Rob Monaco shares his journey to coaching Oradell Little League Baseball


Rob Monaco's fondest memories of playing baseball were when he lived in Butler, New Jersey, and played in the Tri-Boro Little League. Struggling to learn the fundamentals of the game, it took one coach in John Tedeschi to turn the tables around for Monaco.

"I was probably 11 years-old when one of the coaches saw me struggling and he(John Tedeschi) changed my life, Rob Monaco explained." "He said to me I'm going to teach you how to bunt and I did."

By the time Monaco reached Butler High School, he was not only playing baseball but soccer and running track. Monaco reflected on how Tedeschi's coaching lessons resulted in his self-confidence going through the roof.

More importantly, Monaco stated the support he and his brother received from their parents while growing up. "My parents' taught a  strong work ethic and allowed us to believe that anything is possible as long as you earn it."

Going on to attend and graduate from the Ramapo College of New Jersey, Monaco's first job out of college in 1994 occurred with CNBC/America's Talking Network that eventually became MSNBC. By October of that year, Monaco landed at Fox News. Monaco said he still followed local players throughout that time as Doug Cinella, Billy Sample, and Mike Rozema despite not being fully involved in baseball.

Married to his wife Lara and the father of two boys(James and Jack) at the time, the Monaco family lived in Hackensack, where Monaco observed and became curious about Little League again due to his son James playing tee-ball. In 2008 the Monaco family packed up and moved to Oradell. Initially not involved with the Oradell Little League, Monaco started volunteering as an assistant coach in 2009. Monaco became a father again that same year as he and his wife Lara welcomed twin sons Dean and Danny.

"I just wanted to help out when the coaches needed a hand and asked a good friend in town, Ted Hughes, what I could do to make a difference in youth sports and baseball especially and he said volunteer and make your voice heard," Rob Monaco described. "He was involved in a lot of sports around town, and I loved Ted's approach with the kids."

"He even coached Jack(Monaco) in wrestling one year and he was just the most motivating guy I ever saw work so I felt like I needed to be more like that, motivating, energetic and active for the kids." "He passed away and it was a big blow to the community, but he was the guy who told me you got to be there for these kids and have to teach them everything to get them better."

An assistant coach for the rec and travel teams from 2009 to 2014, Rob Monaco moved up the ladder in 2015, becoming the head coach of the Big Jim's rec team, American League Commissioner(11-12u), an assistant coach for 12u travel.

In 2016 Monaco held the joint position of Tee-Ball Commissioner with Leon Grebla as well as coaching tee-ball. Utilizing creativity and technical skills, Monaco created the website in 2017. However, the most fulfilling achievement for Rob Monaco was in 2018 when he became the head coach of the Oradell Gold. Monaco has also held Media Liaison and Webmaster roles and re-opened a snack stand for a short time to help raise funds for the field maintenance.

"I even take pictures for the Oradell Little League, Rob Monaco remarked. "I always donate to the families because as far as I am concerned, they want to see themselves these kids want to see themselves play and the parents' enjoy it."

"When I was commissioner of tee-ball we brought the River Dell Hawk to opening day and we did that for three years." "We made it special for the kids, when I was commissioner for the 12U teams we had five teams' at that time and made it a big celebration at the end."

"We did a big team photo of both teams at the championship game when it was over and it was about trying to make it about fun and family." "We started the website about three to four years ago and before it was just one page where you would just sign up and I said to Mike Pannella(President of Oradell Little League at that time) we can make this exciting for the families where they could get all their information."

"They can see their kids on the site, there are articles and videos and making it a family event." "It's a business but we're a small town so everyone knows each other so if you see a little tournament on the website you are going to go up to a friend and I say the schedule today and we're playing you guys." It's the small-town USA; that's what we are and we have to promote these players."

Despite Oradell Gold not winning a championship, Rob Monaco pointed out his love for rooting for the underdog all stemming from his early struggles in the game. For Rob Monaco it was much bigger than the wins and losses but teaching the fundamentals and learning how to accept defeat and learn from it.

"The coaches here are great, but amongst some, there is the mentality to win at all costs, and that's not a bad thing," Rob Monaco stated.  I always felt that you needed to teach a kid how to lose and to be a gracious loser and I only say that because it is a positive way of letting them learn what it's like to lose, and then you build off that and try to get the win."

"Teaching them after a  play was botched, or they struck out and then asking 'why did it happen? Let's work on that a little bit and try to build back that confidence level." "You know that you are going to fail in this game and it's very difficult but we're going to learn how to win individually as well as together and that's what I started to do."

Here are a couple of testimonials from parents and players on Rob Monaco's impact during his time coaching for the past 12 years.

Michelle Roux on her son Gavin playing for Oradell Gold, "My son joined the  Gold team when it was first formed by Coach Monaco, he was invited to the team because he didn't make the town travel baseball team after participating in tryouts." "He was given a chance that he wouldn't have been given otherwise."

"Oradell Gold was created for kids who were cut or not allowed to play on the "A" team." "Being a part of Gold allowed my son to grow as a baseball player, but more importantly, his love and appreciation for the game grew." He was able to explore other positions and strengthen his ability to pitch. He learned about supporting your teammates and being a leader."

Susan Chambers, whose son Colin played on the 2014 Rec team, "Player development and attitude were key components of Rob's coaching, both on and off the field." "On the field he gave all the players the opportunity to play different positions and allowed them to explore their individual interests."

"Off the field, he sent post-game e-mail's mentioning each player and their specific contributions to the game." "Knowing that confidence-building played a significant role in player development, Rob demonstrated that maintaining a positive attitude, learning from the negatives, and having fun is what it's all about."

Nicole Alvarez, whose son Anthony played on the 2015 Travel and Rec teams, "Rob taught my son that he was better than he thought and to never give up." "Rob believed in my child when he didn't believe in himself." He taught my son the importance of losing and winning and to strive to work harder and be better. My son, now a freshman in college, was lucky to have Rob as a coach and feel the excitement of the game and being part of a team.

On playing for the 2015 Rec Team, Anthony Alvarez, "Mr. Monaco is the best coach that I ever had and it has nothing to do with the skills he helped me develop on the field." "Mr. Monaco has always pushed for his team to, above all else, have fun." At the end of the day, it's just a game meant for kids to have fun.

"I'll always remember running out onto the field while Mr. Monaco played "The Phoenix" by Fall Out Boy, and let me tell you, we felt like the coolest kids on the planet." "These are the kind of memories that we should look back on when we think of playing baseball as kids, not whether we won or lost and for that reason and many more. I want to thank Mr. Monaco for always making the game of baseball fun and memorable for everyone.

Christina Costa, whose son Andrew played on the 2018 Rec Team, "Andrew was a rec player with little experience and short attention span." "My husband and I thought this would be a one-season sport for him as all the other boys were more experienced and knew how to play the game." Andrew finished his 4th year of rec ball this spring due to Rob's patience and ability to make learning the game fun and exciting.

"Rob created an atmosphere on the team where each young player built each other up and never made a player defined by their abilities or inabilities." "He taught Andrew what it was like to be on a team and to feel safe with a coach even though Andrew's skills were not as clearly as strong as the other boys."

"Rob always took the time to work with Andrew on his skills and really helped him gain the confidence he needed to improve." "It takes a tremendous amount of patience to repeatedly work on a basic skill as a player and Rob displayed this patience with Andrew."

"When Andrew finally connected with the ball and ran to first, Rob's first reaction was one of pure joy and excitement for my son." "I wish I could have bottled up Andrew's pride and joy when he got a high five from Rob, I would love to be able to open that bottle from time to time for my son to relive that moment."

Once the 2021 Little League season concluded, Rob Monaco made the difficult decision to step away from coaching. On the Oradell Gold team, Monaco coached alongside Nick Roux, Neil Quartaro, and Charles Jung. Coaches that Monaco worked with in the past were Leon Grebla, Andy Oddo, Keith Racine, Fred Bosco, Carlos Alvarez, Dave Bretan, Joel Wittkamp, John Henderson and Dennis Moschella among others.

"It's really hard; I would coach these kids for the rest of my life, but the reality was as far as the program itself, Oradell Gold was here for you to gain your confidence and be a better person," Rob Monaco explained. "This is actually a really cute story, his name is Phoenix, and he came to my house with his parents last year and said, listen, coach, I'm not going to play baseball for (Oradell)Gold anymore."

"He decided to play soccer and I said you should Phoenix, it's not about me telling you have to play for me for the rest of your life." "He pitched for me, he would have never done probably with any other coach because I gave him an opportunity to do it."

Phoenix Yu on playing for Oradell Gold, "Coach Monaco was tough sometimes but never negative and always positive." "He was the first coach to really give me a chance which helped me believe that other coaches might too, so I wasn't afraid to try soccer instead." He helped me gain confidence through baseball to help me push forward in tough times, even in soccer, and taught me never to give up.

Most important these days for Rob Monaco are spending time with his wife Lara and four sons. James(19) a freshman at Alvernia University and committed to baseball, Jack(17) a senior at River Dell High School and swimmer, twin sons Dean(12) and (Danny) both on the Oradell Gold team and wrestlers on the River Dell Junior Hawks.

Rob Monaco described the support from his wife Lara, "She is a star, the trooper in the house and boys' Mom." "She's right there front and center, extremely supportive and loves watching the boys' play and comes out for the (Oradell) Gold games." She knows the game now, the kids, and the talents and confidence of all these kids.

In closing Rob Monaco offered this advice for coaches who either want to break into the coaching ranks or are coaching currently, "My philosophy has always been keep them playing and confident and they'll always come back and continue playing the game." "Don't be there for yourself, be there for them and for the kids and I was always there for my kids."

"At the end of the day you are volunteering, a coach and that's a service and you have to serve the community so you have to learn how to balance and make sure your kid gets his spot while making sure the other 11 get theirs too." "That means communicating with the parents when they're unhappy or happy, talking to the coaches and making sure you are all on the same page about what you want out of a season."

"For any new coach coming in, you have to have patience and it's the hardest thing to do with an underdeveloped team." "You have to do it because I swear to God at the end of the day when you see that kid gets a hit, make the catch or strike a kid out and you have been working toward that you have won."

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