For the first time since the mid-90's, the Rockport varsity baseball program will have a new skipper in the dugout.
John Parisi, the school's varsity baseball coach since 1997 and Athletic Director for the last three school years, has stepped down from his post as baseball coach and will be focusing solely on his AD duties.
"This was predetermined going into the season, I wanted to coach one more season so I could focus more on the AD side of the job, my family and leave on my terms," Parisi said. "It's been a special 24 seasons and it's gone by so fast. I'm lucky I always had players who bought into the system and a good support system at home and at the school."
Parisi's final season ended up being an extra special one as the Vikings turned in the deepest tournament run in program history this spring, reaching the Division 4 North Finals for the first time after picking up three tournament wins.
The 2021 version of the Vikings played the type of game one would expect from a Parisi coached Rockport team. They were fundamentally sound, versatile and played well in every facet of the game, most notably its pitching staff highlighted by three senior All-Stars.
"The kids stepped up this year," Parisi said. "They didn't know what was happening until after the final game but they're a special group that played their best ball when it mattered most. They put a nice little exclamation point on the end."
Coaching at Rockport, Parisi was always faced with a numbers disadvantage as it's the smallest Cape Ann League school by a long shot. The Vikings, however, could not be taken lightly by any opponent, even the largest schools in the league.
Thanks to a focus on the fundamentals and an ability to adapt and mold his squad to play the style that best suited his players, Parisi was able to find plenty of success in his tenure. His Rockport teams reached the sectional semifinals five times in his career and were always a tough out against any opponent, especially at Evans Field.
Even if the team's record did not stand out, the Vikings were still a highly competitive team under Parisi as he got the most out of his talent.
"It was all about trying kids in a lot of different spots in the preseason and in game situations to see what kind of team we would be," Parisi said. "We don't always have a lot of depth in Rockport so we had to be versatile and it led to some great seasons. Even some of the years when we only won a few games were fun to coach because the team bought in and always put in the hard work to become better baseball players. That's what high school sports are all about."
Parisi has coached so many different styles in his tenure. There was the 2017 team, which featured his son James, an All-Star pitcher and first baseman, that could mash the ball all over the ball park. The 2002 squad which featured a catcher in Brent Currier that went on to play Division 1 college ball. Other teams relied on small ball and starting pitching while others had standout pitching rotations with multiple aces. Parisi referred to the 2021 squad as a combination of those attributes as they could win games in many different ways.
Parisi was also quick to credit his assistant coaches and captains along the way. He worked with several sub varsity coaches, but Larry Burnham has been a stabilizing force with the junior varsity program for the last decade and a half. Bruce Emerson and Phil Tanson have served as his assistants over the last several seasons while many former players have served time as assistant coaches under their former high school coach.
"I can't say enough about my staff," Parisi said. "We were always on the same page and we could always communicate with each other if we had a disagreement about a play or a situation and it's great to have that kind of trust. And I always asked a lot of my captains, who rose to the occasion when we needed them to."
The now former Vikings coach also praised former Athletic Directors Steve Rowell, who hired Parisi as a 24-year old and Mary Ryan along with colleague Dave Curley, another long time head coach that retired following the fall 2020 season. Parisi played for Curley as a high school soccer player and served as his assistant coach at one time. Curley also served as Parisi's assistant coach when he coached Gloucester hockey in the early 2000's.
He also thanked his family in wife Dianne, a former Rockport softball coach that also knows her way around the diamond, daughter Kayla and son James for their support throughout his tenure.
The focus now for Parisi is getting ready for the fall 2021 season for Rockport Athletics.
"I'm definitely going to miss it," Parisi said. "But now I'm going to be more involved on the admin side and I have a little more time to focus on my family including two grandkids at home. It never slows down, but it's been an absolute blast and I wouldn't change a thing."