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Vig knows the ballpark well

Tony Vigliotti brings knowledge and experience to Pony fastpitch softball

 

March 19, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Tony Vigliotti is the new head girls fastpitch softball coach at Havre High. Vigliotti has been around games that involve a bat, a ball and a glove his entire life. He played and coached American Legion baseball, has been a longtime umpire at the legion level, and has played men's fastpitch softball most of his adult life. So, he said, taking the head coach job of the Blue Ponies was a natural fit for him and one he's excited about. For more on the HHS girls softball team, see Thursday's Havre Daily News.

Some people are just meant to be on the diamond, whether it's as a player or a coach, an umpire, whatever.

Whether it's fastpitch softball or baseball, Tony Vigliotti is one of those guys and that's what makes him a perfect fit as head coach of the Havre High softball team.

For decades, Vigliotti has been active in both baseball and softball. It started as a legion player in Scobey, where he was part of two Class B state championship teams in the 1980s. After his playing days, he became a fixture at legion baseball games in Havre as an umpire. On top of that, he also served as an assistant coach for the Havre North Stars under multiple head coaches.

"I grew up around the ballpark," Vigliotti said. "So being around the ballpark is part of who I am. I spent 25 years umpiring legion baseball and about 15 years of that coaching and about four years with the North Stars program with Micky and Danny Wirtzberger. I just haven't been at the ballpark much the past few years and I kind of got the itch to go back. "

That itch is what caused Vigliotti to apply for the Blue Pony softball job when it came open after last spring came to a close. And this past winter, he accepted the job.

"I am happy to be back at the ballpark," Vigliotti said. "When I was growing up, if I wanted to see my dad, it was at a ballpark. And my kids were the same way. It's part of who I am, part of my DNA I think. I wanted to get back to that, didn't know it would be the softball field, but the job opened up and I was fortunate enough to get it."

The job Vigliotti got was head coach of the Blue Ponies, who are in their second decade of playing softball. Havre has yet to win a state championship or play for one, but the Ponies have consistently qualified for the Class A state tournament and won games in 2014 and 2015. Havre has also had some really talented players over the years, such as Kelsey and Karly Evans, Rachel Majerus, Paige Henderson, Dani Wagner and Jacey McDonald to name a few.

Yet, the Ponies have had a tough time beating the elite teams in Class A softball, teams like Belgrade and in the Central A, Lewistown.

Of course, one of the keys to winning in softball and baseball, too, is pitching. It's vital in both sports, but in softball, the picture can take on a greater burden and is able to pitch more consecutive games. That makes a dominating pitcher extremely valuable and while Havre has had some good hurlers, it hasn't found the one yet.

"In softball, you have to have pitching. You need to have a dominant pitcher," Vigliotti said. "It seems like the teams that are winning on a consistent basis have great pitching. We have been fortunate to have Bob Evans around since it started and he has been working with pitchers for years and I got involved, so we are trying to develop pitchers. We have a good group of young kids right now that are working towards that."

Having one pitcher that can dominate a game or a tournament is one key difference between baseball and softball. Other than that, Vigliotti said the two sports are very similar.

"I think a lot is similar, you have to be able to catch, you have to be able to throw," Vigliotti said. "A lot of things translate over."

Vigliotti also said his transition to coaching softball is being helped by his staff which includes former head coach Bob Evans, who has been an assistant in recent years and Dave Peterson. Vigliotti also said he has gotten pitching advice from local fastpitch legend Gary Evans.

"Bob, who I have known since I was a kid, is going to be part of the staff," Vigliotti said. "Dave, I have also known him for a long time, he will be, too. We all kind of think alike. We have a few differences but I think that will be good for the program as well. And being able to lean on my good friend Gary Evans has been a blessing. He's probably one of the best to lean on, and he has helped me a lot these past four, five months."

Having a good relationship with the coaching staff is important, but having a good rapport with the players is even more important.

"It will be an adjustment being around that many teenage girls at one time," Vigliotti said. "But they have been tremendous and they have really accepted me."

After Havre making regular trips to the state tournament, Vigliotti will be looking to help the Ponies take the next step and compete for championships, both at the conference and state levels. And as soon as the weather cooperates, that's exactly what he and the Ponies will do.

"We want to build a program," Vigliotti said. "We want to be able to compete for championships down the road."

 

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