Baseball Coach Giarratano and the USF Neighbors

Head coach Nino Giarranto (right) poses before the first pitch at the annual Dante Benedetti Classic. Coach Giarranto has lofty goals for the USF Baseball team – goals that sometimes cause conflict with the university’s neighbors. Photo by Emily Bogden/Foghorn

From Bobby Cox to Lou Piniella and from Ozzie Guillen to Billy Martin, some of the best baseball managers have had hot tempers and have been routinely thrown out of games because of them. Lou Piniella actually ‘stole’ second base, Ozzie Guillen created his own language that sounded a lot like beep beep, you beep beep (with a blurred hand gesture) to the censors, and Billy Martin trademarked the backwards cap and dirt kick on the umpire.

Unlike these beloved managers, Nino Giarratano, USF’s head baseball coach, is no short fused skipper but rather quite the opposite. It serves Giarratano well to be a little more level headed as USF is currently facing a lawsuit from their neighbors in the University Terrace based on the extension of the Harney Science Building proposed to begin construction in 2011. How does this relate to the coach? It doesn’t. Well, at least not directly. But Giarratano is looking at the expansion of Harney as a sort of “test run” for the baseball program’s own expansion plans, and Giarratano has had his own encounters with the neighbors of USF.

Giarratano did not seem surprised to the least after reading about the lawsuit that the University Terrace community has aimed on USF to stop the expansion of Harney Science Building. He briefly looked over an article from the “San Francisco Examiner” about the situation and said with a straight face “12 years ago, when I moved in, I never envisioned that fighting for a parking spot would be that big of a deal.”

Certainly this has become a big deal for the neighbors living in the University Terrace. They are using parking and traffic as their main argument against the expansion of Harney Science Center. But Giarratano looks at it differently, saying that “anytime you live in a university neighborhood, you should expect for the area to grow.”

Giarratano took a drink of his coffee, thought about the situation. “I don’t understand how the people in the neighborhood can think that they live around a university,” he said. “But don’t expect to have the college atmosphere with it.”

The baseball program at USF has had its own share of problems with the neighbors, according to Giarratano. He recalled multiple complaints that neighbors had against his ball club “They didn’t want us to make noise. They didn’t want us to play music. They had so many rules.” He paused “It makes some sense. But the neighborhood needs to understand that when you are in a college area, the college atmosphere needs to be present.”

Giarratano elaborated on the problem between the USF neighbors and the USF baseball program. The restrictions that the neighbors have demanded have taken a toll. For one, the baseball program is not allowed to build lights on its park, which causes a problem for students who need to play at night and go to class during the day. Also, the team can only be on the field between the hours of 9 am and 7 pm. Having to be off the field by 7 pm is only a minimal problem, however, becdause Giarranto said sometimes the team needs to start using the field before 9 am.

According to Giarratano, the baseball program also wants more seating. With only a few bleachers, one can hardly call USF’s field a ballpark. The plan is being pushed back, however, by further delays from other projects that the school has labelled of higher importance. “The field won’t go before the science center.” said Giarratano. “And then the gym needs work done before that too. We already need to walk lightly, though, with the neighbors. So those plans will probably be stalled even more.”

Giarratano began to sit a little more uneasily as the time drew closer to 9 am. He began to look at his phone, probably thinking about the preparations for a game at 11am. He leaned back in his chair. “The rule is the neighbors need to have a view of the field.” Giarratano said. He explained how other construction plans have been stopped because of such complaints. “We tried to put up a shed.” he said “But we couldn’t put it up because it blocked either the field or the view of the neighbors.” Giarratano explained that the neighbors have a large influence over what happens to USF. “There is a 60 day grace period in which neighbors can look at the plans and decide if they accept the new additions,” he said. Giarratano has lived with his family of four in some home or flat on Chabot Terrace for 12 years, moving four times as his family grew and got older. Giarratano spends his working days in his office on the bottom floor of USF’s War Memorial Gym with a room covered wall to wall and floor to ceiling with pictures representing USF baseball’s history and present.

Giarratano now owns his home on Chabot Terrace, unlike many of the other faculty members that simply rent their home from the university. Over the past 12 years Giarratano said that he has found some good and some bad (like the occasional late night party animals of USF) about living in the University Terrace. Overall, however, Giarratano enthusiastically said that he loves living in the terrace because its great for family and great for staying connected to the school.

Nino Giarratano is an average sized man that you probably would not notice walking by in the city at about 5’10 and an average build that does not make him intimidating. But he’s no pushover. As the baseball head coach of USF, Nino Giarratano has to sometimes argue with the umpires to defend his own players. However, when it comes to neighbors, Giarratano said that he has had neighbors walk over to his field to personally complain. When that happens, “we need to diffuse the situation as best as possible.” he said “And that’s why we are really good at anger management.”

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