By Madison Huffling, OU Athletics Communications Intern
University of Oklahoma pitching coach Jamie Pinzino had a long road to Norman; arriving on campus after the conclusion of fall ball in early December.
A 12-year veteran in college baseball, including seven years as a head coach, Pinzino is one of two coaches in his household. Pinzino started his baseball career growing up outside of Boston, Mass. and spent his collegiate career playing at nearby Tufts University in Medford. Tufts was where he met his wife, Cheryl Milligan.
Milligan is currently the head softball coach at Tufts, where she guided the Jumbos to the 2013 Division III National Championship. The two coaches, then student-athletes, began with college careers that crossed paths on a small New England campus and have continued to grow and intersect through both their professional lives and the beginning of a family.
“We met at a baseball-versus-softball slow-pitch game that we were playing,” Cheryl said.” It was a social thing, out of season. We met there for the first time. We had mutual friends at that point. We didn’t start dating for a while after that, but that was it.”
The Pinzinos have lived together and apart, on and off, and coached ever since they graduated from Tufts.
“We’ve both been coaching ever since we got out of school, so it’s kind of a way of life for us,” Jamie said.
As a four-year letterwinner for the Jumbos, Pinzino helped the team to three Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships and was a part of the 1995 squad which reached the NCAA Division III Regional and earned a No. 2 seed. He graduated in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in history and that same year he also received the Tufts Baseball Elias Award for his hard work and dedication throughout his career.
His coaching career launched in 1998 when he took a job as the assistant coach at Division III Pomona-Pitzer in Claremont, Calif. He then went on to be an assistant coach at Holy Cross before returning to Tufts. After a two season stint with his alma mater, he took the head coaching position at Assumption College.
After just one season with the Greyhounds, Pinzino left to become the head coach at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I. In his five seasons with the Bulldogs, Pinzino went 162-122, including a 43-21 season in 2008.
He also helped Bryant move from Division II to Division I.
“When I first started, they were a Division II program,” Pinzino said of the Bulldogs. “We had some good years, then transitioned into Division I and had a couple good years there.”
He credits his experience at Bryant for helping him get to OU. He said he began to build relationships with people at the Division I level.
Around the time Pinzino was coaching at Tufts, OU head coach Pete Hughes was coaching at Boston College. Because both schools are in the Boston area, Pinzino came in contact with Hughes on multiple occasions.
From Bryant, located in Smithfield, R.I., Pinzino headed up to Northeastern University, where he was an assistant for the 2012 season. From there, he moved south to Williamsburg, Va., to become assistant coach at The College of William & Mary.
After spending 2012 as an assistant, he was promoted to head coach for the 2013 season.
In just one season with the Tribe, Pinzino would help the Tribe to its most successful season. William & Mary went 39-24, setting a new school record. The team also reached its first NCAA Tournament and made an appearance in the Raleigh Regional final. For his efforts, Pinzino was named the Co-Colonial Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
For Cheryl, coaching has kept her close to home.
Upon completing her four years of eligibility, Cheryl became a graduate assistant coach for the Jumbos. After she completed her graduate program, she was promoted to assistant coach, a position she held for eight years, ultimately leading to an opportunity to be the team’s interim head coach in 2003.
“Our head coach took another position and they offered me the job as the interim, then I came on [permanently] after that year was over,” she said.
In her first year in charge of the Jumbos, Cheryl led them to a 16-16 finish. By 2008, the Jumbos were a powerhouse producing a 30-11 season and in 2013 reached the peak of their sport by winning the NCAA Division III National Championship.
“We had a great season. We’d been building some things in our program for a while. It was a combination of a lot of years’ effort,” she said.
They only lost three games, winning 46, including all home games in 2013. They were undefeated in the New England Small College Athletic Conference play and they swept Cortland State to win the title.
“It’s every coach’s goal and dream,” Cheryl said of winning the National Championship, “To be able to do it at my alma mater was phenomenal.”
“She’s loved it,” Jamie said of Cheryl’s coaching, “She’s done a great job. She’s been to the World Series a couple of times and last year, she won the whole thing.”
In August of 2013, the Pinzinos, welcomed their first child, a son they named Henry. When Jamie made the move to Norman, Cheryl and Henry remained in Massachusetts, much like Cheryl had when Jamie seized opportunities in Rhode Island and Virginia before that.
Now that they have a baby, living apart is more difficult, according to Cheryl.
“Any time you’re a coach, you’re getting on the road constantly, so him and I living apart was no big deal for quite a while,” she said. “Now that Henry is here, it’s a little more difficult.”
“When I went down to William and Mary, it was as an assistant coach, so I didn’t know how long I would be there,” he said, “so both for money reasons and because she likes coaching, she kept that job there.”
“We were ships passing in the night for a long time, between his schedule and my schedule, Cheryl said. “We’re recruiting in the summer, so really the fall was kind of our time to be at home more.”
“I’d get up there, she’d get down to Virginia when she could. We made it work for those first couple years.”
Having a baby threw a curveball into the ease of living thousands of miles apart.
“Nowadays it’s a little bit different with Henry here for the last eight months. It’s been a little harder to be away. He’s here with me,” Cheryl said, “so I think it’s hard for Jamie to be away from him.”
Because Henry lives in Boston with Cheryl, Jamie cherishes any opportunity he gets to see his son.
“He actually flew out this past weekend, so I got a chance to see him, which is nice,” he said. “I probably won’t see him again until after the season, so that part’s tough.”
The Pinzinos have grown as a couple.
“There’s plenty of other marriages, whether somebody’s overseas for work or military, you find a way to make it work,” Jamie said.
“I think it’s certainly strengthened our relationship,” Cheryl said.