Prairie Ridge baseball coach Glen Pecoraro nominated Palatine coach Paul Belo, one of his closest friends, for the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame two years ago.
Belo, however, turned it down. He felt there were other coaches around the state more deserving. He turned it down again last year, but, on his wife Debbie’s insistence, accepted this year.
Because of that delay, Pecoraro and Belo, who were teammates and roommates at NCAA Division I Illinois-Chicago, now will be inducted into the Hall of Fame together. Belo delivered the news to Pecoraro last Thursday, then drove to Pro Player Consultants in McHenry and told Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski that he also had been selected.
The three friendly rivals will go in together at the IHSBCA Hall of Fame ceremony Jan. 25 at the Westin Lombard.
“Unbelievable. Very unexpected,” Pecoraro said. “Both Paul and I wanted to be head coaches from the time we graduated college. We’ve been going to clinics together that last 30 years. It’s been pretty special.”
Pecoraro is godfather to Belo’s daughter Madison; Belo is godfather to Pecoraro’s son Danny. They were groomsmen in each others’ weddings.
Belo lives in Algonquin and his son Bryan is shortstop on Jacobs team. Palatine usually meets Prairie Ridge and Huntley in nonconference games each season. Pecoraro was an outfielder and Belo played second base at UIC. Woodstock teacher Rob Mecklenburg, the former Blue Streaks softball coach, was another roommate and teammate at UIC.
“We would talk (in college) about the kind of coaches we were going to be and the things we were going to do for the kids who wore our uniform,” Belo said. “I’m so honored. I never considered myself in that class with those gentlemen who are really legendary. I felt I paled in comparison.
“I never took this point of view, you have a family who you missed when you were at the ballfield at games. Not to say it takes the place of things you missed, but it’s a little something that says maybe it was worth it. [Debbie] brought that to my attention. She said, ‘Don’t you come home telling me you withdrew your name.’”
Pecoraro is 490-235 for his 26-year career, all at Prairie Ridge. Belo has 436 career wins in 22 seasons at Fremd (three seasons) and Palatine (19). Jakubowski is 422-307-2 in 20 seasons between Boylan, Jacobs and Huntley. His 2018 team was Class 4A state runner-up.
Jakubowski, who played at D-I Northeastern Illinois, had taken his son T.J. to a practice at Pro Player on Thursday. Belo knew that, so he drove to McHenry after telling Pecoraro and announced Jakubowski’s news in front of everyone in the facility.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be on that list of distinguished coaches,” Jakubowski said. “I truly owe this to my family and all the players I had the opportunity to coach and mentor. It’s been a tremendous ride.”
Jakubowski thanked his college coach Jim Hawrysko, Elgin Community College coach Bill Angelo and his former pitching coach Justin Kees, as well as Jacobs and Huntley for giving him the chances to coach.
“I respect (Pecoraro and Belo) so much,” Jakubowski said. “We all bring out the best in each one of us, always striving to get better and pushing to do new things. It’s truly an honor to go in with those two individuals.”