Pitching coach Watson takes over Belle Vernon baseball program

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Monday, June 24, 2019 | 9:53 PM


For Tony Watson, there’s no place like home.

The Belle Vernon graduate was hired Monday by a unanimous vote to take over the Leopards baseball program after the resignation of Daryl Hixenbaugh.

Watson, who’s coached “off and on” since 1998, has served as the pitching coach for Belle Vernon the past six seasons.

“A lot of guys may see this job as a stepping-stone job,” Watson said. “For me, this is the job. This is the only job I’d want.”

While he’s excited to have the opportunity to coach the Leopards, it’s more emotional for Watson.

“This is my home. I’ve lived here my entire life. I’ve not only formed a relationship with the players, I have a relationship with the BVA community,” the North Belle Vernon resident said. “The kids are like my extended family. We’ve built a really strong connection over the past six years.”

Watson, who played collegiately at Waynesburg, doesn’t expect a difficult transition since he’s familiar with the players and staff.

“I plan on retaining most of the current coaching staff,” he said. “Steve Hoffman is my right-hand man. He’s going to be my top assistant.”

Watson said he wants to the Leopards to be an old-school type of team.

“I hate that it’s a cliche, but for me, pitching and defense is what wins championships. Offensively, it’s see the ball and hit the ball. But we’re going to really rely on our pitching and defense to carry us.”

Watson said he doesn’t like the term “rebuilding.” He’s looking for the Leopards to reload with a bevy of young talent returning.

“We’re going to be young, no doubt. But we have guys coming back like Andrew Sokol, Garrett Greco, Andrew Kostelnik … and a couple older guys are going to have to step up in big ways for us,” he added.

Watson said he’s eager to get together with the team to put plans in place for next season.

“I’m going to be getting in touch with them pretty quickly,” he said. “I want to put a plan in action for our fall ball season.

“And I want to get a flexible workout plan in place for all the travel-ball guys and those that play fall sports. We need those guys, too, and I want to give them the opportunity to be able to participate in those workouts.”

Belle Vernon reached the WPIAL playoffs this season, finishing tied for fourth in Section 3-4A. They were eliminated by eventual WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up Beaver.

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