BRYAN, Texas (AP) — Bryan High School baseball coach James Dillard often smiles while watching his son play baseball for the Brazos Valley Pride.
The Eagle reports that's because it's like looking in a mirror, as 12-year-old Tag Dillard is learning the game from Randy Malazzo, the same coach that 42-year-old James Dillard played for almost three decades ago as a member of the Bryan North Little League Braves.
Dillard even swears Malazzo uses the same fungo bat and "chews the gum the same exact way that he did when I was playing for him."
The time machine is complete every time Dillard's son reaches third base, and Malazzo puts his arm around his latest pupil.
"When Coach Malazzo is talking to him, it's like, 'Hey, that looks like me over there,'" Dillard said. "You know, that's kind of cool."
Malazzo, a vice president at Prosperity Bank, has been teaching the national pastime for four decades at North and Bryan Harvey Little League, and now for the Pride.
But that's only a piece of how the 63-year-old has served the community. He was a basketball official for more than three decades. He served for eight years on the Bryan ISD Education Foundation, including time as president. He is or has been a member of Bryan Rotary, the Bryan Park Board, Brazos Valley Sports Foundation, Sul Ross Elementary School Community Advisory Board, the Bryan North Little League Board of Directors and the Viking Club, the organization for Bryan High's extracurricular activities.
"There's probably a handful of people that I know in the community who are just totally givers of the cause, whether that was coming through the Little League system with the kiddos or the Viking Club," said Harry Francis Jr., who played, coached and was athletic director at Bryan High School. "(Randy) was just one of those guys that always was there to contribute, to give of his time. He's just one of those totally Bryan guys, as we put it, that just really had Bryan's best in his heart."
Malazzo was part of Bryan High's 1973 graduating class. It was the school's second after the merging of Stephen F. Austin and E.A. Kemp high schools, following desegregation.
Malazzo started giving back to the community almost as soon as he walked out of Bryan High's doors. It didn't matter the sport or who the coach was. Odds are, they eventually crossed paths with Malazzo.
"I can't tell you how invaluable Randy Malazzo is," former Bryan athletic director and football coach Merrill Green said in 1986. "We rely on him so much, it's like he's one of our staff."
When Larry Brown led the Bryan High boys basketball team to back-to-back state titles in 1983 and '84, Malazzo was on the bench keeping statistics.
He's also a huge baseball fan, which helps to explain his passion for coaching. But the bottom line is Bryan North needed Malazzo.
"They were short-handed, they were kind of desperate, so they just let me have (a team) that first year," Malazzo said.
Malazzo took on the role partly because he had great baseball coaches who had donated their time — Pete Garrett in Little League, Joe Blaschke and Philip Tremont in what was then called the teenage league, and Carl Davis in high school.
"It was just an opportunity to help kids," Malazzo said. "I had good coaches when I was growing up. I love the game, and I was just anxious to get back in and be part of it again."
Malazzo teamed up with Gary Guest, another well-known giver of his time, to coach for more than three decades for Bryan North. He started coaching in senior league, for ages 13 to 15. He did that for more than a decade, and since has coached 10- to 12-year-olds.
"There's a little more teaching involved with the younger ones," Malazzo said. "As they get older, you are mainly fine-tuning, and just giving them a little more direction. With the younger ones, you can't take anything for granted. You have to teach them almost everything."
Among the many rewards is coaching a second generation of players, kids of the kids he once taught. His greatest joy is seeing former players "having success in whatever they do, not just in baseball, but anything."
Dillard said Malazzo has a knack for relating to his players.
"As soon as we were dropped off by our parents, he knew within five minutes, even before practice started, he knew how to coach you," Dillard said. "He knew if someone was having a bad day or he was having a good day. He knew if he needed a pat on the back or a kick in the rear end."
Dillard said it was easy for Malazzo, because he cared.
"He cared about you as an individual, and then secondarily as a baseball player, and that's one thing I learned from him that I've carried on at all my stops," he said.
Officiating basketball gave Malazzo another way to be involved, and served as a good way to stay in shape, he said. This is the first year since 1977 that he hasn't officiated.
"Basketball is a different situation, because you are right there," Malazzo said. "The fans are on top of you, the coaches are on top of you. I got into it and kind of caught the bug and couldn't get rid of it. I did it a couple of years while I was going to school for extra money, and then did it for 40 years."
Malazzo differs from many youth baseball coaches in that he didn't get involved to coach his children. His daughter, Meredith, didn't play sports. He coached his stepson, Rejy Bacchus, for two years at North, but that was after he had already been coaching for a while. Many believe Malazzo has an extended family that continues to grow.
"He wanted to see all kids succeed in Bryan," said Francis, who worked with Malazzo for a year on the Education Foundation board. "It never came down to his own family, it came down to the family of people in Bryan. He always cared deeply about the people of Bryan, how they competed, and he always wanted us to be at the highest level."
Dillard, who coached for 11 years at Normangee, O'Donnell, Rusk and Magnolia West before returning to Bryan in 2017, was glad to see a friendly face working in the press box during football games.
"I hadn't seen Coach Malazzo in a long time," Dillard said. "As soon as we locked eyes, he said, 'Hey, James Dillard.' He just had a way of making you feel good."
Information from: The Eagle, http://www.theeagle.com