Jimmy Alberto is a baseball guy. Not a guy that likes baseball, a baseball guy. You know the breed. A man who dreams of two-seamers and the hit-and-run. A man who loves nothing better than a doubleheader with extra innings on a 90 degree summer day. His beach is the dirt on the infield. His suit is a baseball uniform. His blood burns baseball.
So it is no surprise that Alberto’s smile nearly overwhelmed hazy Muzzy Field Tuesday night after the final out of his Nonnewaug team’s 7-5 victory over St. Joe’s of Trumbull in the Class M semifinals. While his team jumped and danced in youthful euphoria after earning just the second appearance in the state finals in school history and a shot at the school’s first ever state title, he was right in the middle of it all.
Alberto didn’t stand in the dugout to watch his club revel in it all. He wanted to be a physical part of it and there he was out on the field patting backs, hugging, high-fiving and smiling the smile of accomplishment. The game is his passion, this team’s season is his passion. He was going to touch it, feel it and be part of it. Not just watch from a distance. There was no just soaking it in. He was going to be in the soak.
“These kids deserve this, they’ve been playing together since they were nine years-old.” Alberto said “If they win the title it will be for them.”
The game is eternal for Alberto known by many as Jimmy and to others as Berto. Now 62, he has been coaching for 43 years. The notebook isn’t big enough to list the number of players who have been touched by the overwhelming passion. If you are looking for a source of comparison, think long-time Wamogo coach and former Torrington Twister coach Gregg Hunt. Nobody has coached more teams and kids than these two.
Alberto has coached Tri-State’s Bethlehem Plowboys, Waterbury American Legion, Sandy Koufax and was an assistant at Post University and with Naugatuck Valley. He coached in Waterbury’s Twi-Met League and spent 17 seasons at Thomaston High School, most of the time under Bob McMahon.
Currently he coaches a host of teams for the Waterbury Gamecocks organization including the 12, 13 and 16-year-old groups. The on-going joke is that one of these nights he is going to end up coaching against himself and not know it. The game is not seasonal with Alberto, it is continual. When not on the field you can often find him at Thomaston’s Hit Club where he gives lessons.
For all the surprises baseball can hit you with, this season had something special for Alberto. He came to Nonnewaug for the 2021 season as Frank Melillo’s assistant. Job considerations took Melillo away from the game thrusting Alberto into the head coaching spot in the 10th game after a career mostly in the assistant’s role.
What transpired was a Berkshire League title, a 21-3 record and a chance to play on the last day of the season and make some school history.
“I always wanted to be a head coach,” Berto said. “I could never do it because of my job. But Frank left me with a great group of kids and we exchange information all the time.”
The baseball guy knows that having two area teams in a Berkshire League – Naugatuck Valley League matchup for a state championship at 3:30 at Palmer Field is entertaining stuff on its own. But he also knows that giving the pot a wonderful stir is a delicious plate of connections that the two teams offer up.
The two coaches? They know each other well. Wolcott coach Craig Prasauckas coached at Thomaston for two seasons and his assistant in 2021 was Alberto. But go back further. When Alberto was coaching in the Twi-Met League Prasauckas ended up playing for him during the summer. The two have stayed in contact.
Keep going. Jay Rocca is the father of Wolcott player Drew Rocca while Thomaston High Athletic Director Alex Sconziano’s two sons Nicholas and Joe also play for the Eagles. Sconziano coached at Naugatuck Valley. His assistant? Alberto. Sconziano then went on to coach Thomaston High and his assistant? Alberto. When Alberto got married his best man? Sconziano.
Rocca was connected with Alberto through the Plowboys and for Modern Motors in the Twi-Met League. The two also played as Alberto calls it, “Old man baseball” together.
Wolcott first base coach Matt Mancini still plays for the Plowboys. Alberto knows many of the Wolcott players. The game has a feel of a block party among friends. Make no mistake these are not two unknowns playing against one another.
“Having these connections and this rivalry makes it a better game,” Alberto said.
Jimmy Alberto is a baseball guy. Being in a state title game is the best it gets. But Alberto also understands there is more here. He was there in 2008 when Thomaston won its first and only state title. He knows the feeling. He wants it once more.
But more importantly he wants it for the Nonnewaug players who have never tasted the top of the baseball mountain.
It’s baseball and it never gets old. Alberto has enjoyed the ride and he will exalt in the game. There will be other days but he wants this day. Baseball guys always appreciate being there. But they really like winning there. If the Chiefs win, Berto will be at the top of the pile. If Wolcott wins he will appreciate the opportunity.
One way or another Jimmy Alberto is in his baseball glory.