Eighteen years later, he feels whole and is walking away – with 226 wins – as one of the winningest head coaches in the city in recent memory.
“That was my one goal,” he told BQE Media on Friday. “Obviously you want to make sure you coach the right way with kidsf, but that was my one goal. I’m going to say I accomplished that.”
Melito, who says he came to this decision last year, helped the Crusaders turn out their first pair of MLB Draft picks in 2017, with Quentin Holmes going in the second round at 64th overall to the Cleveland Indians and Charlie Neuweiler being selected in round five by the Kansas City Royals.
Both Holmes and Neuweiler are currently in the minors at the rookie ball level.
A previous McClancy standout, Danny Lopez reached as far as Triple A after playing at Pittsburgh University before being drafted in the 17th round by the Seattle Mariners in 2010. Melito’s boys have also gone to the CHSAA Final Four for four consecutive seasons prior to his exit.
But the accolades Melito holds in especially high regard are off the field. He is immensely proud of the people his players have become, whether or not they scratched the surface of minor league baseball upon graduating high school.
“I know we look at accomplishments on the field, but I think the people, the kids who’ve become men, they come back with their families now,” Melito said. “That’s been a real thrill.”
He adds that he stays in contact with a lot of them, which was part of the allure in playing for Melito.
“The one good thing they get out of playing for me is that I’ll always be there for them for the rest of their lives,” he said. “Anything they need, they know who to call. That’s because they buy in and work hard, and I figure if they do that, they deserve every piece of attention I could give them later on.”
He also praised his staff for the loyalty displayed throughout much of his run. Assistant coach Michael Barnwell and junior varsity coach Joseph Manzione have been with Melito all 18 years.
Gene McDonald coached with Melito for 16 years. Gary Miret, who is also an attorney, has been with the Crusaders for 13 years. Robert Mongiori is a former player who returned to coach, and the man Melito turns the varsity program over to, Thomas Cloonen, has been with McClancy for five years and is also a former player under Melito.
“They’re loyal, you rarely have guys stay with you your entire career,” he said. “They get as much of the credit as I do, the athletic director and principal, too. It’s like a big family, it really is.”
With Cloonen assuming the leadership position moving forward, Melito says he sees a great young coach who understands that education comes before anything, and a young exciting program coming up from the junior varsity level.
“I don’t know if he’s getting two kids drafted in the same year, but I would never put that pressure on him,” he said with a laugh.
“I think the future is very bright, I’m going to say better than it has been,” Melito said. “He’s a great young coach and the players respect him. I’m going to stay out of his way.
“He knows he could lean on me as an advisor, but I think it’s very important to let the new head coach and the new staff let them do their thing without looking over their shoulder,” he added.