When ultra-successful Northville High School baseball coach John Kostrzewa resigned in June, he left a gold mine of talent for his successor — Dan Cimini, who coached University Liggett to five state titles and is a good friend of Kostrzewa.
“Not only did John not leave the cupboards bare (of talent), he left them stocked with groceries,” Cimini quipped. “Now it’s my job to cook the dinner.”
When it comes to winning — and, more importantly, mentoring young men on and off the field — Cimini is a gourmet.
He took over a Liggett program in 2000 that was the furthest thing from a powerhouse and turned it into a bona fide juggernaut.
Small school, big success
Although the school’s enrollment includes approximately 150 boys, Cimini guided the Knights to final four appearances in Divisions 1, 2, 3 and 4. He also served as the school’s head football coach, a teacher and athletic administrator.
He did everything at Liggett except sing the National Anthem (and he probably would have nailed that, too).
“Of course it was tough leaving Liggett,” said Cimini, who won over 500 baseball games at the Grosse Pointe high school. “I gave it everything I had and thought it was time to move on.
“I’ve wanted to coach and teach at a bigger school and experience what it’s like to coach a team with more depth. We usually had four pitchers. I know the have more than four here at Northville.”
Cimini said he sought Kostrzewa’s blessing before applying for his good friend’s former job.
“I called John, and out of respect, made sure he was OK with me applying,” Cimini said. “He was great about it, told me to go for it.”
‘Excited to start’
Although Cimini hasn’t formally been introduced to the members of his first Northville team, he has seen them in action. Liggitt and Northville matched up in the championship game of a tournament this past spring, with the Knights prevailing 7-0.
“I am really excited to start,” he said. “Northville not only has a lot of incredibly talented baseball players, they’re great young men who come from amazing families.”
Cimini was the starting center fielder for the first Grosse Pointe South team (1987) to advance to the MHSAA Final four in East Lansing. He then enjoyed a successful playing career at the University of Detroit under legendary head coach Bob Miller.
Cimini described his baseball philosophy in two words: super aggressive.
“I’ll squeeze with the bases loaded and one out, I’ll bunt with two strikes,” he said. “My pitchers pound the strike zone.
“My motto is ‘Everything counts’ — that includes academics, treating people with respect and doing things the right way.”
Cimini recently moved to Saint Clair Shores.
“I’ll have about a 30- to 35-minute drive to the high school,” he said. “But it’s worth it for the opportunity to coach this program.”
Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.