Coach Bios for Men's Baseball
Head Baseball Coach:
Frank Szymanski doesn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on his coaching accomplishments. Sometimes he’s not even aware of them.
Informed a 2010 victory over Region XX champion Potomac State was the 300th of his coaching career, Szymanski said that just meant "I’ve been coaching a long time." Similarly, he didn’t realize his team’s 30th win of the 2010 season was also the 300th of his 11 years at Chesapeake College.
When Szymanski does consider what it all means, it’s others he thinks of first.
"I always think about the commitment our players have made to the college, both academically and athletically," he said after his 300th career victory. "I also think about how incredibly supportive the faculty, staff and administration have been of our program."
Szymanski will enter the 2011 season with a 307-206-5 record in 11 seasons at Chesapeake and 325-275-5 mark in 14 seasons as a collegiate head coach. That includes eight straight winning seasons each featuring at least 25 victories and six consecutive 30-win campaigns. More important than the victories, according to Szymanski, is the program’s ability to assist players in reaching their potential.
"Our coaching staff wants to help our players develop their skills and prepare for the next level," said Szymanski, who routinely sends players to four-year NCAA Division I, II and III institutions to continue their playing career. The Skipjacks also recently sent a player to the pros, with shortstop Mike Turner’s selection by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2010 amateur draft.
Already the college’s career leader in coaching victories, Szymanski has racked up a collection of "firsts" with the Skipjacks. He led Chesapeake to its first 20-win season in 2001, first 25-win season in 2003, and first 40-win season in 2005. That 2005 squad became the first Chesapeake baseball team to win region and district titles, advance to the NJCAA Division II World Series, and win a World Series game on the way to a fifth-place national finish.
"We feel like we’ve built a solid foundation for the baseball program," said Szymanski, who has a .597 winning percentage at Chesapeake. ""We’ve been in the playoffs every year and we’ve been competitive with almost every team. We really feel like we’re headed in the right direction."
Winning has almost become expected under Szymanski. Chesapeake finished 37-15 in 2010, reaching its second straight NJCAA Division I Region XX Final Four while finishing second in the region. That was the Skipjacks’ top region finish since moving to Division I in 2007.
The Skipjacks seem primed for another big season in 2011, with a solid nucleus back from the Region XX runner-up squad and a promising group of freshmen.
It wasn’t always like this for the Skipjacks, who finished a combined 1-38 in the two seasons before Szymanski was hired as both athletic director and head baseball coach in June 1999.
The Skipjacks won a then-school-record 15 games in 2000, and easily broke that mark with a 20-win season in 2001. Chesapeake has won 20 or more games in nine of the last 10 seasons.
While Szymanski credits his players for Chesapeake’s success "Players win games, not coaches," he said it’s no coincidence that the Skipjacks became perennial winners when Szymanski came aboard. He was named NJCAA Division II Region XX Coach of the Year and Northeast District Coach of the Year in 2005, when he was also selected Maryland College Coach of the Year an award that encompasses all NCAA and NJCAA programs. Rich Midcap, Chesapeake’s vice president for student success and enrollment services, praised Szymanski for the way he has rebuilt the program.
"Frank’s done it without cutting corners," said Midcap. "He’s brought in good athletes, but they’ve also been good students. Frank’s players go to class, or they don’t stay Frank’s players for long."
Szymanski’s commitment to academics can be seen in the Skipjacks’ academic achievements. Chesapeake has produced four Academic All-Americans during Szymanski’s tenure. There has also been a steady stream of Region XX All-Academic Team members, including three from the 2010 baseball team.
"Very few athletes go on to professional careers," noted Szymanski. "What our student athletes accomplish in the classroom is much more important, long term, than what they accomplish on the field."
Chesapeake has won in baseball by mixing a core of local players with talented recruits from outside the region.
"We work hard at recruiting local student athletes, but we don’t limit ourselves to the Upper Shore," Szymanski said. "We can’t, given the fact that we play in one of the nation’s most competitive conferences. I like the fact that we bring together students from both within and outside the region, and turn them into a cohesive team."
Szymanski was head baseball coach at Baltimore City Community College for three seasons and was an assistant coach at both Johns Hopkins University and Salisbury University prior to coming to Chesapeake. He was also assistant athletic director at Baltimore City Community College from 1998 to 1999.
Szymanski earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees at Salisbury University.
Szymanski resides in Easton with his wife, Colleen, and their four children.
Tony Riggi is entering his ninth year as assistant coach for the Skipjacks. He graduated from Delaware State University in 1998 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Soil and Water Management. He was a two-time Male Academic Athlete of the Year as a member of the Stingin’ Hornets baseball team.
Prior to coming to Chesapeake, Riggi was assistant varsity baseball coach at North Caroline High School for four years and a youth baseball coach in Marydel, DE for an additional four years.
Riggi is employed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture as the District Manager for the Queen Anne’s County Soil Conservation District.
Riggi resides in Galestown, MD with his wife, Sydney.
Donnie Gowe graduated from St. Michaels High School in 1980 and served as assistant coach for the Saints from 1994-2008. During that time, St. Michaels won the Maryland Class 1A state championship in 2001 and 2008 in addition to reaching the 2000 state title game. In 2001 Gowe was the Maryland State Assistant Coach of the Year.
Gowe served as head coach of the Talbot Post 70 American Legion team from 1995 to 2001, during which time they won four Eastern Shore titles. Gowe was head coach for the St. Michaels Junior League from 2002 to 2007 as well as head coach of the Eastern Shore Hurricanes Baseball Club from 2007 to 2008.
Gowe resides in St. Michaels with his wife, Shelley, and son Kevin.
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