Life on the Diamond: Rick Eaton Leaves a Lasting Legacy With Warren Baseball

176
Rick Eaton (center) retired as Warren High's baseball coach after the 2021 season.

WARREN, Pa. – Warren baseball has had a long history of success, and Rick Eaton has been a big part of that.

Eaton took over as head coach of the Dragons’ baseball program in 2013, with his son and former Dragon standout Jeff serving as his right-hand man.

During Eaton’s tenure, the Dragons were annual contenders, culminating in a District 10 title in 2019, as well as more than 100 career wins (a feat also accomplished by former coach Jeff Passaro).

After the 2021 season, Eaton decided to retire, but not before leaving a lasting legacy on the program and those he coached.

“I’m grateful that I got to play for Warren while Rick was still there,” said Dragon alum Aidan Morrison.

Morrison delivered a 3-run home run in the Dragons’ District 10 title game win over General McLane in 2019 and was a starting catcher for four seasons. He is now playing collegiately at Mercyhurst University.

“Him allowing me to catch all four years and throw countless rounds of batting practice is something not many high school athletes get out of their coach. I think what we all appreciated the most was the effort Rick put in, in keeping the field top tier through the season and always being focused. I definitely don’t think we win the district in 2019 without having him through our practices.”

It was that tireless effort that Eaton helped put into the program that those who played for him won’t soon forget.

“Coach Eaton was a great coach and led us to a D10 championship my junior year,” said Ryan Rafalski, who is also playing at Mercyhurst.

Rafalski was the starting pitcher in that D10 title and delivered the memorable walk-off base hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“He was always down at the field hours before games getting the field ready for us to play on. His support throughout my high school career made me a better player and more importantly a better person.”

As evidenced by Morrison, Rafalski and others, the amount of time their coach put in was noticed by many. Those two are also part of a proud group of Dragon alums that went on to and are currently playing college baseball.

Another one of those standouts was Lance Baldensperger, the starting center fielder on that D10 championship team. He is now playing at Niagara County Community College.

“I want to congratulate Coach on his retirement,” Baldensperger said. “I am grateful for the opportunity he gave me to start and play my freshman year. I have many great memories playing for him, especially winning D10 in 2019. He has thrown me and others countless rounds of batting practice and it has helped me be the player I am today.”

A man thoroughly invested in Warren baseball and Warren athletics in general, don’t expect Eaton to not be around, even if he’s no longer putting on the Dragon baseball uniform.

Admired and respected by his former players, the countless hours he put into the success of the program will continue to live on by those that he coached.