For more than a generation, Dion Jansante has served as the head coach of the Bentworth baseball team.
When the Bearcats were eliminated from the WPIAL Class AA playoffs on May 19, it signaled the end of his run as the face of the program.
After 320 wins, 18 playoff berths and six section titles in his 32 years as head coach and 37 overall including his five years as an assistant, Jansante is hanging up his fungo bat for the last time.
“I debated giving it up a couple of years ago, but it is time,” said Jansante, who also is retiring as a high school Technology Education teacher at Bentworth High School. “My wife Lori, who works at Cal U, and I have said that we want to retire together, and it is a good time to go.
“We are going to head south.”
To look at Jansante’s run from a non-sports perspective, he served as head coach during six United States presidencies, and when it came to his players, it was never just about the sport.
“I have always gotten the most out of seeing (the players) grow into young adults and it was more than just about the wins and losses,” he said. “In my opinion, getting to work with them, watching them mature and become young men and players, it has been rewarding.”
Ever the humble coach, Jansante gave praise to others when asked about his impressive numbers.
“I have been blessed with great assistants and players,” he said without hesitating. “Without them, none of this would have happened.
“I would also like to thank the Bentworth administration and school board for giving me the opportunity to coach and for their continued support of the program.”
From little intricate decisions, whether before the game, during or after, Jansante has always given each of his players, and the program, his all. This includes the team’s field at the high school.
Bentworth athletic director Brian Malecki said replacing Jansante will be an almost impossible task.
“Coach Jansante had a passion that ran deeper than wins and losses. The hardest thing to replace will most likely be the intangibles such as finding someone who cares as much about their program who devotes so much of their own time to it,” Malecki said. “His behind the scenes work on getting equipment for the kids and his work with the boosters to consistently try to improve the experience for the kids.
“He literally only asks the kids to play baseball. He did everything else himself and the amount of off the field time he puts in will not be replaceable.”
In case Jansante did not realize how much he has meant to the program, and more so his players, May 13 will be a day he never forgets.
While the Bearcats defeated West Greene 5-2 to earn Jansante, a very regimented coach, his final win, it was the pregame festivities that caught him off-guard.
Malecki and others set up a celebration to honor Jansante, the sixth head coach in the program’s history, before the game and he had no clue what was going on.
However, he started to sense something was happening.
“I saw my wife dropping off cupcakes, but she stayed and watched me hit the fungo,” Jansante said. “It was also her birthday and I figured she has spent her last 30 birthdays at a ballfield so maybe she wanted to enjoy this one a little more.”
But as he started looking around and seeing so many recognizable faces, it dawned on Jansante something was up.
“It hit me,” Jansante. “I thought, oh my gosh, they are here for me. It was a surreal feeling and an amazing moment.”
Countless former players were at the game as were seven of Jansante’s former assistants. The seven of them joined him on the mound as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game, the first in school history. Former assistant coach and former athletic director and current McGuffey coach George Linck served as the catcher for Jansante’s pitch.
“It was a little high and outside,” Jansante quipped.
Jansante was also presented with a framed #7 jersey.
Even the start of the Bentworth and West Greene softball game was delayed so the two teams could join in the pregame celebration.
It was fitting that such a big deal to be made at Jansante’s last home game. After all, he has been vital to the field in every way that one day, it would not be surprising to see the field named after him.
“In the mid-1990s, he was instrumental in helping build the very field that we see here today,” Malecki said pointing down from the high school towards the field. “Through his tireless efforts, grant writing, backbreaking labor, and his all-out devotion to this program, he helped build one of the best baseball fields in all of Western Pennsylvania.
“He willingly cuts the field several times a week with his own mower to keep the pristine look.”
The team had several traditions under Jansante, from the pregame touching of the centerfield fence to the home game trot to touch the left field pole to just before taking the field, when the players would line up their gloves neatly in front of the dugout in the day’s batting order.
“These little things may seem insignificant, but they have become extremely important to the players,” Malecki said. “He has taught them how to not only play baseball but to be part of something bigger than them.
“Coach Jansante has helped them become good citizens and good people and will always be remembered for what he has done for this district, this program and these kids.”
As far as what Jansante will reminisce about the most, he mentioned the playoff games and getting to coach his two sons.
“I will remember all of the teams, but especially the teams that played in the playoffs,” he said. “Being able to coach my two sons, Derek (Class of 2007) and Jason (2009), was a good deal for me although they may not agree!
“Dad was tough on them.”
There were times when Jansante was tough on all of his players, not just his sons. Tough love for sure, but with the focus on the word love. A coach cannot last as long as Jansante did without caring for his players, caring for his “kids.”
As Jansante and his wife prepare for retirement, the sun has set on his coaching career at Bentworth, just like as it does and will continue to do so every night over his team’s field. His team’s home. And unquestionably, his home.