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updated: 7/30/2013 9:26 PM

Gandolfi gets back in the game at LZ

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  • Former Carmel baseball coach Chuck Gandolfi will take over the program at Lake Zurich.

      Former Carmel baseball coach Chuck Gandolfi will take over the program at Lake Zurich.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer


An old baseball guy might want a pitch back.

Just retired after teaching for more than three decades in Round Lake's school district, Chuck Gandolfi sat in his office thumbing through folder after folder of notes and charts from years of attending and leading baseball coaching clinics.

He could have filled a batter's box with boxes. He contemplated a pitch.

Then delivered.

"I had all my stuff ready to go and I said to myself, 'What am I doing with all these notes and notes on clinic after clinic?' " Gandolfi said. "I said to myself, 'Do I pass this down to my kids?' I just said, 'What the heck. I don't think I'm going to be doing this again.'

"So I threw everything away."

He might want to kick some infield dirt now.

A week after Gandolfi tossed pages and pages of baseball knowledge, Lake Zurich made its own pitch.

The administration made a call to the longtime coach. Lake Zurich wanted the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association hall of famer to run its baseball program.

Gandolfi, who captured 554 victories and won at a 72-percent clip in 21 seasons for Carmel Catholic, discussed the out-of-nowhere job offer with his family. Finally, he accepted. Which means a veteran, crafty baseball man replaces another one in Gary Simon, whose contract was not renewed following the spring season.

Welcome back, Chuck.

"My family was the big thing," said Gandolfi, who can relate to Simon since Carmel made the head-scratching decision of not renewing Gandolfi's contract following the 2009 season. "If they were excited for me and wanted me to do it, then I was going to do it. If they said, 'Are you crazy? Do you really want to do this again?' I wouldn't have taken it."

Wife Linda and sons Charlie and Thomas gave their stamp of approval.

Still, returning to coach high school baseball again wasn't an easy decision for Gandolfi.

By accepting the Lake Zurich job, Gandolfi knows he won't be able to watch outfielders Charlie and Thomas play in college as much as he anticipated. Charlie is going into his junior year at Webster University in St. Louis, after helping the Gorloks advance to the NCAA Division III World Series the last two years, while Thomas will be a freshman at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Since he hadn't been coaching the last four springs, Gandolfi was able to watch both of his sons play for Mundelein.

Being a spectator for his sons' varsity games gave him a great feel for North Suburban Conference baseball.

"It's a great conference to go into," said Gandolfi, whose Carmel teams were an East Suburban Catholic Conference power, winning 30 or more games seven times and finishing third in the 2004 Class AA state tournament.

Goodbye road trips to Joliet, Chicago Heights, Lisle and LaGrange Park. The NSC schools enjoy much closer proximity to each other.

"I don't have to travel halfway across the country," Gandolfi joked. "It's going to be heavenly.

"Away games at Libertyville or Mundelein or Stevenson? Oh, surely," Gandolfi added, laughing. "Warren and Zion are the long trips."

Gandolfi told Lake Zurich's administration what it would be getting if it hired him. Once Lake Zurich was on board, a deal was struck.

"I told them, 'I'm not coming just to coach baseball. I'm coming to build a program,' " Gandolfi said. "Not that they didn't have a good one as it is, but I want to make everything right."

"My family is so excited for me, too. It's pretty neat."

And ultimately, that's what mattered most to the family man. He doesn't need to read his discarded old notes and bone up on the game he's loved since he was a boy growing up in Mundelein.

"They had to sincerely want me to do this," Gandolfi said of his family, "because it means I'm not going to be able to travel quite as much as I was planning on. Now instead of spending two weeks in Florida watching (Charlie and Thomas) play, I'll spend two weeks in Lake Zurich getting ready to play.

"I'll trade the sun for a lake," he quipped.

Prep baseball has missed him.

• Follow Joe Aguilar on Twitter: @JoeAguilar64

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