As the news about Emporia State Baseball Coach Bob Fornelli leaving for Pittsburg State leaked out over the weekend the reactions were swift.
I’ve known Bob since his playing days as a Hornet. He helped me broadcast at the tournament from old Hornet Field; became my son’s JV coach at Emporia High and my oldest son’s American Legion Coach and to complete the cycle when Bob became ESU’s head coach Jamie my youngest son was his first base coach for 2 years. We are pretty close.
Bob Fornelli becoming Emporia State baseball coach when he did was a departure from the norm.
The only other time I remember E-State hiring an active D-II head coach was Bud Elliott from Washburn in the 70’s.
Bob had completed 7 years at Ft. Hays, but his Hornet blood was thick and he jumped at the chance to come home.
This opportunity at Pitt State is about getting on a level playing field. Emporia State athletics are proud – maybe almost to a fault – of “Doing more with less.
Division-II allows for 9 full ride baseball scholarships. ESU funds 4 and supporters make a few more possible, but not the 9 Pitt State and several other MIAA schools are offering.
Bob wants a chance to win a National Championship. He figures he has 10 or 11 more years to do it and despite the fact, it’s “killing him” to leave Emporia.
My colleague here at KVOE, Ron Thomas suggested we should be embarrassed about losing Coach Fornelli to a D-II school.
I disagreed with Ron. I’m envious of Pitt’s ability to fund baseball, but I’m certainly not embarrassed about Emporia State’s efforts.
Coaches succeeding at ESU and then moving on – hopefully up – is what we do.
Dave Bingham, Cindy Stein, Brandon Schneider, Jory Collins, Jerry Kill, Dave Harris and Kristi Bredbenner all left for D-1 jobs. Hopefully, new coaches like Craig Doty and Toby Wynn will have success and 4 or 5 years from now they will moving to D-1 jobs.
In Bob Fornelli’s case – well this is just unique. He moved laterally to come here from Hays and has turned down at least 4 other really good opportunities to go to schools for more money and scholarships. Finally, he decided he needs to give “having more” a shot.
Please note: Bob is not upset with Emporia State – he understands the situation. He, like me, hopes this changes.
Bob will be successful, but I wonder if his success will be much different than it has been at ESU. He will have more dollars to work with, but will be going after the same kids.
Bob’s strength, in my opinion, has been first, his amazing work ethic and second: his ability to mold kids into a team or family as he likes to say. His E-State teams always understood they were “doing more with less” and played with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. Bob’s rarest talent is to get his kids to play that way, but without feeling sorry for themselves!
I’m not sure how that happens in Bob’s new land of plenty?
Good luck Buddy, you will be missed!
I’m Steve Sauder


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