PACE — Enrique F. Eligio is starting his second season as the head coach of the Pace Patriots softball team. With an estimated 45 teams under his coaching belt, he has coached swimming, football, softball, and track in high school and was the softball pitching coach at UWF.
One of the first things Eligio said he did was put the Patriots in the softball summer league. The summer league is more relaxed, according to Eligio, giving teams the ability to rotate players and allowing everyone to bat and mix junior varsity with varsity players. On June 17, Pace split a double header against Milton.
Eligio said he is excited about coaching for a school with a "feeder" program. While not officially a feeder program, Eligio said the Pace Athletic & Recreation Association has been a great program for gaining players for the team.
"If you look at all the successful softball programs in our area ... they all have feeder programs," Eligio said.
Eligio said he likes that most players entering Pace athletics are well coached and know the rules and fundamentals of the sport. Eligio said he had 23 freshman try out for the team and kept 18. He said he expects all but one starter from last year to return and thinks the team can make it to state within a couple of years.
"This is where I want them to make their mistakes," said Eligio. "This is where they learn and get a feel for the game."
Eligio said last year's team won a little over half their games. He attributes that to the team still trying to adjust to each other.
"I never talk to my teams about winning," Eligio said. "If you do things the right way, winning will take care of itself."
Eligio teaches Spanish at the school and has a master’s degree in physical education. Eligio and his wife, Angela, have 11 children.
"(Softball) has been my passion for a few years," he said.
Eligio was a pitcher in a men’s fast-pitch softball league when he started. He still plays in a national league for men over 65.
Eligio survived throat cancer nine years ago. In November of 2018, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Eligio was to start chemotherapy treatments in January but told the doctor it was going to have to wait, because he had a men’s national tournament to play in Illinois and a softball season to coach.
"It's the greatest show on dirt," Eligio said. "I made a deal with Jesus, if he got me through cancer I would spread his word. Jesus was in control. I knew I would be alright."
Eligio is now cancer free.