04/09/2007 10:11 PM ET
Monroe's secret weapon: Mike Turo
Bronx High School seeks first back-to-back titles
By Zachary Braziller / SNY.tv

Dynasties aren't born, they are developed, molded through years of hard work.
As James Monroe continues to dominate New York City baseball -- winning four of the last seven Public School Athletic League (PSAL) city championships, taking home the ultra-competitive Bronx East-A titles the last eight years, and starting out 16-0 so far this spring -- their success, perhaps more than any fire-balling pitcher, power-hitting bopper, speedy leadoff man, goes back to the manager from Holbrook, Long Island who refuses to rest on his laurels.

In his 30th year at the helm, Mike Turo is blessed with high-end talent, there's no doubt about that. Last year, for instance, when his ace southpaw Danny Almonte -- he of Little League World Series fame -- couldn't go in the city championship at Yankee Stadium, Turo simply looked down his bench and handed the ball to another left-hander, Dawin Rivas.

All Rivas did was toss a complete-game two-hitter, shutting down a fearsome George Washington lineup.

It is because of the continued work ethic Turo instills in his players that the East Bronx program has remained at such an elite level. "He's very strict," senior pitcher/third baseman Delgis Soto said. "He likes everything to be done the right way, and that's good because he teaches us discipline."

Part of that is getting his kids to understand the importance of their high school education. Frustrated over academic ineligibility of a few key hitters the last few seasons, and their inability to qualify for four-year colleges, along with help from the school's Turo backed the school principal who instituted a new rule for the team -- if any players fail so much as one class, they are off the team, no matter how well they are doing in their other subjects.

"I told them 'we're students before we're athletes. It makes life easier for me to get you into college if you pass your classes,'" he said. "I don't have to worry about them walking the hallways. They can't fool around."

A strict disciplinarian, Turo has a soft side, too. Several times during the school year, he brings two of his players to his home for a night with his wife, daughter and two sons.

"I try to show them life out there," he said. "I really care about the kids. I try not to treat anyone differently or better than anyone else."

A graduate of Catholic school Mount St. Michael, Turo, a second baseman, played for two seasons under former Yankees middle infielder Gil McDougald at Fordham. After he graduated from Lehman, Joe Consagra, a friend of his father's, was leaving Monroe to take over the program at Wagner College on Staten Island. He suggested that Turo look into the job, a position he soon was given.

Thirty years later, shunning countless minor league and college offers, he is still there, savoring every inning. "I just enjoy helping these kids," Turo said. "They need the help. If you have someone here whose not doing the job, these kids will go by the waist side. They need baseball here. They need the love. They need caring."

Turo, who recently got his 850th win, has led the Eagles to the playoffs in 21 straight seasons and in 28 of the previous 29 springs. The recent domination didn't begin in earnest until the early 1990's. Sixteen years after he took over at Monroe, Turo won his first baseball title. That championship, back in 1993, has swung the pendulum in Monroe favor, beginning a string of unprecedented success. The next year, they reached the semifinals, where they've been 11 other times since.

"Something happened where the kids believe," he said. "They got their first taste of winning and they want to keep on going. Year after year, every team after that's been real good, and had a shot to win a championship. As boys leave, new ones come in. It spreads. Kids come to the school because they know they can win here."

This spring, Turo said, may be his most complete team yet. In Rivas and Soto, he has a righty/lefty tandem that is as good, and likely better, than any duo in the city.

Ten kids return from last year's title team, including standout senior catcher Gabriele Molina and power-hitting outfielder/pitcher Tommy Guzman. But it is the newcomers, including three immigrants -- Emmanuel Rodriguez, Willie Hernandez and Carlos George -- from the Dominican Republic that have already added to the powerful mix.

The winning is the chief reason that so many kids come. When Rivas came from the Dominican Republic, he joined the team after watching them on television. Another sought out the team when he read about them on the Internet.

This year, Turo pointed out, there were 240 kids who tried out for the team, and that wasn't even including the 50 more that failed to bring medical forms. Players say there are treated like rock stars as they walk through the hallway. "It's funny," Molina said. "Sometimes people I don't know come up to me and say hi."

Classmates always rave about their blowout victories, a point of pride in the school. "It means a lot to everybody because we're the best," Molina said. "They see us winning championships and doing great things, they magnify to us. Whatever we do, there's like a magnifying glass on us. Every move is watched. If we do great things, everybody knows. It's fun."

"Kids want to get rings," is how Turo explained the spike in interest. "But the rings aren't important to us. We just want to win the championship and be known as the best team in New York."

This season, like any other, the chase is the same -- with one delectable caveat. For the first time in school history, the Eagles are gunning for back-to-back titles. "That is our main goal." Soto said.

"The seniors want to prove to everybody we're the best," Molina said. "To win back-to-back would prove that."

Unlike most of their competitors, the Eagles begin their mission every September when their baseball club starts. PSAL schools aren't allowed to practice in the off-season, so these daily workouts are strictly conditioning. They run sprints and suicides in addition to hundreds of stair workouts. "We run and run and run," Soto said.

"That separates us from everybody else," Molina said. "We work hard all winter and when we come out here, it really pays off."

Zachary Braziller is a contributor to SNY.tv.

Coach Turo's Accomplishments At Monroe


Coach Mike Turo Wins No. 800 - James Monroe Baseball
By Adam Martini PSAL Sports Reporter

The wins keep on coming for Mike Turo and his James Monroe Eagles. Yesterday, the Eagles won the James Monroe Holiday Tournament for the fourth straight year, while Turo registered his 800th career win at the Bronx School.

A Bronx native (Turo grew up in the Bronx and graduated from Lehman), Turo has been coaching at the school since 1978. Under his guidance, the Eagles have won four city titles (1993, 2000, 2002, 2004) and made the semifinals 10 times. Those numbers should increase with Monroe in the playoffs year in and year out. The Eagles have made the postseason 20 consecutive seasons.

Turo has become a fixture at the school, where perhaps his most notable accomplishment is sending more than 150 players to college. That, coupled with his wins on the field, have made Monroe one of the most successful programs in the country.

On winning 800 games, Turo said, “It’s a great accomplishment, but it’s not something I dwell on. It says more about the program to be able to win that many games.”

USA TODAY 5-27-2004
Mike Turo Turns Out Winners
Baseball at James Monroe High in the Bronx has flourished under coach Mike Turo.

* PSAL A Division city championships under Turo: 1993, '94, '02 and 2004. The team has reached the PSAL semifinals nine of the last 10 years. ''I consider that a huge accomplishment alone,'' he says.

* Turo, 729-178 in 27 years, has sent 150 players to college, 17 into the minor leagues and one (Hector Berrios, Los Angeles Dodgers) to the majors.

* Turo, who grew up in the Bronx attending Mount St. Michael Academy, went to college at Fordham University before graduating from Lehman College. At Fordham, Turo played for two seasons under coach Gil McDougald, a second baseman for the New York Yankees.

* Monroe major league alumni total eight, including Hall of Fame slugger Hank Greenberg (Detroit Tigers), Ed Kranepool (New York Mets), Dan Monzon (Minnesota Twins) and former Giants manager Charlie Fox.