At Ciao Pittsburgh, we love our Pittsburgh professional and collegiate sports teams, and we have a special treat for our readers this week. Jack recently met with Sewickley resident Claudio Reilsono, the head baseball coach for Carnegie Mellon University and the Director of Professional baseball scouting/Lead Scout for the Paramount Scouting Bureau. Claudio is also on the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Italian Sports Hall of Fame. We got to learn a little about Claudio as well as the organizations he’s involved with. Claudio was also kind enough to respond to our profile Q/A so our readers can learn more about him as well.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living. I’m married to Lynda (14 years) and we have one daughter, Ida, who is 11 years old. I’m the son of Olindo and Ida Reilsono. Ever since I went to my first Pittsburgh Pirates’ game on August 19, 1973 at Three Rivers Stadium as an 8 year old, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. With my parents’ love and support, hard work and prayers, my dreams have come true. In addition to being the head baseball coach at Carnegie Mellon University and the Director of Professional baseball scouting/Lead Scout for the Paramount Scouting Bureau, I conduct my own baseball camps. I’m also a professional hitting instructor, motivational speaker, a spokesman for National 1 Energy Co. and an entrepreneur.
What do you enjoy most about being a baseball coach? Do you have coaching aspirations beyond your collegiate career? The fact that you are involved in leading a group of people to pull the same rope, and the same time, in the same direction for the same purpose. Also, since it’s important to me to have impact on people, I try to do that through coaching. I love the passion, challenge, and the emotion that is involved in coaching. I have coached at Quaker Valley, Quigley, Penn State (Beaver Campus) Community College of Beaver County, Duquesne University, and now I want CMU to be my last stop. I have been there 7 years and I love it there. My goal was to make it to the professional ranks which I have. I have been offered several coaching jobs in the pro ranks over the last 11 years and I have turned them down respectfully. I love where I am at in life. But I am not done yet! I still want to build on it and improve the organizations I am with and do some other things such as writing a book, doing commercials, and I still have a lot more to accomplish, but I love where I currently am at.
What’s the best advice you can offer to parents who have athletically gifted children? Support them. Encourage them. Be there for them. Don’t push them to the point where it becomes a forced issue. Don’t make sports a negative for them which can happen if they are pushed too much. There will be enough pressure on them if they are good. People will expect them to always produce. So with that pressure, on top of being pushed by coaches, parents and themselves—that just adds more bricks on their shoulders. If it’s fun for them, they will enjoy competing, enjoy the challenge, and look forward to the games and practices as opposed to not wanting to be there.
Can you tell us a little more about the Italian Sports Hall of Fame? It says it best on our site— “To preserve and promote the history and heritage of Italian Americans in Sports.” We also give scholarships and recognize individuals who have made great contributions to our city and neighboring communities. We have a great committee and we truly care about making the organization a plus to Pittsburgh and to Italian-Americans.
How long have you lived in Pittsburgh and what do you enjoy most about the city? I was born and raised in Sewickley. 48 great years! I love our area. I do a ton of traveling and there is no place like Pittsburgh and our towns. As for the city, where else do you have all the arts, sports, restaurants, scenic views, malls, and entertainment all in a nice tight area? Another thing I love is when we as a family go to Pittsburgh whether it’s to Station Square or downtown, it is not jammed packed with traffic and it is easy to get to anywhere we want. For me it is truly “the most livable city.”
Can you tell us about your Italian heritage? My Mom Ida was born in Nocera, Italy, my Dad Olindo, in Falerna, Italy (Calabria-Southern Italy). My Mom came over in 1963 and my Dad in 1935. I was raised to be proud to be an Italian and proud to be an American. My wife Lynda (who is Italian as well) and I are raising our daughter Ida the same way.
What are some of your favorite Italian traditions and why? Everyone always starts with food but I will start off with being loyal to those you love. That is a tradition that was given to me by my parents. NOW the food! I still make a lot of my parents’ holiday dishes and the ones that stand out the most (both by scent and flavor) are Bacalla during Christmas Eve and New Year’s and Fried Broccoli with garlic. When I do these things, I feel I am honoring my parents and they deserved to be honored. Another tradition that I pass onto my little girl are all the Italian sayings my parents would say to me. There are a ton of them and they make sense and they have helped me in my life.
Have you had a chance to visit Italy and the town where your ancestors are from? Yes. But it’s been 32 years. I have been nominated to the Italian Baseball Hall of Fame located in Rome so if I get voted in, I will be going back. Even if I don’t get in, I will go back. I would love to see my family again, and have my wife and daughter meet them. It would be a very moving event going back to Italy.
What does being Italian mean to you? Pride in what our people have contributed to the world. Proud of what my family had done in Italy and here in America, and hopefully I can add to that. Also to me, being Italian means being creative, having passion, working hard, and passing on the traditions, values, and words and actions of our people to my daughter so she can pass them on to her family one day so they stay alive. That’s one of the great things about your online publication, “Ciao Pittsburgh”—keeping our heritage alive in so many ways.
Do you have any particular favorite Italian restaurants (here in Pittsburgh or anywhere in the country)? To be honest all of them! There are a lot of good ones in Rhode Island too. My Mom’s food was the best! I am not too bad of a cook either!
Who do you look to for motivation and inspiration? For motivation, it’s my Mom and Dad, as well as my wife and daughter. Also, the people who did not want to see my dreams come true. I used their negativity to motivate me. “Use your worst enemy as your best ally.” For inspiration, again, Mom, Pop, my wife and daughter. But there have been so many people who have had an impact on my life—Jim Valvano, Roberto Clemente, Greg Norman, Donald Trump, Magic Johnson, John Calipari, Bruno Sammartino, Vinny Pazienza, Ray Mancini, Rocky Marciano, Doug Collins, Dick Vermiel, Vince Papale, Buster Douglas, George Foreman, Pete Maravich, Joe Namath, Lee Mazzilli, Joe Torre, Rick Pitino, Vince Lombardi, and I can’t forget the songs of Barry Manilow! I could go on and on. They have had impact on me professionally, in business and in life. I have to mention them.
What are some of your favorite hobbies? I love to read. Golf. Fishing with my daughter and I collect Celebrity Wines.
Last book you read? Joel Osteen’s, “It’s Your Time,” Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini—The Good Son,” Josh Kaufman, “The Personal MBA—Master the Art of Business.”
What else would you like our readers to know about you? I had a dream when I was 8. With the love and support of my Mom and Dad, the negative comments by some people, hard work, and prayers, things have gone the way they have. I am truly blessed. My dreams have come true 10 fold. BUT, that does not give you a reason to be an idiot with people. Be confident in what you do and how you do it, but don’t be an idiot. Have dreams, go after them with everything you have and simply don’t give up! Things can happen. I look at my life and feel so blessed but yet sad that my Mom, Ida, who passed in 1988 at the age of 48 and my Dad, Olindo, who passed in 2004 at the age of 75 are not here. I know they see what I am doing but I wish I could see their expressions and hear what they say about things I do. I also want to be the type of parent my Mom and Dad were to my daughter. And lastly, an old saying that rings true—”If you ever see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know he didn’t get there alone,”—I did not get here alone.