Greenwich High baseball’s Mora stepping down after 13 seasons

Former Greenwich High School baseball head coach Mike Mora chats with an opposing coach during a recent game last season. — John Ferris Robben photo

Former Greenwich High School baseball head coach Mike Mora chats with an opposing coach during a recent game last season. — John Ferris Robben photo

It’s something that the baseball community in Greenwich has been accustomed to for over a decade.

Just when the snow is coming to an end and the grass starts thawing out at the Greenwich High School baseball field, the wheels inside Mike Mora’s head would kick into high gear.

He would start thinking about the upcoming spring baseball season and what needs to be done to keep the Cardinals as one of the top teams in the area.

However, after 13 years with the Greenwich High School baseball program, Mora decided that the time has come to step away from coaching, a decision that certainly wasn’t easy. The delicate balancing act of life with two young children, his teaching position at the GHS and being the leader of a high school baseball program was starting to take its toll.

“There were a couple of things that led me to say that I can’t do the job 100% any more and I can’t give 100% to the program,” Mora said. “I tell the kids that if they are going to be a part of the team, they need to give 100% effort and it’s a commitment. Right now my commitment is to my teaching job and my family. To be a head coach, a teacher and to be a dad and husband is tough. If I had to let go of one of those jobs, it was going to be baseball. It was a tough decision, but also the right decision.”

Mora’s main reason for choosing early in the fall to step down was to make sure the GHS baseball team would have a coach in place by the winter.

“That way the meetings could take place to go over preseason conditioning and the coach could get to know the kids,” Mora said. “I didn’t want the coach to have his hands tied when February comes around. I wanted to do what was best for the kids and if I left at the beginning of February, the kids wouldn’t be able to do things they need to do to be successful.”

Under Mora, Greenwich won the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship back in 2004, beating Fairfield High School, and has been in the championship game a total of four times.

In 2005, Greenwich made it back to the FCIAC title game, but lost to Trumbull High School. Those two teams met up again in the FCIAC championship last year, with the Eagles winning. Two seasons prior, Mora and the Cards returned to the FCIAC finals, but lost to Fairfield Ludlowe.

“Coach Mora has been a very positive member of our athletic program,” Greenwich High School athletic director Gus Lindine said. “He has had an extremely successful career as both a coach and player at Greenwich High School. He is passionate about baseball, loves his team and cares greatly about his players. He will be genuinely missed.”

At the state level, Greenwich was a constant participant under Mora. In his 13 years at the helm, Greenwich lost in the qualifying round once, back in 2008. That was the closest Mora got to missing the postseason. Greenwich advanced to the class LL semifinals in 2004 and advanced to the class LL quarterfinals four times (2003, 2010, 2012, 2013).

In 2006, the Cardinals lost in the second round, but upended top-seeded Naugatuck 5-4 in the opening round. Mora also took a top-seeded team to the class LL tournament back in 2012.

Former GHS head coach Mike Mora and assistant coach Paul Meyfohrt, middle, instruct the fielders on where to shift during a recent game at Greenwich High. — John Ferris Robben photo

Former GHS head coach Mike Mora and assistant coach Paul Meyfohrt, middle, instruct the fielders on where to shift during a recent game at Greenwich High. — John Ferris Robben photo

“The kids that come through are hard-working kids and I think that baseball brings that out because it’s a sport where you have to work on a bunch of different skills to be successful,” Mora said. “The kids that I have had over the last 13 years were great and we got so much out of them. The kids worked together, were fun to coach and I will miss that.”

Recent GHS grad and University of Connecticut baseball freshman Taylor Olmstead was one of a plethora of athletes who has wonderful memories his time on the Cardinals.

Playing on the varsity squad since his sophomore year at GHS, Olmstead said that his former head coach was special because of how stellar of a person he is, both on and off the field.

“It’s been a true honor to play for coach Mora,” Olmstead said. “When people think of Greenwich baseball, they think of coach Mora and what he’s done for the program. I learned so much of the game from him, but he’s also a great person who stressed the importance of schoolwork and life lessons. I couldn’t thank him enough for what he’s taught me about the game and life.”

While winning the FCIAC championship back in 2004 and getting back to the FCIAC finals a year later with a team that not a lot of people thought would get back there was certainly a highlight, it’s his time seeing athletes return to the program that gives Mora the most satisfaction.

“My fondest memories are when I see kids come back to games,” Mora said. “Whenever we were at Harbor Yard, I would look in the crowd and see former players. I would see Dylan Callahan in the stands, or the year before when we Ryan Carr was there. Seeing your best players and great kids come back to see the program do well means a lot because it shows they care about the program. I loved seeing kids and parents come back.”

One of the players who had a unique opportunity to spend time with Mora on the baseball diamond was Eric Loh, who was a pitcher for Big Red when attending GHS. After his time at Bryant University, Loh returned home and joined the GHS coaching staff as its pitching coach.

“It was a cool perspective,” Loh said. “I got to play for him and then I coached with him. I got to see how hard he works and how much time and effort it takes to coach at that level. Being a high school baseball coach is not just showing up at the end of the day and hitting fly balls. There’s a lot more to it than that.”

Despite the pressures of leading a high school baseball program, Loh said it was obvious Mora had a love of baseball and his team. It was more apparent than ever during the 2004 championship season.

“We got to know Mike a lot more because his dad was going through some health issues and it was weighing a lot on him,” Loh said. “He really opened up a lot to us and that’s when we realized how much he loved coaching. With everything going on in his personal life, he was still showing up every day and gave 100%. It motivated us and made us open our eyes. He taught us how to care for ourselves, both on and off the field. That was really important to him.”

In addition to missing his time with the kids that come through the program, Mora, who graduated from Greenwich High School back in 1990, said he will also miss time with the 10 to 15 coaches in three levels of baseball that helped make the GHS program such a success.

“Guys like Phil Tarantino, Bobby Darulo and Paul Meyfohrt have all been there for a while and Phil and Bobby also went to Greenwich High School,” Mora said. “There’s a lot vested in the program. We didn’t coach this team for personal benefits. It’s all for the kids in town and because we were all giving back to the program.”

Jared Smith was the pitching coach for Mora’s first eight years with the program. Eric Loh, who once played for Mora, was also a pitching coach for Big Red. Tom Healy was an assistant coach at GHS for the first eight years under Mora. More recently Chuck Costello was another assistant for the GHS baseball team.

“These guys meant a lot to me as friends and coaches,” Mora said. “I’m not the only one responsible for the success. It comes from all the coaches, as well as the players and families.”

Looking back at his time with the Cardinals, Mora can leave the baseball team with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

“It was an honor to coach at Greenwich,” Mora said. “It was a great program before I got here and it was well-respected throughout the FCIAC and the state. I just came in and tried to continue that tradition.”

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