Justin Scali wanted to be a Yankee.
Like any New Yorker born and raised in Long Island, Scali found himself transfixed by the game of baseball and the New York Yankees. Scali credits his father for his drive and passion towards the game of baseball. Scali’s dad would always leave a little note pad by the bed side with a paragraph about the Yankee game.
“He’d write me a little paragraph about what happened in the game after I went to bed, and he really instilled that passion for baseball in me,” said Scali, head coach of the Piedmont baseball team.
Like any kid, Scali always dreamt about being on the Yankees. He wanted to play first base and pitch every fifth day. As Scali grew up, that fire was always within him. After high school, Scali found himself pitching at Methodist University. Going into his first year, Scali classified himself as a “cocky New Yorker,” and as someone who needed to be “knocked down a peg or two” and be humbled. Scali ended his career at Methodist University with a 12-7 win/loss record, pitched a total of 153.4 innings and tallied 83 strikeouts. As he progressed through his collegiate career, the seeds of coaching were planted.
“My time playing baseball at Methodist was more like a classroom for me,” he said. “I just learned so much baseball from coach Austin, coach Peeples and coach Rasick that we had while I was there.”
He learned a lot about the game, mostly strategy. And he lived for it. Scali loved sitting close to his coaches and listening to their conversations about the game. Listening about what moves to do, what pitch to throw, etc. — he discovered that baseball could be a part of his life even after his playing career.
Scali is in his fifth year as the head coach of the Piedmont Lions, and currently holds a (113-62) overall record. He replicates a lot of what he learned while eavesdropping on his former coaches. But while strategy is critical to the game, Scali most loves the relationships he has formed with his players.
“I think the most special thing I get to do throughout the year is when I get to talk to our alumni,” he said. “What that does for me is that it continues that connection that I have with our program.”
Baseball players see the passion Scali has for them. And his selfless, fun-loving personality resonates with all around him. But it’s his baseball knowledge that most impresses fellow coaches.
“His organization is first and foremost, the way he takes his notes and his scouting report,” said Hayden Craig, assistant coach for Piedmont baseball. “He trusts coach Harris and I to make a good plan together offensively, and I think Scali, if he wanted to, could get about any job that he wants because of what he’s done here.”
“His attention to detail is something that I really appreciate as far as the organization of how we run things on a day-to-day basis on the field,” added assistant coach Luke Harris.
Players recognize Scali’s talent and appreciate his mentorship. “First and foremost, he produces quality baseball teams,” said Noah Heatherly, graduate assistant for the team. “But not only that, he produces good young men. He holds us accountable.”
Heatherly has played and coached with Scali since he took over as head coach in 2017. “I think he’s been great for Piedmont, he’s been great for the players, and personally he’s been great for me.”
From that young kid growing up in Long Island with the dream of one day being a two-way star for the Yankees, to now being a star for Piedmont as the head coach, Justin Scali has certainly made his impact. This year Scali accumulated his 100th win as a head coach — a mark that was cherished by everyone around him. Scali was honored before one of the home games this season with a plaque that would be handed to him by this year’s seniors.
“It was overwhelming, it certainly isn’t one person winning games,” Scali said. “But the reaction by our current players and our alumni, I was really just absolutely blown away.”
“He lives, eats, breathes, and sleeps Piedmont baseball,” Craig said. “We are really lucky to have coach Scali.”
“The first thing that comes to mind is leader, that’s what he is to us,” Heatherly said. “I think that he’s meant more to Piedmont baseball than even he realizes and he’s touched the lives of not only a lot of players, but a lot of parents, alumni, and faculty.”
Scali never did become a Yankee, but at Piedmont, he has established himself as a Lion. At this point in his career, it is hard to imagine what Piedmont baseball is without coach Scali, Harris said.
“I think that, absolutely, he optimizes what it is to be a Piedmont Lion.”