Ithaca College’s crew coach Dan Robinson.

ITHACA, NY -- Up on South Hill, two coaches are going in different directions, as David Valesente — the Ithaca College baseball coach — just picked up his first Liberty League title while the men's crew coach, Dan Robinson, is retiring after 47 years. Yes, you read that correctly — 47 years at IC.

According to Dan, “I have actually been the coach for 43 years, but I was a student oarsman for four years, so I count those years too.”

I asked him if he has any big plans after coaching his final race last weekend, and Dan said, “Not really... my wife will continue to be the women's crew coach, so I'll probably be around as a volunteer driver and things like that.”

He added, “I'm a huge baseball fan, and I haven't been to an IC baseball game in about 15 years. I got to attend the Liberty League championship this weekend, and I hope to do a lot more of that.”

I also asked Dan how he will adjust to the fact that he won't have to be thinking about the next season, what changes will have to be made and the like. “That probably won't hit me until August when the new guy comes in and the recruits arrive,” he said. “It will actually be kind of exciting, and I hope the team can be better.”

Looking back, Dan said, “I have been going up and down the Cayuga Inlet so, so long — longer than just about anyone — but I still see my mentor, Ward Romer, at the boathouse — which is named after him — just about every day. That's inspiring.”


Back to the baseball team... The Bombers exploded for 10 runs in the fourth inning of the title game to take down the University of Rochester 18-5 and move to 30-12 to win their first title since joining the Liberty League in 2020. Ithaca High grad Buzz Shirley is putting a big exclamation point on his college career, having gone five for 12 with four doubles (his 20 doubles is a new Bomber season record) on his way to being named the tournament's most outstanding player.

I caught up with junior catcher Gil Merod — another Ithaca High graduate — and he said, “That was a lot of fun,” expressing his gratitude that we were talking 2 days later, given he had lost his voice from yelling so much.

“Our first goal,” Merod said, “was to win our division, then to win the conference title.” Now that the Bombers have checked both those boxes, they look forward to the NCAA tournament. “We don't care who we play, or where,” Gil offered. When asked if he was especially happy for Shirley and his other senior teammates, Gil laughed and said, “For sure. Now that school's over, those guys will have to start 'real life,' and they get to extend this a little more.”

While Merod is thrilled to extend his own season, he is also pleased to have some time off from school to focus on getting his body put back together, so to speak. Gil said, “I am closing in on 40 games behind the dish, and I have never caught that many games. I'm glad to be able to focus on getting into prime condition for the tournament, as I'm feeling pretty beat up.” I reminded Gil of his awesome genetics — his grandmother, Nancy Cool, is the famous and beloved 70-something exercise class leader — and he agreed that coming from such a deep gene pool was definitely a plus.


In last week's column, I made a half-joking comment that I would not be surprised if the Kentucky Derby winner was on steroids after seeing him go all Mike Tyson after the race, chomping on other horses and a rider. A reader took issue with that assertion, pointing out that the thoroughbred racing industry has enough public relations challenges without the publication of unfounded assumptions. I will point out that Rich Strike did not test positive for any banned substances, and I agree with the writer that I am mostly clueless about the horse racing industry. Sorry about that...

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