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May 14, 2014

Emporia State Baseball Coach Bob Fornelli is my topic today because he represents a positive attitude most of us would love to possess.

          Bob came to Emporia Statehoping to play for Dave Bingham, but  Bingham took the KU job and Fornelli ended up playing for a different coach.

          Next, Fornelli was the pitching coach at Butler County Community College. The first three years he lived in a room about the size of his current office and showered with the kids. He was promoted to Dorm Director the last two years with an apartment in the dorm. He and new wife Jill lived in the dorm their first year of marriage.

          Bob worked at coaching baseball 24/7/365. Summers inElkhart and Liberal and less exotic places and then Ft. Hays State called. After seven years in Hays the ESU job opened up and Fornelli eagerly took over. This is his eleventh year atEmporia State. His teams have twice been national runners up.

          The Hornets made it into NCAA post season play in both 2010 and 11, but did not advance. 2012 and 2013 were not good years for the Hornets. Winning records yes, but post season action was limited to losing in the first round of the MIAA tournament.

          It may not have been so much ESU having slippage as much as other schools in the MIAA and Region starting to throw money at baseball.

          Fornelli has been offered at least two other MIAA jobs, both with larger salaries and promises of lavish budgets. Fornelli’s response has been “I’m a Hornet and if we can find a little more support I’m not going anywhere.”

          At the mid point of this past season Coach Fornelli had to be questioning those decisions. In early April with an almost entirely new team and one he really liked Washburn handed ESU three straight losses and a season record of 19 & 14.

          Fornelli’s response to Greg Rahe on KVOE was “this is not a time to pout.”

          That so impressed me I traveled to Topeka for the final game of the Washburn series. ESU won starting a 15 game winning streak. The Hornets have now won 21 of their last 24 including 4 in a row to win the MIAA Post Season Tournament. They start play in the Central Regional tomorrow.

          Bob Fornelli is all about playing hard, doing things the right way and having fun. He is the Dean of ESU coaches and someone many other coaches go to when their chins are dragging.

          Fornelli makes his living in a sport where you can be successful even when you fail 7 or 8 times out of 10. Maybe he read Thomas Edison who once said “People are not remembered by how few times they failed, but by how often they succeed.”

          Bob Fornelli is a text book example of never letting failure become permanent. He’s always looking for the next opportunity for success.

          Fornelli is a role model family man too. Jill and delightful daughters Emma, Rylie and Addison are seldom missing when the Hornets are playing.

          Look up positive attitude in the dictionary and you’ll see Coach Fornelli’s picture.

          I’m Steve Sauder