “I look for a kid that loves [softball] and wants to get better, who comes from a good family and good support system and wants to be a part of the program.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of dedicated young athletes who want to be a part of it.”
Recruiting has certainly changed from 1987. Then, Scannapieco recalled, high school players didn’t even know that Brookdale had a softball team. Now, it is perhaps the country’s most successful Division III program and sells itself.
In the late 1980s, Scannapieco pointed out there was a much smaller pool of teams.
In Scannapieco’s first season, the Jersey Blues were 9-7. He’s never had a losing season.
They now play 16 games in just over a week. There were far fewer doubleheaders when he first started. Now his team can play up to 60 games or more in a season. His team won 59 games, which is a Division III record, in 2013, going 59-5.
Scannapieco, a member of the college softball Hall of Fame, hasn’t kept Brookdale in the national limelight for more than two decades by being stubborn and not willing to change.
“Kids have changed — kids are different. You have to evolve, but you never go against your core principles” he said in talking about his longevity. “There is no one way to do it. The game has changed.”
Among the changes, the pitchers circle is now 43 feet from home plate and not 40 and bats are different, making it more of an offensive game, according to Scannapieco.
In some ways, the players today are more focused and committed because of the opportunity to play at a four-year college that wasn’t there before, Scannapieco explained. Their skill level has also improved.
Through all these changes, Scannapieco has remained the one constant at Brookdale, sticking to his core principles and making the Jersey Blues the standard-bearer for not only Region 19, but also the country.