Joe Parenti has had plenty of success during his 14 seasons on the baseball staff at Oak Park and River Forest High School, including the last four as head coach. But Parenti decided in July to step out of the dugout in order to spend time with his wife and two young children, he told Wednesday Journal
“Looking at the future for myself and my family, we decided to re-prioritize some things in our lives, and the main focus is going to be on the kids,” said Parenti, who amassed an 83-40 record in his tenure, including a sectional title in 2019. “Baseball takes up a lot of time, not just during the season, but also the offseason, and I wanted to be with the family a little more.”
Parenti found it hard to determine which team was his favorite to coach or be a part of, mainly because all of those teams were largely successful. But he said he enjoyed helping his players develop and grow.
“I have a lot of positive memories and there were a lot of good kids I worked with over the years,” said Parenti, who was an assistant coach for the Huskies’ 2012 IHSA Class 4A state championship squad. “It’s been a good run.”
Parenti particularly was proud of the 2021 team that competed well through the COVID-19 pandemic. OPRF made it to the IHSA sectional final before falling to New Trier 9-8. He lauded the Huskies for the chemistry they developed.
“Those four playoff games were some of the best and most intense ones I could remember. They were a ton of fun,” Parenti said. “That atmosphere at the New Trier game was awesome, and I don’t think you could replicate it. I can’t recall that many people being at OPRF. The seniors were a good group to go out with.”
He’s optimistic about next season’s team, which returns good, young players like Mason Phillips and Calvin Proskey.
“They’re going to be great. There are a lot of guys coming back,” he said. “Whoever takes over is going to have great success. The program’s in a great place, and I’ll be cheering for those guys to make a run. There’s no reason why they can’t.”
Karin Sullivan, OPRF’s director of communications and community relations, said the process of finding a replacement for Parenti is ongoing.
For his part, Parenti hopes someone on the current staff gets an opportunity, because that would mean a seamless transition, something he believes would be great for the program and players.
“I’ll put in a good word [for my assistants],” he said.
Throughout his time, Parenti eagerly looked forward to the playoffs, maintaining the Huskies’ standards established by predecessors. He said that while winning a West Suburban Silver conference title was always important, he felt making a deep postseason run was even more so because fans remember how a team finishes the season.
But he also said that he’ll miss being around the players the most. To him, they became a virtual second family.
“It’s more than just baseball, it’s about relationships,” he said. “Not just coaching [players] on the field, but getting to know them. We’ve had a lot of great kids come through the program, and I hope I’ve had a positive impact on their lives.”