After a successful five-year stint as head baseball coach at Riverside-Brookfield High School, Mike Ziroli is coming back home. Ziroli, a 1996 Lyons Township graduate, notified RB at the end of the school year that he won’t return in order to accept a counselor position at Lyons Township.
“Both schools have been very supportive of my decision,” Ziroli said. “It was an emotional, difficult decision for me because I had a wonderful experience at RB. I made great connections with the kids, my colleagues and the entire community. LT is one of the few schools I would leave RB for another opportunity.”
Ziroli enjoyed tremendous success at RB, guiding the Bulldogs to a 120-54-2 overall record under his watch, which consisted of two seasons as the Bulldogs’ sophomore skipper and three more as the varsity head coach. On the varsity level from 2008-2010, Ziroli coached the Bulldogs to a pair of Metro Suburban Conference championships and three regional titles. He also helped many of his players earn scholarships to play college baseball.
“When I started coaching [at RB] the main objective was to have our players gain a fundamentally sound approach to the game, while working hard and having fun,” Ziroli said. “We had three solid seasons with success in the conference and the postseason, so I think we met our goals.”
This year the Bulldogs went 22-13-2 overall and finished second (12-3 record) in conference behind Illiana Christian. After a sluggish 1-7-2 start, RB won 18 of its final 22 regular season games buoyed by the calm, poised leadership of Ziroli. The Bulldogs defeated St. Joseph 6-4 in a regional championship meeting before Nazareth ended RB’s season 6-1 in a sectional final.
Alex Cebular, Alex Brown, Matt Scott, Matt Kenahan and Vito DeRango were all-conference selections, while 12 Bulldogs earned all-conference academic awards. Brown (8-3, 1.92 ERA, 142 strikeouts) and Scott (hit .509, 41 RBI) had outstanding senior campaigns.
Ziroli also welcomed in varsity assistant newcomers Dallas Till and Mark Ruge.
“It’s not my decision, but I definitely recommend Dallas as the next head coach for RB,” Ziroli said. “When I coached against him [Till coached at Elmwood Park] and with him at RB, Dallas has always been a great coach.”
While his replacement is still undetermined, Ziroli is looking forward to his return engagement at LT.
“It’s a great feeling coming back,” said Ziroli. “LT has a rich tradition academically and athletically.”
Ziroli played a part in the Lions’ rich baseball tradition as a senior pitcher in 1996. He played a key role in leading the Lions to a third-place finish at state.
After high school, Ziroli continued playing baseball at Creighton and Eastern Illinois followed by professional stops all over the. He spent time playing for the Windy City Thunderbolts, Kalamazoo Kings, Richmond Roosters, Cariparma Parma (Italy) and Cartagena Indios (Colombia, South America) where he played with Los Angeles Dodgers reliever George Sherrill. Although Tommy John surgery curtailed Ziroli’s pro career, the soft-spoken man with American-Italian dual citizenship has stayed around the game via coaching.
“My contract prohibits me from coaching at LT,” Ziroli said, “so next year is kind of open. I’d like to get back into coaching soon. Once I get the lay of the land at LT, I’ll know more about the future.”
Ziroli shares a good relationship with LT head baseball coach George Ushela. The Lions return a talented group next spring led by Spencer Mahoney, Brian Rodemoyer and Connor Cuff.
In the interim, Ziroli is enjoying time with his wife, Stephanie, and their two young kids.
“Of course, coaching my kids’ T-ball teams is another option,” Ziroli said, laughing.