Mark Domenichelli, the gold standard for baseball coaches in Healdsburg, has found his efforts rewarded. He guided the Spring 2022 varsity baseball team into the playoffs, ending the season with an 8-4 league record, 17-11 overall, despite the fact that the team roster was reduced from 16 players to 11, then 10, then finally only 9 active players as the final playoff game came to an end.
With a nine-man team on the field, that doesn’t leave a lot of players on the bench. So every player on the field has got to play with all they’ve got.
“If it wasn’t for the kids, none of this would have been possible anyway,” Domenichelli said about the Coach of the Year award. “Sometimes you just have to get out of the way and let them play.”
Late in October, he received notice that he had been named Coach of the Year in Baseball for the 2021-22 California North Coast Section by NFSH, the National Federation of State High School Association.
Domenichelli himself got the news from Cici Robinson, the director of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) office. “It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been selected as the North Coast Section representative for the NFHS California State Coach of the Year award in the sport of baseball for the 2021-22 school year. Your nomination to receive this prestigious honor is based upon the positive work that you have done with the athletes in your program. Congratulations!”
Robinson, in confirming Domenichelli’s selection, said the official announcement would not be made until January.
But Joshua Cavanaugh, the director of Healdsburg High’s athletics program, shared the good news with an announcement to school staff on Nov. 9. “This is a great honor and very well deserved,” read his message. “When you see Coach Domenichelli around, make sure to congratulate him.”
Domenichelli has been a PE coach at the school since 1996, and baseball coach there since 1999. He has also done some coaching at Sonoma State, and locally in Cal Ripken leagues. Born and raised in Cloverdale, he played third base and shortstop in high school, then switched to center field when he played college ball at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), Chico State and Sonoma State University (SSU).
Like father, like son: Jack Domenichelli played third base and shortstop for the Greyhounds in 2022, at least until he dove after a ball down the third base line and separated his shoulder. “You know, I didn’t think it was a big deal until I heard him scream,” said Coach Domenichelli.
That’s the kind of year it was, with injuries gradually eroding the roster until the final game. But somehow, they survived, and thrived. “We just kind of Iron-Manned it,” said Domenichelli. “The kids really stepped up and played hard. They played for each other. So I just kind of sat there, you know, and let them do their thing.”
It was good enough to come in second in the North Bay Redwood league and go to the playoffs, and put Healdsburg back on the baseball map. They placed four players on the first team of league all-stars, and two more on the second—more than half of the team, 6 of 11, were so honored.
Before the COVID pandemic, however, the Greyhounds were not necessarily a team with which to be reckoned. They went 0-24 in 2019, then although the 2020 season was only five games long, they had a winning record of 3-2. The next year, also shortened by the pandemic, they went 15-5.
Though no one looks at a pandemic as a positive event, it can have positive consequences. “Especially when you go through COVID, something like that, it puts everything in a new kind of perspective,” said Domenichelli.
Taken together, the record of the Greyhounds in both the 2020 and 2021 season added up to an 18-7 record—and gave them the confidence to make a title run in 2022. But Domenichelli doesn’t take any undue credit for their success.
“I’ll be honest with this, it’s all about the kids, basically putting them in the right positions to be successful,” said Domenichelli about his recent coaching success. “And by doing that, you hope that they play well, and when they lose, you just hope that they remember their time at school was, you know, it was fun and competitive.”
His son, Jack, will be returning this year, as well as several other players from last year’s team. And they can be cautiously optimistic that they’ll be well this coming spring.
He also gave props to assistant coach Joe Simili, and other Healdsburg coaches, including Jeff McCarthy, Chris Carter and others. “I’m happy for the town. Honestly. I’m happy for the town. I’m happy for the kids in the school and the community and the parents and everybody.”
The nonprofit National Federation of State High School Associations is the body that writes the rules of competition for most high school sports and activities in the United States. NFHS’s headquarters are in Indianapolis, IN. For more information, visit nfhs.org.