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Charlie Cerrone mows down milestone baseball win at Centennial

When you have spent as much time on a baseball diamond as Charlie Cerrone has, you are more than a coach.

You are more like a public servant who hits fungoes.

You build character, mold young men, mow the field. Sometimes you mow all the fields. In addition to coaching the varsity at Centennial High since the school opened in 1999, Cerrone also teaches physical education and once taught a course in horticulture and landscape management. That was when he mowed all the fields.

“No dandelions in our infield — just gophers in the outfield,” he says with a chuckle.

When you have been around as long as Charlie Cerrone has, you also win a lot of ballgames. Because if you don’t, they’ll usually find somebody else to mow the grass.

Cerrone recently won his 500th game. Only three other coaches have won that many in Nevada, including Pahranagat Valley’s Brad Loveday, who notched his 500th the same week Cerrone achieved the milestone.

“I don’t know if I can last that long,” Cerrone, 57, said about catching Ron McNutt, who won 783 games at Carson and Galena. “But I will tell you this: I’m 1-0 against McNutt. In 2003, we played them in the state tournament, and we beat them.”

Cerrone let loose another self-deprecating chuckle. When it comes to blowing his own horn, an anecdote about having once beaten Ron McNutt is about all you’re going to get.

The road to 500

Cerrone grew up on Long Island in New York, where he played baseball in high school. His playing career ended after a season at the University of Buffalo, where he was a center fielder.

He said he never envisioned winning one game as a Nevada high school baseball coach, much less 500. His parents retired to Las Vegas after his sister had moved here. Cerrone was coaching in New York but not teaching, so he enrolled at UNLV to acquire a certificate.

“I had every intention of going back to New York, but I student-taught out here, got a job right away, just loved it,” he said.

He was the baseball coach at Palo Verde, where he coached Brandon Kintzler, who still is pitching in the big leagues, before building another program from scratch at Centennial.

“I had worked for Carol Leavitt at Valley High, and when Carol got (principal at) Centennial, I went back to work for her,” Cerrone said about career moves that turned out well for both.

In 2009, Leavitt was inducted into the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame, seven years after the football stadium at Centennial was named for her. Cerrone still is mowing the baseball diamond and keeping dandelions from growing upon it.

Chasing the big one

“The joke around campus is I’m just going to die on the mower one day,” he said about how long he planned to coach. “I still have the energy to do it, so I’m going to keep going as long as I feel that way.”

Having momentarily stalled at 501 wins — one of Cerrone’s players tested positive for COVID-19, and though it was a false reading, the Bulldogs are quarantined until Monday — it seemed a good time to ask about some of his more memorable victories.

“There are so many highlights that you can’t just pick out one,” said the baseball man who continues to run a tight, disciplined ship, though that style no longer resonates. “Some of the kids who liked it the least, they come back later and tell me they’re still 15 minutes early wherever they go, because that’s what we require.”

Centennial has been state runner-up four times since Cerrone began hitting fungoes. While he says that winning state is always the goal, it’s more about the process of building character and molding young men.

“I always tell them if you trust the process, the success will come. One day we’ll have the right chemistry and the right pitching and the right breaks,” Charlie Cerrone says matter of factly, not wistfully. “If it happens, it happens.

“If it doesn’t, I’ve had a million phenomenal memories.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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