The crack of the bat, the smell of the fresh cut grass -- all amid the chatter that comes with baseball.
It's that time of year as high school baseball season has started. And in Pleasanton, Amador Valley and Foothill High are getting it done on the diamond.
Both teams figure to once again be among the elite in the East Bay Athletic League, as the two schools consistently have strong programs -- thanks to the head coaches running the ships.
Lou Cesario at Amador and Angelo Scavone at Foothill are two of the longest-tenured coaches in Pleasanton, both bringing a passion to the sport and to their teams.
Cesario, who has been coaching for 24 years, is in his 18th season at Amador, while Scavone has been running the Foothill program since 1994, except for a three-year break from 2005-07.
Do the math and you can see both have been coaching longer than their current players have been alive. The two have brought a strong sense of continuity to the programs, mixed in with success and an old-school approach to the game of baseball.
Baseball is a unique sport at the high school level, as the playing field is something maintained by the program, not the school. Looking at the other sports, the football fields (which also host soccer and lacrosse) require little maintenance. The gyms at the respective schools are used for a variety of activities ranging from physical education classes to school functions, and thus maintained by the schools.
But baseball stands alone. The coaches must take care of the field or it turns into a field of weeds. Luckily for the players at the two schools, they have coaching staffs that embrace the quality of the diamond their teams play upon and are willing to put in the work.
Go to either school in the middle of the day and rather than taking a break for themselves, both Scavone and Cesario can be found in their free time squeezing in some work to maintain their fields.
"It's my baby," Cesario said of the Amador field. "I have always looked at it as my classroom. I have been taking care of it since the day I walked on the Amador campus, and we take care of it 365 days a year."
Scavone echoed the sentiment about the field at Foothill.
"I spend two hours a day taking care of our field," Scavone said. "If I didn't do that, we wouldn't have an acceptable field. We take great pride in it, as the kids work hard so we want to provide a facility that promotes an atmosphere and culture that will let them develop."
The diligence the two have for their respective fields is a microcosm of what they bring to their baseball programs. Over the years, both have seen changes in high school sports, and hard work on the field is not the only area where due diligence is called for with the staffs.
Funding for prep sports formerly came from the school district, but that ship has sailed, leaving the coaches to do way more than just coach baseball or work on the field.
"The biggest change I have seen over the years has come in terms of district support," Scavone said. "There has been less and less as the years have gone by, and we are now self-funded in terms of pretty much everything. We have to focus on fundraising and getting donations just to make it work, and it's getting harder and harder to make ends meet. I would say in my 25 years, I have needed to raise over $250,000 to cover everything."
Cesario has also felt the financial crunch at Amador.
"We are 100% fully funded by ourselves," he explained. "I honestly need to raise money to buy grass seed. (Fundraising) is stressful every year and it can get rough as some years we don't raise enough money, so we are forced to cut back on certain things. That's hard because you want the kids to have nice gear."
Another big change Cesario has seen over the years is the lack of attention the daily newspapers have for high school sports.
"It's nowhere near the same as it was when I started," Cesario said of the media coverage. "We used to have reporters at our games, and I really enjoyed talking with them about the game and other teams in the league. Now there's no one."
But the game goes on and both work just as hard this year -- if not harder -- than the day they took over their respective programs. Then again, in the EBAL, hard work is a must.
Competition is something both thrive on. In the past, each has made mention of how tough it is to coach in the EBAL, and according to Cesario, nothing has changed on that front.
"Our league is ultra-competitive," Cesario said. "You have to coach your butt off every day. You can play well and still get thumped for weeks. But I like that you have to work hard every day just to compete."
With the time the two have turned in, the memories are abundant. Some involve certain players, while others relate to something as simple as working with the dozens of players over the years.
For Scavone, it's been players like Brandon Crawford (currently with the San Francisco Giants) who Scavone said was the best position player he has ever coached. Brad Bergeson (formerly with the Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks) was mentioned as the best pitcher Scavone has had.
At Amador, Stephen Piscotty -- currently a member of the Oakland A's -- has always been a special player to Cesario, but the Amador skipper also mentioned players like Will LaMarche (Giants organization), Chris Keck (Colorado Rockies organization) and Daniel Jackson (Long Beach State) as other top players he has coached.
While it's easy to run off names of former players, both also embrace the time spent with their teams over the years.
"The best memories I have are about the kids that have put in the grit and grind into the game," Scavone said. "We have had some kids that have taken the longer route to get to the college game, but they kept working. The great thing is, kids are all on their own timetable. Some develop sooner and others later. I've always enjoyed the kids that never quit working."
Cesario feels much the same way.
"The best memories are the relationships with the kids," Cesario said. "In 2010 when we won league, that was the first for the school in 30 years. That year was also the first North Coast Section title for the school ever."
As the two have squared off numerous times over the years, there's a high level of mutual respect.
"The biggest compliment I can give him is he is one of the best game day coaches I have ever coached against," Scavone said of Cesario. "The way he manages the game is fun to watch."
"Angelo always brings his team ready to play," Cesario added. "We know we are going to get everything Foothill has every time we play them."