By Kevin Roberts, Republican-American
NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck’s U19 Connecticut Elite Baseball Association team had a strong family connection this season.
Second baseman Mark Nofri, who completed his freshman year at Springfield College in the spring, was happy to come back and play with players he has known since Little League.
His dad, also Mark Nofri, is the head coach.
“It’s pretty awesome,” the son said about having his father as a coach. “He’s been coaching me ever since Little League, ever since I started, and he’s always been there every step of the way, so it’s always great to have him around.”
The Nofri family isn’t the only family connection on the Naugatuck team. Derrick Jagello has grown up with Naugatuck baseball, and along the way he’s had his father, Jon, and uncle, Walter, coaching him.
“Playing for my dad and uncle helps me out a lot. It also brings my family closer together,” Derrick Jagello said. “They are watching the game for all the little things that no one else picks up on. They critique all things I could improve on.”
Both Nofri and Jagello have felt the love from their family, but they’re not immune to criticism.
“I’m probably harder on him than I am on anybody else,” coach Nofri said. “I treat him like I would treat anybody else. There are times when he sits. I pulled him out (of the first game of a July 29 doubleheader against Bethel) to clear his head because he was struggling at the plate. I took him out for the last two innings so he could clear his head.”
Nofri the son takes his father’s criticism in stride. After the first game, Nofri had Seymour native Austin Verab pitch to him in the batting cages.
“Sometimes (it’s tough), but I’ve always took it as a positive though because we get to talk a little bit more, sometimes about stuff outside of baseball, and it even lets us come a little closer together,” Nofri said. “Sports bring people together; I truly do believe that.”
For Derrick Jagello, both his dad and uncle see things that he could work on.
“My dad, my uncle and I have a great bond,” Derrick Jagello said. “We are always talking sports. We are always talking about a way to improve my ability on the athletic field.”
Nofri the head coach has enjoyed the time spent with his son and Derrick and watching them both grow on the baseball diamond.
“It’s fun to be around them, it’s fun to see them compete, and it’s fun to teach them the game that one time (Jon) and I played,” coach Nofri said.
Mark Nofri and Jon Jagello have coached together before.
“Jon’s got a great knowledge and a good understanding of the game of baseball,” coach Nofri said. “He’s got a lot of pitching knowledge. He’s got a good rapport with the kids, he’s a little bit calmer than I am, and we work well together.
Derrick Jagello, who graduated this year, grew up with the younger Nofri, first playing against him, then with him.
“Derrick is one of my closer friends on the team, and always playing up the middle with him in the infield has been great,” Nofri said.
Jagello pitched the first game of the Bethel doubleheader, then played at shortstop in the nightcap. Nofri took his position at second base both games.
Jon and Walter Jagello each said it’s been like a dream to coach Derrick.
“I’ve been coaching him since the Little League level, and I’m so proud of the kid,” Jon Jagello said. “I don’t want to see it come to an end, but he’s moving on to college now.”
Walter Jagello became scorekeeper while Ron Plasky was still the Legion head coach, and he stayed on when Nofri took over.
“I love coaching him,” Walter Jagello said about Derrick. “Usually when he doesn’t listen to Jon, I step in and give him advice. It’s my dream to help out on his team, and it’s been a great experience.”
As far as the coaching dynamic between brothers goes, both Jagellos said they think alike.
“Twins, it’s hard to explain,” Jon Jagello said with a hearty laugh. “You have to be a twin to understand, but we do talk a lot.”
“We always spin things off each other,” Walter Jagello said. “After games, we’ll call each other, we’ll text each other, what do you think about this and that.”
Derrick Jagello loves the relationship he has with his father and uncle.
“We are always texting about everything and anything just to stay in touch,” Derrick Jagello said. “Having them through my youth in sports has been a huge help. They are a big reason on me continuing my baseball career at (Southern Connecticut State University).”
Jon Jagello will be there to watch Derrick play.
“That’s going to be enjoyable, too. It’s going to be fun watching him on the other side,” Jon Jagello said.