In 2006, just one year after graduating from Maxwell High School, Sonny Badaluco took on his first real coaching job as the manager of the Colusa County Channel Cats, an American Legion summer ball team in its second year in existence.
Now 14 seasons later, and after building one of the most successful baseball programs in the area, Badaluco will step down to begin a new chapter in his life in the Pacific Northwest.
Under Badaluco’s direction, the Channel Cats became a perennial American Legion 17U powerhouse, finishing as District Champions four straight years between 2008-2011, back-to-back Area Champions in 2011-2012 and as a Western Regional finalist and state runner-up in 2011.
And although the team no longer plays a full summer schedule, it has been no less successful in its current format.
In addition to the Cats, Badaluco, has also coached high school baseball alongside former Maxwell and current Colusa head coach Eric Lay, winning four section titles with the Panthers and one with the RedHawks.
While he has been the driving force behind the Cats, from player recruitment to scheduling, it’s the relationships formed in his capacity as coach that will leave the most lasting impact.
A testament to Badaluco’s influence over the years can be found in the number of his former players who built upon the foundation he provided to continue at the university level and in some cases beyond.
That impressive list includes: Mike Walker (UOP/Australian National Team), Matt Vedo (UCSB), Tyler Wells (UNR), Cameron Olson (UC Davis), Chad Perry (Sac State), TJ Dove (CSU Monterey Bay), Richie Anderson (Armstrong St.), Stewart Bradley (UOP/Chico State), Lucas Corriea (Holy Names), Ross Cervantes (Northern Ohio) and Nolan West (Shawnee St.).
One of those players is current Maxwell High coach Tyler Wells who summed up Badaluco’s contribution to area baseball in this way, “Colusa County is not only losing a great coach, but even a better person. He has left an impact on not only me, but every player he coached during my time in Maxwell. The way he handled us, not only as players, but as people will never be forgotten, and I strive to achieve this with my players on a daily basis.”
Lay, Badaluco’s mentor, friend and long time coaching partner echoed Wells’ sentiment adding some high praise of his own saying, “Sonny is simply the finest coach I’ve been around in my 20 plus years of coaching. His energy, passion and selflessness are second to none. He has taken our Cats program and made it one of the most respected in Northern California and has been a major part of building our program at CHS. For Coach Badaluco, it has always been about the kids and players first. Our county, community and student athletes will dearly miss him.”
So while Badaluco’s departure is a significant loss for Colusa County, it is win for the next group of baseball players that become the recipients of his the love of the game and commitment to those who play it.