SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Baseball is Scott Gleichenaus’ life, but he had a tough choice to make. With a little boy of his own, Ollie, to now watch and take care of, the sport just took up too much time.
The new South Plainfield High School baseball coach left Piscataway after four years in 2018 before his son was born and joined his alma mater, SPHS, as a volunteer coach in 2019. After COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 spring season on the diamond, Gleichenhaus was done.
“Last year with everything shut down in March I had to convince myself that I was done. I made a deal with my wife. If I never coach again, what could the trade-off be, and we worked out where I would get an extended weekend down in Florida every year during spring training. We would fly out on like a Wednesday night and come back on like a Sunday or whatever. I was content,” Gleichenhaus said. “That's what I saw me doing.
“But all of that changed quickly with one phone call.”
That phone call was from SPHS athletic director Kevin McCann about an opening for the head baseball coach for the Tigers. Gleichenhaus scrapped the Florida plan for watching baseball and went back to coaching it.
“It was totally unexpected. I was just enjoying the retired life outside of baseball. Last year the season was cancelled. I just went on as a volunteer two years ago. We had a little boy so I just wanted to spend as much time with him. I went on staff as a volunteer and once we were able to start practicing, I found myself showing up there every day. I couldn't stay away.”
Gleichenhaus is as excited as ever to be coaching at the school he went to and played out and the town and district he still works for as a teacher.
“It's a great feeling. I work in town. I'm from this town. There's a lot of people I grew up with who live here and their kids are going to be coming through the program and people I know and work with too, their kids will be coming up. I just want to just be able to give them the best of what I have to offer as far as a baseball coach, and give it to all these kids the opportunity and do right by the community,” Gleichenhaus said. “I played here, and there's no better feeling than just being able to come back as a coach and stepping out onto the field as a coach. I felt it as an assistant coach. That baseball field was hallowed ground to me. The gym, too, and every time you just walk into the high school, it brings you back, and you just think of all the history, and all the work that we put in there over the years as I was going through the school system. It's just exciting. Now I'm the guy running the baseball program, and I'll give it everything I got.”
Under previous coach Anthony Guida, who stepped down in January to spend more time with family, won the program’s first state Group 3 title and Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship. Gleichenhaus hopes to keep the train moving in the right direction.
“Coach Guida did a great job here. He has the second most career wins behind my old coach, Mr. (Steve) Novak. He brought home a county title and a state title,” Gleichenhaus said. “Not many coaches in the state can say that they have both county and state titles. Coach Guida accomplished what every high school coach dreams of accomplishing. My goal is just to keep this program going in the direction that coach Guida set in motion. I want to keep that going and just do everything in my power to build upon the success.”
Pitchers and catchers began practice on March 26. Full team practices began on the first of April. Games are set to start on April 19 with the NJSIAA on June 1 through June 20 with a full state tournament expected.
South Plainfield opens its season at Iselin Kennedy at 4:00 p.m. on the 19th.
“Words can't describe how excited I am and how excited these kids are. I felt awful for what happened last year. I know if I put myself into the shoes of these kids, you now realize you can't take anything for granted. I think the kids will show up with the proper mindset and the work ethic that they have leftover from last year on top of what they're gonna put forward this year,” Gleichenhaus said. “I think these kids are gonna work twice as hard. They're gonna bust it because they realize how fragile this thing is and how quick it goes. It's like the blink of an eye. We always have that conversation beginning the year about seniors. I always say guys, it's the first day of practice, cherish every moment, because at some point, we're going to be standing here having a conversation that we always have to have when it's time to say goodbye when it's time for the seniors to go. I want to create a memorable experience for these kids, and encourage them to do the best that they could possibly do on and off the baseball field and come together as a group and just enjoy every single second of it. And in the process as a byproduct we should win a few games, which would be nice. The winning and losing thing, if we do things right, we're gonna win. We're not going to win every game but I think losing last year, these guys are fired up, and they're coming in with a purpose.”
After he was hired, Gleichenhaus had a virtual call with players on the team from last season and those that were interested in coming out this spring. Once tryouts and practices arrive, Gleichenhaus will do a ton of evaluating.
“We had about 38 kids and all the coaches show up, and I told them I couldn't be more excited. I'm rejuvenated and just ready to go to work,” the coach said. “I call it I’m ‘re-baseballed'. I'm just ready to get to work. I know some of the kids. I know the kids coming through from the middle school. But, I don't know the kids who were freshmen last year or the kids who were freshmen two years ago when I was an assistant on varsity. There's going to be a lot of evaluating going on, but I have a plan. I'm gonna evaluate every single player from freshman to senior. I want to see what everybody's got and I want to see how everybody measures up against one another. From there, figure out how to move forward. I know we got the talent, it's just a matter of putting the right pieces in place.”
Aside from spending his time mentoring the student-athletes in high school, Gleichenhaus plans to be involved in Little League. Giving back is nothing new for him.
“With the Little League, part of what I want to do, I have a young son, and I've always wanted my son to grow up around baseball,” Gleichenhaus said. “I'm gonna do everything that I can to help out the Little League and help the kids out there and get the high school kids to go down there and do stuff and just to keep the ship going in that direction and keep being successful and building and working to build upon the success.”
Having such an attachment to the school, the town, and the program, Gleichenhaus said he wants to make his former coaches, Novak and Bill Mosca, proud.
“I just want to make coach Mosca proud and coach Novak proud as they see one of their former players coming back to give everything back to this community that they gave me,” Gleichenhaus said. “It's gonna be nice to come back and just get re-acclimated with the program. I want to go through old scorebooks and look at some of the history I missed.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.