Back to school: Jesuit baseball coach settling into prep game after 20 years in college

Back to school: Jesuit baseball coach settling into prep game after 20 years in college

Credit: All photos by Bradley Handwerger / WWL-TV.com

Tim Parenton, right, left coaching the college game after spending nearly 20 years there. He's in his second season at his alma mater Jesuit and already has led the Blue Jays to a Class 5A state championship game appearance.

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by Bradley Handwerger / WWL-TV.com Sports Writer

wwltv.com

Posted on April 23, 2009 at 9:41 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 22 at 4:11 PM

NEW ORLEANS For nearly two decades, Tim Parenton sat comfortably in the dugouts of Alex Box Stadium, Foley Field, McKethan Stadium and Dudy Noble Field at Polk-DeMent Stadium.

Now he's busy raking the dirt around the pitcher's mound and home plate, pouring sand onto the base paths and wondering whether scoreboards are even working.

Parenton is in his second season coaching Jesuit High School, his alma mater and a Louisiana state baseball power.

And to those who know him, there's likely no other place he's meant to be at this moment.

The former Southeastern Conference assistant and Samford head coach is home, leading the next generation of Blue Jays into the record books.

A Jesuit Start

Senior catcher Mason Katz can't recall Parenton talking much about his playing days at Jesuit.

But back in the late 70s, Parenton did more than just play. He helped the Blue Jays win baseball state titles. He was a member of the track team and basketball team.

Yet, what's likely forgotten in history is the thing that maybe he should be remembered for the most - taking Jesuit's football team to a 13-2 record and a state runner-up finish in the first-ever championship game played in the Superdome.

"Losing that state championship game sticks out more than winning in baseball," said Parenton, the quarterback of that Blue Jays team. "I know a lot of people might not like when I say that, but it really is. Walking on the field that day, it was unbelievable the people in the Dome.

"I've had some other feelings like that at the college level, walking out in Omaha and playing for the national championship and being a coach at that, and being at SEC stadiums in certain games that meant a lot.

"But that game still sticks out to me as one of the greatest high school athletic events in the history of Louisiana. To go in front of that many people - two local teams playing for a state championships."

Jesuit lost to St. Augustine 13-7 for the 4A title. The game was witnessed by more than 44,000 fans and was credited as being the spark that ignited the LHSAA current championship playoff format.

It's also the last time Jesuit made a state championship game in football.

But it's not something Parenton talks about a lot. It's in the past and he's all about the now and the future.

"He didn't talk too much about his playing days," said Matt LaPorta, who played for Parenton at Florida where he twice earned SEC Player of the Year honors. "We'd bring it up and apparently he was a great athlete back then. If I didn't do something right, he'd be like, "Come on Matt. I can still do that.'

"He never lived in the past too much, which is nice."

Changing paths

After Jesuit, Parenton played football and baseball at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss.

And then he got into coaching baseball, starting at MSU before heading to Old Dominion University, Samford and later Florida.

That encompassed nearly 20 years of collegiate coaching and it would have been understandable that, once he and the staff at Florida were let go following the 2007 season, he looked for another job in the college game.

But Sam Dozier retired from Jesuit on Aug. 3, 2007, providing an opening Parenton jumped on.

"It was a chance to come back and be with my family," Parenton said one day recently, sitting on the steps of the school's gymnasium, a building that wasn't on campus when he originally walked the halls of the Banks Street school.

"I left when I was 18 years old to go to Mississippi State right out of high school and really hadn't returned to New Orleans since then. It was a chance to get back home and see what would happen. I didn't know if I'd be any good at this or not. I ended up liking it and we'll see what goes on from here."

Prior to applying for the most recent Jesuit job opening, Parenton never thought of it. The timing, he said, was never right.

That wasn't the case in August 2007.

"Things at Florida didn't go the right way according to the athletic director and we had some decisions to make," Parenton said. "Timing was right and everything fell into place."

Pat McMahon, one of Parenton's mentors in the college game, understands why Parenton came back to New Orleans.

"It was a tremendous opportunity," McMahon said. "The opportunity to give back and teach at a quality (school), not just for Jesuit, but for the city, he has a tremendous ties and a big family, all those reasons, going home was very special for Tim Parenton."

Back to school

First, Parenton had to apply for the job, a move that surprised Jesuit athletics director Dave Moreau.

"Tim really kind of expressed interest in us because we didn't even think somebody in college was looking to coach high school. He had been at Florida. It's rare when you have a guy as a college coach coming down, especially in the Southeastern Conference and coaching in the (College) World Series being interested in the high school game.

"Once he expressed interest, we were very interested in sitting down and talking."

According to McMahon, the former Florida head coach and now a roving instructor in the New York Yankees organization, Parenton was the perfect man for the job, someone who could mold collegiate players as well as high schoolers.

"Watching him perform and actually coaching him as a player, he got along with all and so many different type of people," McMahon said. "That personality is a huge plus. He always has a great game awareness in so many different areas. The versatility is so important."

But to go from the huge stadiums of the SEC to the Kirsch-Rooney and Mike MIley and Skelly-Rupp, that takes more than just versatility.

Moreau said he thought would be the biggest hindrance in getting Parenton to sign on.

"One of the things that concerned us is Tim is coming from an SEC school down to high school facilities," Moreau said. "We do not have a practice field or a place to practice. We wanted to put everything on the table."

It's not a job that Parenton ever thought he'd apply for.

"It's one of the hardest jobs in America because you're dealing with kids who are that age where they really don't know what they want to do," Parenton said. "I don't know the dealings with parents as much because I don't know if their feelings are towards making a commitment or not making a commitment."

Delivering on the field

The high school game is different, from the amount of time spent with players to making schedules to getting uniforms together.

"It's a big adjustment," Parenton said. "In college, you recruit your own players and bring in the guys you think fit the universities your at. Here in high school, kids apply to Jesuit, take the test, they're admitted and you go from there. You deal with what you get. It's an interesting deal.

"Most kids come in here as the shortstop, the best player. Then you've got to make decisions and make moves for where they're best for your program and that's been a tough decision."

In 2008, he delivered with what he "got." The Blue Jays made it to the Class 5A state finals before losing to Barbe. After a 10-7 pre-district start that had some questioning things behind the scenes, Jesuit went 9-3 in district play and finished the season 26-11.

Not a bad first year back in high school.

Thus far into 2009, Jesuit is 16-9-1 and 8-2 in district play. But Parenton isn't backing off on his style and knows that, by the end of the season, the Blue Jays will once again be in the thick of the hunt for the state title.

"I coach different. I coach for the future," Parenton said. "I know everyone says you have to play pitch-by-pitch, out-by-out and do certain things. But if young men haven't been put in certain situations throughout the year, they're not going to know how to handle it at the end of the year.

"Our record is not undefeated. I wish we were. I promise you I wish we were. But you have to make some decisions early on that will help you down the line. That's one thing I try to do. When district starts, when playoffs start, I already know what's going to happen I think."

LaPorta, for one, backs up Parenton, saying his former coach is precisely who he'd want coaching him in high school.

"He's a great guy," said LaPorta, now with the Cleveland Indians. "Great coach. He really knew the game. He always came out to the ball field with a lot of enthusiasm, pumping the players up, which was great to see out of the coach. "He wasn't a dictator like a lot of coaches were. He told us things to do, but was polite about it."

Politeness, something his family and former coaches at Jesuit surely would love to hear.

"It is nice to have someone who has been at the school, understands what the school is about and has history with program," Moreau said.

Bradley Handwerger can be reached at or 504-529-6439.

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