FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Bobby Valentine said Tuesday he’s “a guy who loves challenges.” So after a career spent in professional baseball, the Stamford native said he’s prepared to lead 31 amateur sports teams as the new head of the athletics department at Fairfield’s Sacred Heart University.
“I do things that are presented to me so that I can be challenged and that I can strive for excellence every day,” Valentine said. “And I think this is a very challenging position.”
Valentine was officially introduced as Sacred Heart University’s executive director of athletics Tuesday in a news conference on the school’s campus. He will take over the job on July 1.
“We’re known as the Pioneers, and once again we’re pioneers, doing something unconventional, and excitingly so, in appointing Bobby as our AD,” University President John Petillo said Tuesday.
He will replace another former baseball coach in Donald Cook, who led Fairfield University’s baseball program before taking the helm as athletic director. Cook will retire after 20 years at Sacred Heart in June. Under his tenure, the Pioneers moved into NCAA Division 1 and added 19 varsity programs.
Valentine played Major League Baseball for 10 years with five different teams. In 1985, he took his first managerial job with the Texas Rangers. He also coached the New York Mets from 1996 to 2002, and managed the Japan League’s Chiba Lotte Marines for two stints, in 1995 and from 2004 to 2009. He was most recently manager of the Boston Red Sox but was fired in October after just one season. He has also worked as an analyst for ESPN and NBC Sports.
Valentine will not be the only former professional athlete on campus. Pioneers basketball coach Dave Bike played minor league baseball for eight years, reaching as high as Triple A in the Tigers organization. Baseball coach Nick Giaquinto played in the NFL for four seasons, winning a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins.
“We have accomplished a lot as a young Division 1 institution, and with Bobby’s presence we are now primed to take it to another level, both regionally and nationally,” said Jim Barquinero, university vice president of athletics and student affairs.
When he officially takes over his new job this summer, Valentine will continue to run his restaurant in Stamford. He will also keep his position as senior baseball analyst for NBC Sports during the Major League Baseball season. He hinted at the possibility of bringing his radio show to Sacred Heart’s campus and working with students interested in broadcasting.
He said his time with Sacred Heart “will last until we are no longer mutually beneficial to each other.” But he didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to the major leagues if a team offered him another managerial position.
“If a team calls, I always answer the phone,” Valentine said. “That doesn’t mean that I’m going to rush to judgment and run away from a situation that I think is a very good situation.”