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Nick Damico named California Area baseball coach

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Pam Luko/For The Valley Independent
Then California assistant coach Nick Damico, right, shown giving instructions to the Trojans during last season, was hired as the team's head coach Wednesday night.
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Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

The California Area baseball team has a new coach, but he's not so new at all.

Nick Damico was hired by the California Area School Board Wednesday night. Damico, a special education teacher in the district, was hired by a 5-0 vote. His salary was set at $3,519.

He succeeds Don Hartman, who recently resigned from the position after 23 years.

Damico is no stranger to the program as he served as pitching coach for the Trojans under Hartman for the last six seasons.

Hartman endorsed both Damico and Cal top assistant Shawn Rice as his replacement when he resigned.

“I obviously wanted to see Shawn or Nick get it,” said Hartman. “Shawn's family demands were too much for him to apply for the head job. Nick's a teacher (at California), so it's a great fit for him.

“I'm really pleased to see someone ‘in the family' get the job.”

Damico said that he originally did not want to apply for the job, but after he thought about it he felt he was the best person for the position.

“I just think I can do the best job for the kids here,” he said. “I've been with them in the gym working out. I guess after I applied I expected to get it and the players expected me to get it.”

California Athletic Director Phil Pergola said that there were no interviews for the job and that under the district's teachers contract, any “qualified” applicant from within the district who applies for a coaching job gets first preference.

“We never had to go outside, of the district,” Pergola said.

Damico said he won't change much from what Hartman had laid out as a coach because, “I don't see a reason to mess with something that has worked so well. Donnie built this and I want to ride it out and keep it going.”

Damico is a 1999 graduate of Connellsville and later played baseball at California University of Pennsylvania.

California has had one of the top baseball programs in the WPIAL under the guidance of Hartman, who won 229 games and lost on 92 in his tenure.

The Trojans won nine section titles and two WPIAL crowns, playing in the championship game four times in all.

Damico said that Rice, who did not apply for the head coaching job, has opted not to return as an assistant.

“I'm going to be looking for assistants pretty soon,” Damico said.

Hartman, who stepped away from being the head coach because of family demands, said that he would be willing to work as a volunteer assistant under Damico.

“I said before I would love to stay involved with the program that means so much to me and now that Nick has been hired, I'm sure he and I will sit down soon and talk about what he needs from me, if anything,” Hartman said.

“Donnie and I talked and absolutely I would love for him to help out in any way he can,” Damico said.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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