Most coaches never even get a chance to compete for a national championship. For Mesa baseball coach Tony Cirelli it has happened twice.
The veteran coach, who just completed his 25th season in charge of the T-Birds, guided his team to the 2014 NJCAA Division II national title and then came oh so close in May of this year as his team took second place at the same event. He was named national Coach of the Year in 2014.
His teams have also made three other appearances in the NJCAA national event and he is beginning to creep up on the 1,000-win plateau having completed the current season with a great 921-553 career record.
His effect can't simply be measured in wins and losses. Over the years he has had four players reach the ultimate level of baseball achievement, playing in the major leagues. In addition, he has had 23 earn All-America recognition and over 60 have been selected in the major league draft.
And, his leadership is far from one-dimensional. He makes strong demands of his players academically and the MCC baseball team is perennially recognized for its academic excellence by the NJCAA having been named all-academic by the national organization five times since 2011-12.
Cirelli-coached teams are also highly involved in the community. They do multiple public service projects every year.