St. Vincent picks former Casa, Petaluma coach to lead baseball

“There is enough talent in this town for three good baseball teams.” - incoming St. Vincent baseball coach Jim Selvitella|

Jim Selvitella has quite a collection of local baseball caps. The former South San Francisco firefighter coached the junior varsity team at Casa Grande, the varsity team at Petaluma High, and is now the new varsity coach at St. Vincent.

Selvitella replaces Spencer Finkbohner, who left the St. Vincent job earlier this month to devote more time to his family.

The new St. Vincent coach led Petaluma’s Trojans from 2016 until the end of the 1920-21 season, when he stepped away from coaching to spend time with his family and to travel. During his five years with Petaluma, his team never had a losing record and shared the Vine Valley Athletic League championship in 2018-19.

Selvitella said after spending the summer helping coach Athletic Edge travel ball teams, he discovered he really missed coaching at the high school level. When St. Vincent principal Pat Daly offered him an opportunity to return, he discussed the prospect with wife, Tammy, and accepted another baseball cap.

“When the offer came up, I couldn’t pass it up,” he said. “Besides, you can only play so much golf with coach Steve Ellison,” referring to the retired former Petaluma High School football coach.

The new coach brings with him an impressive coaching staff. Following him to St. Vincent will be Athletic Edge co-owner Jeff Inglin, Paul Braa, Ralph Gentile, Chris Dunne, Dan Petersen, Jeff Haluska and Grant St. Martin. Inglin played at the University of Southern California and for 10 years in professional baseball. Gentile played at the University of San Francisco and in professional baseball. He was a longtime assistant coach at Casa Grande. Dunne played at the University of San Diego. St. Martin played at Sonoma State University.

Braa has worked with Selvitella at every stop from Casa Grande to Petaluma and now on to St. Vincent.

Last season, St. Vincent, coached by Finkbohner, compiled a 12-12 record and was 5-7 in the North Bay League Redwood, winning a North Coast Section playoff game before being eliminated.

That team had 15 varsity players. Selvitella wants that number to increase. “We want some of the kids who are playing other sports to think about getting back into baseball again,” he said. “There are a lot of good baseball players in Petaluma and a lot of good athletes. There is enough baseball talent in this town for three good baseball teams.”

“I think Coach Dunn said it best when he said, ‘Give us an athlete and we’ll teach him how to play the game of baseball,’” Selvitella said.

The new coach isn’t promising to win championships, although they may come, but he is saying the Mustangs will be competitive. “We want to create an environment in which we can beat any other team on any day,” he explained.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Casa Grande and Petaluma baseball programs. Our job is to bring our program up to that level. I know it will take some time, but we want to compete at that level.”

When Selvitella talks about a good program, he means more than on the baseball field. “One thing Principal Daly believes in is student athletes,” the baseball coach said. “Academics first. There is no reason a good student can’t be a good baseball player.”

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