SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - - Coach Don Panzarella was honored with a proclamation at Monday’s Borough Council meeting for making New Jersey state history with a record number of wins throughout his 37-year career as Head Varsity Softball Coach for South Plainfield High School.
“The Borough of South Plainfield takes immense pride in applauding High School Coach Don Panzarella for achieving the New Jersey softball number of wins record coming in at 744 out of 948 games as of May 2018 and still going strong,” stated Mayor Matthew Anesh as he read the proclamation. “May his spirit and determination for success carry him well as he continues onto many more well-deserved victories.”
The mayor went on to congratulate Panzarella with gratitude for his dedication to sportsmanship, personal growth, attention to detail and team unity, noting his accomplishments in developing an extraordinary softball program that reflects his passion for the sport and dedication to the team.
“We hereby further extend our heartfelt appreciation for bringing such pride to our community,” concluded Anesh. “And I know the coach would say he could not have done it over the years without bringing with him a myriad of assistant coaches and also the great talent that he helped cultivate, so I’d like to invite everyone up here to accept this proclamation.”
“I want to thank you for honoring me,” said Panzarella. “It’s not just about me. It’s about the kids I’ve had. It’s about the people that coach with me. And it’s about South Plainfield and putting us on the map.”
On April 30th, the South Plainfield Lady Tigers’ 3-2 victory over Iselin Kennedy High School, gave Panzarella the 744th win of his career, breaking the New Jersey state record for number of wins as a coach. Before the state history-making win, Panzarella shared the record with Middletown South Head Coach Tom Erbig.
Among those who Panzarella thanked after accepting the proclamation were the many assistant coaches who have been with him over the years, contributing to the honor. In particular, he mentioned his son, Nick Panzarella, who has been an Assistant Varsity Softball Coach for over nine years, and his wife, Valerie Panzarella, who has stood beside him his entire career.
“This is about everyone who put all the hard work into it to make me as good as I have been and my wife who’s put up with me for 37 years,” added Panzarella. “I’d like to thank everyone.”
“I don’t think you’d find a more dedicated, hardworking man and coach then my husband,” said Valerie Panzarella. “It’s in his heart and soul. It means a lot to him.”
The varsity high school softball team joined Panzarella with Assistant Varsity Coaches Joseph Blondo and Nick Panzarella as well as Junior Varsity Volunteer Assistant Cody Decker, to sit at the helm of Council for photos.
“He’s a great coach,” said Senior MaKayla Sosa, who plays shortstop and who’s skills contributed to Panzarella’s 744th victory, scoring the first run of the infamous game. “He’s been doing it a long time so he knows what he’s doing and he’s always encouraging us and making sure we’re better players.”
“This is a really great honor,” said Third Basemen, Sophomore Cameron Marks. “He wants us to play our best, so we try to perform for him.”
‘Donny Softball,’ as Panzarella has been affectionately nicknamed, started off his career in South Plainfield as the High School’s Varsity Softball Coach in 1982 with a 14-8 record, and has never had a losing season. Dedicating himself to the sport and to the players, Panzarella has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“He comes out every day with a lot of energy, motivating us to be our best,” added Danielle DeCarlo, Sophomore and First Basemen. “It’s great to have a coach like him.”
Practicing year round to ensure success, Panzarella and his team dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the sport, striving to be their best.
“I think his love of the game makes us love the game even more and makes us strive to win even more,” said Junior Catherine DeLair, Center Fielder.
“I’m really proud to be where I am in South Plainfield,” added Panzarella. “I grew up here, I set the record here, and I set it with the kind of kids I have and the kind of staff that I have. It’s awesome. I couldn’t ask for a better way to happen.”