Former Ocean Coach, Red Bank Athletic Director Retiring

By CHRIS CHRISTOPHER

Del Dal Pra has had quite the career as a coach and educator.

Let’s flash back to the 2006 and 2007 baseball seasons at Ocean Township High School. Dal Pra coached the Spartans to New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Jersey Group III championships.

Dal Pra’s career will come to an end Aug. 1 when he retires as the Red Bank Regional High School Athletics and Activities Director, a post he occupied for 12 years. Dal Pra took over a struggling athletics program and established a winning culture.

“I would like to be remembered as someone who cared about everybody,” said Dal Pra, who has worked in education for 30 years. “Everyone always had a good time when they worked with me. People always had me to count on.”

There were plenty of victories to count at Ocean where the Spartans won either 20 or more games from 2002-07 under Dal Pra.

“It’s very to say which team was my best,” he said. “Which player was my best at Ocean? Let’s put it this way. Jimmy Simmons, who played in 2003, was our best pure hitter. Keith Weinkofsky, who played in 2007, was our best power hitter. Mark Pappas, now a Seton Hall University assistant coach, was our best student of the game. Mark played for us in 2003. Adam Smith, who played in 2002, had our strongest arm. Eric Hinkle, who played for us in 2007, was our best pitcher. Cip Apicelli, who played for us in 2000 and 2001, was our best base runner.”

Speaking of Apicelli, he has enjoyed successful careers coaching the Spartans’ wrestling and baseball teams. He coached under Dal Pra during Dal Pra’s  final season at the helm after playing for Monmouth University. Apicelli starred on Dal Pra’s first two teams in 2000 and 2001. Apicelli pitched and played shortstop.

“Cip’s strong point was his speed,” Dal Pra said. “He led the Shore Conference in stolen bases both years. He led the state in steals during his senior season. Plus, he had baseball smarts. He was a human computer. He understood analytics before it hit the main stream.”

Apicelli was a Spartan of few words.

“He was quiet,” Dal Pra said, “but you knew he was always thinking. At first, I thought he was mad all of the time, but as I got to know him I learned he was very focused. He hated rain outs. Whether it was in high school, fall ball or American Legion ball, he was always prepared to play.”

Dal Pra said Apicelli, who also competed in football and wrestling for the Spartans, was born to coach.

“He didn’t have to ask me for advice about how to coach as you knew it was in his blood,” Dal Pra said. “His dad, Mike, was a legend in the Ocean Township Little League. To them, it was more than a game. It was life. Cip is a successful coach because he is smart and understands the Ocean kids. He knows how to motivate them.”

Dal Pra said his 2006 team, which blew out Colts Neck under the 10-run rule in the Central Jersey Group III final, won a single-season school record 27 games. It lost to Morristown in the Group III state championship game. It captured the Shore Conference Tournament crown, besting Toms River South, coached by the legendary Ken Frank, who leads the state in career wins. And it won the Class A North championship.

Center fielder Mike Rochford batted .400 and stroked 50 hits for Ocean in 2006. Another key player in 2006 was left fielder Cory Giddings.

“That team was more of a surprise team,” Dal Pra said. “We had so many players moving up from a great 2005 junior varsity team.”

The 2007 club dominated opponents for the most part. It won the sectional title 1-0. Kyle Norman and Tony DeSantis teamed on a clutch play, keying the win.

“It was expected to win and it blew teams away,” Dal Pra said. “The 2007 team had the experience of the 2006 team to build on so not much had to be said. The 2007 team consisted of veteran players who led by example. The players on both teams were very coachable,” Dal Pra said. “They understood what it took to be successful. They understood that sacrifices had to be made year-round.

“Both of our teams could hit like no other team. The top of the order got on base and the guys in the middle of the order knocked them in. The bottom of the order on both teams was very good at playing small ball. The guys at the bottom of the order knew their roles and got it done. Both teams were good at all facets of the game. They could hit, field and pitch with them all. Our 2006 team had four seniors who played on our junior team as juniors. They knew the 2006 season was their chance to shine.They worked their butts off and got the best of it.”

With Dal Pra at the helm, the Spartans won four Shore Conference division titles, two Monmouth County Tournament championships, one Shore Conference Tournament crown and two Central Jersey Group III titles. He was an Ocean assistant football coach in 2000 and 2005 when the Spartans captured Central Jersey Group III championships.

“Nine (baseball) championships in nine years (2000-08) is pretty special,” Dal Pra said. “During that time, 12 of our players made first-team All-Shore.Ocean had only two winning seasons and one All-Shore player in the 1990s.”

Dal Pra’s assistant baseball coaches were Bob Giannone, Joe Costa and Gerry Melanga. Giannone coached the junior varsity team for more than 25 years. Costa guided the freshman club for more than 25 seasons. Melanga, who was the varsity pitching coach, served as a Middletown North assistant coach. Malanga guided Red Bank Regional for more than 10 years.

Dal Pra said he sent nearly 20 former players into the collegiate ranks. Pappas (Seton Hall), Adam Smith (St. John’s), Apicelli (Monmouth), Hinkle (West Virginia), Greg Krzyzanowski (Monmouth), Matt Seagell (Vanderbilt), Jamie Rozenkranz (Monmouth) and Tom Siciliano (Monmouth) wound up in NCAA Division I. The latter is Ocean’s successful boys bowling coach.

Weinkofsky, who played for Brookdale Community College, slugged a Shore Conference career record 31 home runs en route to All-Shore and All-State first-team honors in 2006 and 2007. Hinkle, who also played first base, earned All-Shore and All-State honors. Shortstop-pitcher Kyle Norman was an All-Shore honoree who competed for the Rowan University Profs.

Dal Pra taught health and physical education in the Ocean Township School District before becoming an administrator. He directed the Shore Conference Wrestling Tournament, which transitioned from a team tournament to an individual tournament.,

“My teaching and coaching experience at Ocean was dream like,” he said. “I had the best of all worlds–kids who were excited to learn and get better and fellow teachers who enjoyed their jobs and the kids. The most satisfying aspect of coaching at Ocean was knowing each day the kids wanted to work and expected to be pushed. They loved to play and be around each other year-round. It’s simple, but I have not seen that mentality since. I may never see it again.”

Formerly the head baseball coach at Ocean County College, Dal Pra also coached baseball at Henry Hudson Regional and baseball and football at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional.

Dal Pra, 55, graduated from Rumson in 1984. He played running back and defensive end and punted and kicked for the Bulldogs. A heavyweight wrestler, he played shortstop and third base. He earned All-Shore, All-Monmouth County and second-team All-State honors in football. He was All-County in baseball and a third-place finisher in district competition.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Rowan University and his master’s degree from Kean University. He was an All-New Jersey Athletic Conference defensive end at William Paterson.

Dal Pra and his wife, Roseann, are the parents of three sons. Will, 18, will be a Florida State University freshman. Gus, 15, is a Red Bank Regional sophomore. Hank, 14, is a Red Bank Regional freshman.

“What will I do while I am retired?” he asked, repeating The Coaster’s question. “After working 60-70 hours every week and averaging 330 days per year for the past 10 years, I hope nothing, but I would love to return to Ocean Township and work in some capacity. I think I will have something to offer a school for the next 10 years  My years in education flew by. I am not going to lie to you.”

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