Ron Maestri Pulls UNO Jersey Out of Retirement
Privateer legend Ron Maestri pulled his #21 jersey out of retirement today at the Lakefront Arena, where several hundred fans, friends and reporters gathered to hear him announced as the new head baseball coach for the University of New Orleans Privateers.
"I'm not just here to serve baseball. I'm here to serve the University," said the legendary baseball coach, who once led the UNO Privateers to nine NCAA appearances, including a runner-up showing for the 1974 NCAA Division II College World Series, and the 1984 NCAA Division I College World Series, when UNO became the first team from Louisiana to qualify for the series.
"This is going to be fun. We've got a lot of work to do," said the coach affectionately known as "Maes." "We are going to do something and we're going to have fun doing it."
Maestri, who is 72, kept the crowd in stitches as he joked about his age, saying he had an AARP card and he hoped was that the University wouldn't ask him to stay a few years longer when he finally does indeed retire. He also joked that he should have held for the widely publicized position of new head baseball coach Sunny Golloway of Auburn University, whose salary rings in at more than $650,000.
In all, though, the wise-cracking coach stood sanguine, voicing gratitude for his selection and a yearning to restore Privateer Pride and a strong UNO Athletics presence and fan base in the community. He said that he planned to make athletes into students first and ensure they receive their UNO degrees – and promised that members of his team would "act like a player on and off the field."
Athletic Director Derek Morel said that the University is working to create a culture of champions -- champions in the classroom, on the field and in the community. Rebuilding the UNO baseball program calls for a leader in all arenas, he said, and in the end, he knew who he needed.
As head coach, Maestri will mastermind recruiting for the baseball program, hold top managerial responsibilities and reposition the team and program as the Privateers strive for glory and championships.
"I'm back because I believe in Dr. Fos's administration and Derek and what they want to do," said Maestri.
"I almost fell out my chair," at the job offer, he cracked.
"I'm excited to get out there," the legendary coach said to applause. "I'm going to give you guys the best that I've got."