Baseball: North Tahoe High names Orlando as Habeger’s successor
North Tahoe High athletic director Ed Turner named Larry Orlando head coach of the Lakers’ baseball team on June 10, just three days after Bob Habeger officially retired from the position, which he had held for 19 years.
Orlando, who has spent two years coaching the junior varsity team, impressed Turner and the school administration with his organizational skills.
“That was something we were looking for,” Turner said. “He also had the support of community members and he knew the kids. All three counted big.”
“I believe this is a good move for the players because they are familiar with me as a coach,” Orlando said. “I’ve coached some of these players since tee ball and through J.V. baseball.”
Orlando takes over a team that traveled to the state championship during the 2004 season but graduates 11 seniors.
“We are graduating many seniors this year, but with the remaining players and the experience of the J.V. players moving up, I believe their skills and attitude will bring North Tahoe to state again in 2005,” Orlando said.
Orlando will bring Pete Dittli, his junior varsity assistant coach, along with him. He also extended a spot on his staff to the two other candidates for the head coaching position, Jack Bernardo and Rob Pirtle.
Pirtle, a school resource officer, was unavailable for comment at the time this article went to print, but Bernardo said he will either join Orlando’s varsity staff or coach the junior varsity team.
Orlando decided to apply for the job when he learned of Habeger’s plans to retire two years ago, he said.
“I think it’s important to progress up the ladder,” he added. “I had to learn the program, and coaching is the gravy part of the deal. Everything else that leads up to getting the players on the field requires the organizational skills.”
Bob Habeger, 52, the man who built the North Tahoe High baseball program, will formally stepped down as head coach on June 6 at the Lakers baseball awards ceremony, ending 19 years of service.
Habeger decided to retire as head coach following the 2004 season in order to devote more time to his family.
“The tough thing will be saying goodbye to the kids and the competition,” Habeger said, “but as I tell the kids, it’s family, academics and then sports. It’s time for family now.”
Under Habeger’s direction, the baseball program expanded from a fieldless team of 11 players in the early ’80s to include two teams, varsity and junior varsity, and a new baseball stadium at North Tahoe Regional Park, which debuted this season.
“When you ask what he did for the program, that’s tough, because ” geez ” he is the program,” Lakers assistant coach Gary Lane said. “What he’s done is absolutely remarkable. He’s to be put on a pedestal.”
Habeger amassed a 361-171 record as a coach, making him one of the most winning coaches in the Nevada Interscholastic Actitivities Association, in which the Lakers compete. He also led the program to its only state championship in 1993, as well as five state tournament appearances and nine divisional and regional playoffs.
“Every year you could expect North Tahoe to be competitive,” Truckee coach Jason Estabrook said. “He did an outstanding job with the players he had and always competed for a league title and entry into the state tournament.
“The man really has a heart and passion for baseball. He has a love for the game and the kids who play it. He’s a great coach, a good friend and I hate to see him go.”
The largest contribution of Habeger’s tenure as head baseball coach lives beyond the pages of the record book. Like Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams,” he envisioned a state of the art baseball field in North Tahoe and saw it through to its completion.
With the help of the North Tahoe Public Utility District, he built one of the best baseball fields in the Tahoe basin ” a green diamond perched atop a hill with an outfield that looks out on the lake.
“It should be called Habeger Field,” Lane said. “Why not enshrine the guy who’s done so much and continues to do so much?”
Few will miss Habeger more than the hundreds of players he coached.
“Getting to play for him was a real privilege,” senior Mark Crosson said. “He showed me how to be level-headed, and that’s a lifestyle everyone should lean towards.”
Before Larry Orlando was hired to succeed Habeger, Estabrook talked about the task ahead for the next North Tahoe baseball head coach.
“The next guy to take over the program has some big shoes to fill,” Estabrook said. “(Habeger) wore many different hats. He was a great business mind…, a great counselor…, a great liaison for North Tahoe… ” he was just a great coach.”
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.