With 233 wins, WPIAL title to his credit, Norwin baseball coach Mike Liebdzinski steps down

Thursday, May 26, 2022 | 5:29 PM

As sure as he looked at his watch, Mike Liebdzinski knew when he walked off the field Monday at Plum that it was time.

The longtime Norwin baseball coach is calling it a career after nearly three decades in the dugout.

He told his players about his resignation Thursday.

“This has been something that I have been thinking about for the past few years,” Liebdzinski said. “It’s not easy to let it go. I started coaching in 1992, the same year I graduated college. After 30 years, it just seems like the right time. Time for someone different to come in with new ideas and new energy.”

That means the Knights’ 5-2 loss to Central Catholic was the final game for Liebdzinski, 51, who was the team’s head coach for 19 years.

“I remember interviewing for the job and telling the school board that if they hired me, they wouldn’t have to worry about hiring a new coach for the next 20 years,” Liebdzinski said. “I didn’t quite keep my promise, but I was close.”

Liebdzinski finished with a career record of 233-114. He won eight section titles and one WPIAL championship (2016).

He made the playoffs 17 times and had two WPIAL runner-up finishes.

A Norwin graduate who went on to play at Davidson, Liebdzinski knew he wanted to coach straight out of college.

“Baseball has been a major part of my life ever since I can remember,” he said. “I used to work the summer camps at Davidson, and my college coach always told me I would be a coach some day. After my playing days came to an end, it just seemed like the logical step to stay involved with the game.”

In addition to having team success, Liebdzinski became known for grooming and producing college-level players. He had 22 players go on to play at Division I programs, while 22 went on to Division II careers, something in which he takes tremendous pride.

“Very proud,” he said. “And there were countless Division III guys. Also, four pros after their college years.”

Two of those are still playing in JJ Matijevic (Houston Astros) and Max McDowell (New York Yankees).

“There are so many things that are satisfying about coaching,” Liebdzinski said. “At the forefront is teaching young men the game of baseball and watching them develop and go on to bigger things. I will most definitely miss that part of it.”

Liebdzinski, who has been a social studies teacher at Norwin for 25 years, does not see himself staying around the game much moving forward.

“It’s been a long time since I had a free spring, summer and fall. Actually, I’m not sure I ever did,” he said. “I feel like it’s time to get away completely. At least for now.”

Liebdzinski thinks most, if not all, of his staff also will depart the program.

“I am very proud to have represented my alma mater for the past 19 years,” he said. “I was so fortunate to have an incredible staff of coaches for all of those years. A special thanks to Tom Quealy, who suggested that I apply for the job 19 years ago and we have been together ever since. We wanted to build a quality program that was competitive every year and did things the right way. I think that we accomplished that. At least I hope we did.

“It was truly my pleasure to work with such great young men for all those years. I wish that we could have brought a couple more WPIAL championships back to Norwin, but I guess that’s baseball.”

Quealy got a better look at Liebdzinski’s coaching methods than anyone.

“He was able to change the culture and win immediately,” Quealy said. “His outward demeanor can be conceived as stoic and hard-nosed, but those close to him know him to be compassionate.

“Without a doubt, he is one of the very best baseball coaches ever in the WPIAL.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.


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