Mundelein's Parola caps big season with big honor
If Todd Parola thought the baseball season couldn't get any better, he was wrong. After leading the Mundelein Mustangs to their best finish in school history, Parola was named 4A Coach of the Year by the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association.
The Mustangs finished the season 31-10 and advanced to their first state championship in school history. Parola said he believes it was the team's success that brought his award.
"It means that we had a great season last year," he told the Lake County Gazette. "We are very fortunate to have an outstanding staff who has been together for a number of years. It also means that we had a lot of good players playing at a high level."
Both the team and Parola put in a lot of hard work to get where they are, but that's nothing new. Parola had led a lot of good teams at Mundelein and reached the 500-win milestone in 2014, after just 20 years of coaching -- an impressive feat.
Parola said it was extremely rewarding to reach the state championship, despite losing to Providence Catholic 10-3.
"The thing that stands out most to me is that prior to the first pitch of the state championship game, looking up into the stands and seeing a packed stadium, I couldn't help but think of all the ex-players and coaches who also deserved this experience but never had the chance," Parola said. "Waking up that morning, I think we all just reflected on 'Wow, we are playing for a state championship today. What an honor.' "
The celebration had to be short-lived, of course, as Mundelein must prepare for another season coming up fast. And now there's a new wrinkle: The team carries the weight of its winning season into the new year.
Parola, who's meant so much to the community that there's even a Todd Parola Appreciation Facebook page, has an uncanny knack for maintaining his focus on the most important things. It's one of the reasons the community and the school have such gratitude toward him.
"My expectations for this season are that each and every player does everything in his power to reach his own potential by trying to get better each and every day," he said. "This group will be enjoyable to be around because they get along with each other and are best friends on and off the field. We have a lot to aim for."