By: Erin Hughes
Edited By: Kylie Augis
Many people know Boston as the City of Champions; the city is rich with sports history and legacies, and that even extends to its universities. Native Bostonians know about the Beanpot tournament where Harvard University, Northeastern University, Boston University, and Boston College men’s and women’s hockey teams compete for bragging rights in one of the most historic hockey towns in the US. The Beanpot has also extended to other sports, most notably extending to baseball.
Since Boston University does not have a baseball team, they are replaced in the baseball tournament by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Although BU has the most hockey tournament wins, their Comm Ave rivals, Boston College hold the most baseball tournament wins, with 6 of their 15 championships being under coach Mike Gambino. Gambino was named the head coach of the Eagles baseball team following the 2010 season, after playing for the Eagles from 1997-2000. Following his playing days at BC, Gambino played two seasons in the Red Sox minor league system before taking on a working and coaching role for the former Class A affiliate of the Sox, the Lowell Spinners. Before Gambino was named head coach, he also spent time as a regional scout for the Detroit Tigers and as an assistant coach for both Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Courtesy of Eakin Howard, Getty Images
Coach Gambino started building his own program immediately, though most of his success started happening during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Though the Eagles missed out on the postseason in 2015, Gambino produced four draft picks that season, one of them, Chris Shaw, becoming the first first-rounder out of The Heights since 2009. In 2016, the Eagles lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament, but due to their newfound success in the regular season, the team earned themselves a bid to the Oxford Regionals of the NCAA Tournament as the number 3 seed. After sweeping the Oxford Regional, the Eagles headed to Coral Gables to face the Miami Hurricanes for their first NCAA Super Regional appearance. After forcing a Game 3, the Eagles longest tournament run unfortunately came to an end when the Canes advanced to Omaha.
However, things were only starting to begin for Gambino and the Eagles. From 2016-2019, Gambino had 13 players drafted and made the ACC Tournament three out of the four years. The 2021 and 2022 seasons left much to be desired for Eagles fans, though seven more Birdballers were drafted, with three of them going in the first five rounds. The 2023 season started to bring new hope to Chestnut Hill. With the addition of a new pitching coach, Kevin Vance, and the return of some key team veterans, Gambino and the Eagles had high hopes for the season, especially after winning a midweek battle against the #2 ranked Tennessee Vols and grabbing the first conference series win of the season against #10 Virginia Tech. The Eagles finished the regular season with their first top 10 ranking in program history in week 7, 16 conference wins and a bid for the Tuscaloosa Regional. Unfortunately, the Eagles did not make it out of the regional, but Gambino and his team did match the program record of 37 wins in a season.
Courtesy of BC Athletics
Barely two weeks after the conclusion of the season, BC announced that they had agreed to a five year contract extension with Coach Gambino. Most were celebrating this because of Gambino’s success in recent years, but the celebrations stopped when Penn State Baseball announced just 17 days later that Gambino would be joining their staff as the new head coach. One week before Gambino’s departure from BC, his pitching coach and hitting coach left the program due to budget constraints. The athletic director who signed Gambino to Penn State has a history with the coach; Pat Kraft was the AD in Chestnut Hill from 2020-2022 before moving to Penn State.
Through his 13 years at Boston College, Gambino began and maintained a culture within his locker room that can be hard to find these days. He prides himself on not only developing baseball players but developing young men who are capable of making their place in the world. Boston College Baseball was also once the home of Pete Frates, creator of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and BC outfielder from 2004-2007. In 2012, the program began the Annual ALS Awareness Game played against a conference opponent each year at Fenway Park in honor of the former Birdball captain. With only assistant coach Greg Sullivan remaining in the Heights, many will be wondering where the Eagles will fall in ACC standings next season, and how well Gambino will adjust to life and baseball in the BIG10.