Chris Pedretti believes he's ready for baseball not to be a big priority in his life. That's why after 32 years as the Merced College baseball coach, Pedretti announced he's stepping down.
Longtime pitching coach Nate Devine, 41, will take over as the Blue Devils' coach. Pedretti, 60, will stay on as an assistant.
"It's a good time for Nate to take over," Pedretti said. "He's been assuming more and more responsibility every year. I feel I'm ready to take less responsibility."
Pedretti finishes with the most wins of any coach in any sport in Merced College history. Pedretti steps away with an all-time record of 840-620, which is fifth all-time in wins among California community college baseball coaches.
The Blue Devils made the playoffs 22 times under Pedretti, winning five conference championships. Pedretti was named the Northern California Coach of the Year in 2009.
"I know I'm getting close to the retirement age," Pedretti said. "In a lot of ways the decision was easy. In a lot of ways it was tough. This is what I have been doing forever. This has been my whole life.
" I knew being a head coach would come to an end soon. I'm excited for the next phase in my life. I have a lot to look forward to and it's probably time for baseball not to be a big priority in my life. It's still always going to be a part of who I am."
Pedretti's impact on baseball in Merced County can't just be measured in wins. The Blue Devils baseball family tree has reached many of the high school programs in the area.
Area coaches Matt Winton (Livingston), Pat Fuentes (Los Banos), Greg Euker (Golden Valley), Tynan Pedretti (Merced) and Aaron Ruiz (El Capitan) all played for Pedretti at Merced College. Buhach Colony coach Greg Wakefield spent time as an assistant coach for Pedretti.
"That's something special to me," Pedretti said. "The baseball family that we have here in Merced. A lot of coaches are guys who have played at Merced College. A lot of people helped me be successful, too many to name. We had great community support, which is another thing I'm proud of, the people and friends I made in the community who supported what we were trying to do."
Devine spent one year as Merced College's acting head coach while Pedretti took a one-year sabbatical during the 2012-13 school year. Devine led the Blue Devils to a 22-14 record and a playoff appearance.
"He's very knowledgeable in what he does in all things baseball," Pedretti said. "He's very knowledgeable in training, keeping players in top condition and strong. He's a great recruiter and he's great at motivation. I think he can take the program to another level."
Devine played at Merced College for Pedretti in 1997 and 1998. He's been an assistant since 2005.
"I'm really excited," Devine said. "For me, it's cool to play here for coach Pedretti and then coach with him for a long time. The opportunity to become a head coach is something I've been working toward since I was 18 years old. When I was playing for coach Pedretti was when I realized I wanted to be a head coach. A lot of why I wanted to become a coach is because of him."
Pedretti will be busy away from Blue Devil Diamond. His son, Joel, who also played at Merced College, and his wife are moving back to Merced from Tacoma, Wash., with their two-year old son and another baby on the way. Pedretti says he also enjoyed watching his younger son, Tynan, coach during his first season as the Merced High baseball coach.
Pedretti always has tried to make the Blue Devils program feel like a family. His wife, Michelle, has basically been the team mom during his entire career. Tynan and Joel have both played and coached with him. His daughters have helped with fundraisers.
Devine wants to continue that family atmosphere.
"For me, that's one thing that has stuck out about Merced College is the family atmosphere with the program," Devine said. "I remember getting there as a player. I'm from Sonora and I didn't know anyone. I just remember being this kid from Sonora and everyone was so welcoming from Day 1. That always stuck with me and for me, that's something big I want to carry on. It's really important for me that players feel that."