Bob DeMayo, who coached baseball at North Haven High School for over six decades and won over 900 games in his career, announced his retirement Monday.
DeMayo, 89, won a state record 936 games and five state championships over 64 years. His team had a regular season record of 9-11 this spring and lost to Lyman Hall 3-1 in the first round of the Class L tournament.
“I was happy to get the job, I loved North Haven, we lived here, I met my wife, she was a math teacher here - the years just flew,” he said Tuesday. “I can’t believe I turned my resignation in. I never thought I’d do that.”
DeMayo said health issues, including dizziness and back and leg problems, essentially forced him to retire.
“It appeared to be more of an effort and I couldn’t see the ball that well,” he said. “I told myself when I got into coaching, I’m going to coach as long as I make a difference, and with all these things going on, I wasn’t making a difference. I said to myself, ‘That’s it’ and I gave it up.”
Bette DeMayo, his wife, said the decision was very difficult.
“He has fought through cancer, he has fought through stenosis of the back, which doesn’t go away ... the dizziness ... so it was time,” she said. “It’s very difficult. Very emotional.”
“I had such great kids,” Bob added. “It’s hard to leave them.”
He had a hard time pinpointing his best memory.
“When you’ve had thousands of student-athletes and taught five psychology classes, it’s pretty hard - unless the kids come back and start talking and it stimulates my memory,” he said.
Bette recalled her husband’s first state championship, in 1975, when their son Gary was a sophomore on the team and the pitcher was Mike Proto, who has coached with Bob for over 40 years and is also retiring.
“A lot of the kids have stuck around,” Bette said. “They played for him, they’re friends, they’re wonderful.”
“I coached him since he was a Little Leaguer,” Bob said of Proto. “He pitched the full nine innings [of the championship game], back then it was nine innings. There was a New Britain kid who was 25-0 and at the end of the afternoon, he was 25-1.
“That was the start of basically where we could play at the level of the Southingtons and the other big schools.”
DeMayo, who lives in North Haven with Bette, enjoyed teaching the subtleties and intricacies of the game.
“There was a certain style that he always felt was the way baseball should be taught,” Bette said. “The finer nuances. I would tell him, some of the things he would do, we would win games we had no business winning. Those are the subtleties that physically he can’t show them anymore. I guess that’s the biggest reason.”
DeMayo, who also taught at North Haven High, graduated from Notre Dame-West Haven in 1950 and played baseball at Fordham and in the Orioles farm system before taking the North Haven coaching position in 1959. He won state titles in 1975, 1982, 1985, 2003 and 2015. He did not coach in 2014 due to a knee injury.
Lori Riley can be reached at email@example.com.