St. Bernard graduate is State College manager
Norwich - Dave Turgeon is no stranger to the New York-Penn League. Nor to homecomings.
A Mystic native and St. Bernard High School graduate, the 47-year-old Turgeon met his wife Theresa while managing the Mahoning Valley (Ohio) Scrappers, another New York-Penn League team, in 2001.
This year, managing the State College (Pa.) Spikes, Turgeon and his wife, both from families of seven children, have had homecoming celebrations this summer both when the Spikes were in Ohio and this week as the Spikes arrived to play the Connecticut Tigers in a three-game series at Dodd Stadium.
Turgeon, in town with his wife and 10-year-old daughter Francesca, who reside in Sarasota, Fla., called the visit to southeastern Connecticut a "timely" one.
"It's been a blast. We've spent most of the time with my mom and dad (Paul and Pauline of Mystic), eating my mom's cooking, hanging out with my brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews and friends," Turgeon said. "I hadn't been home in a long time.
"… This job, the bus rides, being away from my family so much, sometimes you lose perspective. This is good perspective for me. My daughter is 10 and she's starting to kind of understand where I come from, getting to know her cousins."
Turgeon returned to professional baseball last year with the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise after spending eight years in college baseball, including four years as the associate head coach and pitching coach at Virginia Tech from 2007-10. He also served as an assistant coach at Duke (2006), UConn (2004-05) and Boston College (2002-03).
Prior to that, he was a member of the Cleveland Indians organization, where he managed the Burlington (N.C.) Indians in the Appalachian League (2000), Mahoning Valley (2001) and managed the Indians' extended spring training program in Winter Haven, Fla., in 2002.
Turgeon is a 1983 St. Bernard graduate - he was inducted into the St. Bernard Hall of Fame in 2006 - and was a three-time All-Southern Conference third baseman at Davidson College in North Carolina. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1987 Major League Draft and spent four seasons in the Yankees' farm system, playing for both Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter.
Turgeon jokes that he's the least talented of his seven siblings; brothers Mike and Steve also played professional baseball.
Yet he's enjoyed his return to managing in the Pittsburgh organization. With a 6-4 win in the first game of Friday night's doubleheader at Dodd Stadium, the Spikes are 22-16, in second place in the league's Pinckney Division just a game and a half behind the Auburn Doubledays.
"I'm excited to lead and impact young baseball players in transition," Turgeon said of the short-season Class A players, many of whom are playing professionally for the first time. "It's a great challenge to teach them how to work, how to be able to play every day, how to be able to play nine innings every day. Those are hard lessons. To teach them you need positivity, inspiration, energy.
"Right now we're at the halfway point and some of these guys have hit a wall. You try to spell them with a day off, but at the same time they have to learn to play banged up and tired. It's a grind."
Turgeon said that Pirates management, including assistant general manager Kyle Stark, gives him the freedom to make out the lineup as he chooses, not forcing him to play a certain player due based on draft status. Turgeon said he believes that teaches the players a degree of professionalism.
"They've allowed me to be creative," Turgeon said.
Turgeon said now that he lives in Florida full time, most of his family likes to visit him instead of the other way around. But he still thinks of the area fondly, beginning with former St. Bernard baseball coach Tom Hayes, who still writes him a handwritten note once a year.
"I had a paper route to deliver the Groton News way back in the day," Turgeon said between games Friday. "I've seen grammar school friends, high school friends. My dad's been hanging out in the clubhouse. It's been surreal."