The pupil has become the teacher for the East Union baseball program.
Earlier this week, athletic director J.J. Ramirez announced the hiring of 1994 alumnus Gene Ballardo to lead the Lancers’ baseball club. Ballardo takes over for longtime coach Dan Triglia, who quietly resigned following the 2018 spring season.
“This is more than a job to me,” Ballardo said. “This means so much, and I am passionate about the school and about baseball. To come back to my alma mater, I am just truly grateful and excited for this great opportunity.”
Triglia remains at East Union as an economics and social studies teacher. After taking over for Darrell Hardcastle in 2000, he led East Union to two Valley Oak League co-championships, two Sac-Joaquin Section final-round appearances and compiled a 237-221-2 record in 19 years.
“Coach T is a true professional,” Ramirez said. “He is a low-key guy who doesn’t like the attention — he gives it to the kids and the coaches. I’m truly going to miss him as a mentor to myself, and I know the kids will miss him, too.”
Ballardo was coached by Triglia in the lower levels as a freshman and went on to earn all-state honors in both football and baseball.
Decades later, he rivaled Triglia and his alma mater as head coach of the Manteca baseball team from 2009-2013. The Buffaloes went 80-41 and made four postseason appearances in Ballardo’s five years there. They made the SJS Division IV final in 2011 and lost to VOL foe Oakdale, but to get to that point the Buffs edged out East Union in a thrilling best-of-three semifinal series in which all three games was decided by a run.
“My first year at Manteca I was just learning on the fly,” Ballardo said. “As far as ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’, I was confident with that part of the game, but head coaching is so much more than that. This time around I feel it’s night and day. I’m more sure about how to deal with certain things that a head coach has to deal with day in and day out.”
Ballardo’s passion for coaching didn’t wane after his stint ended at Manteca.
Midway through the 2014 season, he drove past East Union and noticed the ballclub was in the middle of a game. Ballardo stopped by to watch and afterward offered his services to Triglia as an assistant. He joined the coaching staff that year and remained on board since.
“I can’t say enough about Coach T,” Ballardo said. “He’s a very patient man and he just let me coach right away. I think very highly of him, and I learned a lot by just watching how he interacts with the kids and lets his coaches coach. I am so grateful to him.”
Ramirez said Triglia recommended Ballardo to be his replacement.
“Gene is in the same mold as Coach T — soft spoken and very patient,” Ramirez said. “He played the game at a very high level and was highly recommended by a lot of people like (former Delta College) coach Pat Doyle. He’s real good with the kids and has run clinics at Northgate Little League, so he does a lot for the community. Being an alumnus of East Union is a plus, and it’s great that we can bring him back to the East Union family.”
Ballardo is eager to get back to work.
The Lancers finished 10-12 this past spring and 7-7 in the competitive VOL.
“I believe we have a good group of kids returning, and our program is shaping up the way I want it to,” Ballardo said. “I can’t wait to get after it in the beginning of September.”