Holy Trinity’s Bob Malandro wore his No. 12 jersey for the final home game of his career Wednesday in Hicksville. So to honor the retiring iconic coach who has won 425 baseball games and five CHSAA titles in a 30-year career, all the Titans wore No. 12.
The once-only jerseys were a gift from Holy Trinity alumni, and dozens of Malandro’s former players were on hand to honor their beloved coach.
“They’re all here because of you,” said assistant coach Dan Luisi, who will succeed Malandro. “You taught us how to win — on the field and off. And today, all the players will wear No. 12.”
The current players then changed into dark green jerseys with white “12s” on the back and went out and defeated Chaminade, 4-2, to cap a warmly emotional afternoon.
“It’s melancholy. Bittersweet. I’m going to miss it. I’m getting choked up right now,” Malandro said before the game, watching as his wife, Laura, arrived, plus his two children, five grandchildren, Holy Trinity officials and many of his former players. “I decided it was time. On April 5, I was 70. This is 30 years. A couple of round numbers. It’s been all about the kids. That’s what I’ll miss most.”
One of his former “kids,’’ Mike Pesce, a star on the 2003 CHSAA championship team, flew in from Colorado on a red-eye late Tuesday. “Flying back out tonight at 8 o’clock. Well worth the trip,” Pesce said. “It was so special playing for him.”
Another former Titans star, Sean Easton, played on the 1997 and ’98 title teams. “It’s great to see an old mentor and support a man I really learned a lot from and to see a lot of familiar faces,’’ Easton said. “Hondo (Malandro’s longtime nickname) obviously affected all of us in a positive way.”
Malandro has fond memories of Easton’s teams.
“It took me 10 years to win a championship I never thought I’d win,” Malandro said. “That was special. We had to come out of the losers’ bracket. We had lost to St. Anthony’s three times in the regular season and lost to them again in the playoffs to send us into the losers’ bracket. The championship was played at New York Tech, Memorial Day, and we had to beat them twice.”
The gifts Malandro received before the game included a montage of him surrounded by all 30 team photos, a No. 12 jersey, and a replica of a ring that is being custom made. Malandro said he loves championship rings, and his phone has a photo of him wearing all of his rings, posing the same way Yogi Berra famously did with his 10 World Series rings. At Malandro’s request, his latest ring will be styled like the 2016 Chicago Cubs’ World Series ring.
One final touch: Just before the game, Holy Trinity’s captains went out to the centerfield fence and pulled back a black covering to reveal a huge sign:
It will remain there permanently.