Monroe Coach Mike Turo Still Teaching Kids the Game of Life After 36 Years
By Dylan Butler on April 2, 2013 6:38am
BRONX — Mike Turo had a plan.
He’d keep the successful baseball program at Monroe High School afloat, maybe win a championship and move on.
That was in 1978.
Turo is still in the Soundview section of The Bronx, still teaching and coaching at Monroe. He has five PSAL city titles and 29 division crowns.
Turo’s 36th season brought about another milestone: career win No. 1,100, when his Eagles defeated Norman Thomas High School, 4-0, in the semifinals of the 44th annual Monroe Showcase on Friday.
“Honestly I never thought I’d be here that long,” Turo, 57, said. “I was offered so many college and minor league coaching jobs.”
Turo, who takes a 90-minute trek from Holbrook, L.I., every day, has shown no signs of slowing down.
“Every time you get new ballplayers in the building and they’re young and have talent, you always want to see them through,” Turo said. “It seems like it never ends.”
His father was a business partner with Joe Consagra, who was leaving Monroe to coach at Wagner College. Turo interviewed and was named the new Monroe coach in December 1977.
“I knew I was walking into a great baseball program and I was stepping into big shoes,” he said. “My goal was to keep the program the same, keep it above water and then go from there.”
In his first year, the Eagles finished second in the division. A few years later, pitcher Hector Berrios was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the ninth round.
“It just took off from there,” Turo said.
Turo won his first PSAL title in 1993 and also captured the city crown in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2005. The Eagles have advanced to the PSAL playoffs for 25 consecutive years, but those numbers pale in comparison to the more than 225 players Turo helped advance to play college ball.
It’s why he’s stayed instead of taking one of numerous college and minor league opportunities. The closest he was to leaving was in 1996 when Joe Russo stepped down as St. John’s University coach.
But Turo said he was needed more in Soundview.
“We’re in an area of the Bronx where a lot of kids come from broken families, no money, and I felt it was almost an obligation to get them into college and help them out,” Turo said.
“Knowing that he’s going to help these guys, I think that’s the drive,” said assistant coach Jose Bautista, who played at Monroe in 2005.
Those players, including Bautista, have paid it forward over the years. Turo said a day doesn’t go by without hearing from one of his former players, including Arnold Brisbane, who presented his former coach with a pair of sneakers after a game Wednesday.
“Championships are great, but when you see the kids graduate, go to college and come back here and tell the kids, 'Listen to what coach has to tell you, I’ve been through the same thing'… That’s what keeps me going,” Turo said.
While he has two college-aged children of his own — a son Michael and a daughter Danielle — Turo is often a father figure to his players, many of whom hail from the Dominican Republic.
One of those players was Cruz Resto, who lived with Turo and his family for a year.
“He was ready to be on the streets selling drugs, and he turned himself around," Turo, who speaks some Spanish, said. "He passed all his classes. He graduated, got his GED and went to Western Oklahoma State College.”
That’s also where star pitcher Ricky Parra is going. The senior said it wouldn’t be possible without Turo.
“He’s one of the best coaches out here, especially off the field,” Parra said. “He makes sure you do good in your classes. He just wants you to succeed in life.”
Two years ago, Randy Perez was attending Morris, a school he said was rife with gang violence. The decision to transfer to Monroe has led to a scholarship to Florence-Darlington Technical College, a junior college in South Carolina.
“He changed me,” the senior shortstop said.
One of Turo’s more infamous players was Danny Almonte, who achieved Little League fame with the Rolando Paulino All-Stars until it was discovered he was two years too old to play in Little League.
Almonte struck out 11 and tossed a masterful one-hitter to lead Monroe to a 1-0 win over George Washington in the PSAL title game at Shea Stadium in 2004.
“People were after him for money or what they thought would possibly happen, but I didn’t see him like that,” Turo said. “I saw him as just another kid that was scared, in a strange place and he was being taken advantage of. I just wanted to make his life as easy as possible when he was here.”
Rolando Paulino and Almonte's father were banned from Little League for life and the team, along with the younger Almonte, were disqualified by Little League. Danny Almonte, who had a brief professional stint in the independent Frontier League and was a volunteer assistant coach at Monroe two years ago, is now an assistant coach at Cardinal Hayes High School in The Bronx, Turo said.
Turo has gone the extra mile for other players, too, including Parra and Perez.
“We teach more than baseball here,” Turo said. “We teach a lot about life.”