By Riley Smith (JMU Class of 16)
Harrisonburg Little League Association has been around since 2000, the same year that current Coach Will Zampini moved to Harrisonburg. Zampini has coached and volunteered for HLLA for the past 5 years, starting in t-ball then working his way up to farm league, and now he is currently coaching in the minors. Zampini is only 29 years old, but he has had a ton of baseball experience, starting off right here with HLLA.
“It was always so much fun playing in HLLA and playing with your friends. And when you got to all-stars, you got to travel with other guys and play in different places. When we were in junior league, we actually won the state championship and that banner is the only one up on the clubhouse till this day,” said Zampini.
Zampini’s baseball success did not stop in HLLA. After he finished senior league in HLLA, he played 4 years at Harrisonburg High School before playing college baseball at Baltimore Community College. He pitched for one year at BCCC before having to come back home to Harrisonburg.
“I had some shoulder issues, I was going to go back. But, then, I really started to have some problems with my shoulder,” said Zampini.
Zampini needed surgery on his rotator cuff before he could even think about pitching again. Unfortunately, the injury ended his baseball career.
Since Zampini could no longer play the game, he decided to volunteer for HLLA as a coach. Dean Warlitner, HLLA president, welcomed him back with open arms.
“Dean coached while I played. He was the coach of the Phillies at that time and I was on the Giants. He will still say until this day that we never beat them. But, I know we did. I’ve known Dean since I was 12 or 13 years old,” said Zampini.
Zampini just could not stay away from the game.
“Being able to see those kids develop is a big part of why I volunteer. Seeing how they progress with the season is a huge part of it. It is a gratifying selfish reason, but I can’t help it”
“I have a baseball need. I need baseball. I love the game. Now that I can’t play anymore, coaching is my way to get my fix.”
Zampini may have volunteered for himself initially, but since then, he has realized how much his volunteering matters.
“Especially now that I have been coaching for a few years, I see kids that have come up in tough home situations like I did,” said Zampini.
Growing up, Zampini hated school. His mother actually made a deal with him when he was a little kid playing for HLLA. She said, “if you don’t go to school, then, you can’t play baseball.” According to Zampini, if not for baseball, he wouldn’t have ever gone to college. Zampini volunteers because he sees himself as some of these kids, but he also loves the satisfaction of seeing his players develop over time.
“Being able to see those kids develop is a big part of why I volunteer. Seeing how they progress with the season is a huge part of it. It is a gratifying selfish reason, but I can’t help it,” said Zampini.
Zampini said he would love to see HLLA grow.
“When I say that, you look around Harrisonburg and there are a ton of kids. But, if you look at the numbers, we don’t have that many kids that are playing. We want to pull some of the great athletes in the area to us. And, we want to be competitive in the all-star games against the county. We aren’t quite as competitive as we used to be,” said Zampini.
But before it can get bigger, HLLA needs more volunteers like Zampini.
“Even if it's just a parent that knows nothing about the game, but will come out on the field during a practice as an extra set of hands to show where the kids need to be, it’s so beneficial to be able to have those. If we could get some more people that really had a strong desire to come out and help, that would be absolutely amazing,” said Zampini.
Zampini is a perfect example of what Harrisonburg Little League is looking for, but he understands that not every volunteer will love baseball as much as he does. Like he stated earlier, HLLA needs more “sets of hands” to help this league become what it can be. And, coach Zampini is dreaming big. Like he said, there are lots of talents in Harrisonburg. With a little bit of help, coach Zampini would love to bring another state championship to Harrisonburg like he did as a HLLA player.
HLLA Story is an official blog site of the Harrisonburg Little League Association. All contents are managed by the Bluestone Communications, a student-run public relations agency at James Madison University. Please contact Kevin Leaven (firstname.lastname@example.org), an account executive of the Bluestone Communications., if you have any questions about the blog or the stories.