Baseball: Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro beats great friend Palatine coach Paul Belo in their final meeting

Prairie Ridge baseball coach Glen Pecoraro and retiring Palatine coach Paul Belo.

PALATINE – Prairie Ridge baseball coach Glen Pecoraro looked toward the home dugout after the Wolves’ 8-2 victory Tuesday over Palatine with all the respect in the world.

“That guy there is the best baseball man in Illinois,” Pecoraro said. “I don’t care what anybody says. Just sitting down with our families and going to clinics together, he thinks the game at a higher level than sometimes I can even comprehend.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be a head coach without Paul Belo.”

The two great friends met for the last time on the field Tuesday after 23 years of matching wits against one another. Belo, the Pirates’ coach for 27 years, is retiring as physical education/health teacher and coach.

Neither was sure of their head-to-head record, only that they had tough matchups, ultimate respect and always felt tested by the other.

“Every time we play each other, my goal is to do something different than what they’re expecting us to do,” said Belo, who called for a lot of bunting on Tuesday. “It’s a nice chess match.

“The biggest thing when you go up against a gentleman of that quality who runs that type of program, you have to do something that maybe you haven’t done, but you’ve practiced. What he does is expose us and I’m trying to expose them. So that it becomes part of the practice plan for them and part of the practice plan for us. It’s not scripted. It’s just what we do.”

Pecoraro’s team had the upper hand from the outset on Tuesday, grabbing three runs in the first and riding five strong innings from Riley Golden, who struck out eight, and two from freshman Owen Satterlee for the win.

Maddon McKim was 3 for 3 with two RBIs. Brennan Coyle was 2 for 5 with a double and RBI and Karson Stiefer was 2-4 with two runs scored.

But the bigger picture was two coaching friends with more than 1,000 wins between them facing each other for the last time.

Pecoraro passed 500 career wins last season; Belo sits at 495. It seems fitting that they went into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame together in January 2020.

Pecoraro and Belo met at Illinois-Chicago in 1989 when Belo was a senior second baseman and Pecoraro was a junior outfielder. Belo went to Hoffman Estates High School; Pecoraro went to Marian Central and played two years at McHenry County College.

They were roommates at UIC and became closer and closer friends as they headed to the same professions, teaching and coaching. Pecoraro is the godfather of Belo’s daughter Madi; Belo is the godfather of Pecoraro’s son David.

“Shoot, by the time college was over we were almost best friends,” Pecoraro said. “Our families got closer after college. He got married, I got married. Our kids were friends together because we started spending time with his family.

“My kids call them Uncle Paul and Aunt Deb and their kids call us Uncle Glen and Aunt Beth. We’ve become really close over the years.”

Pecoraro was hired at Prairie Ridge when it opened in the fall of 1997. Belo was hired that year at Fremd, they immediately put each other on the schedule.

Pecoraro said the two have spent thousands of hours together at airports and traveling to clinics, always talking baseball.

“He’s been my mentor. Any time there was a situation with a player or against a team, with a scouting report, I always go to him,” Pecoraro said. “If his season ended early, he would come to practices and work with our kids in the regional or sectional. Or help out or scout for me. We’ve done that for each other for years, it’s been pretty special.”

Belo wants to stay in coaching, perhaps at the collegiate or professional level, in the future. Pecoraro thinks his friend would thrive as a college coach, either head or assistant.

“Parts of me want to be on the top rail and just watch the game,” Belo said. “I would be someone who would be an asset to a coach that way.”

There is a certain high school, not far from Belo’s home in Algonquin, where he would be welcomed like a favorite son.

“(Pecoraro) has asked many times,” Belo said. “It’s things we talk about all the time. We share so much information and talk about the game so much.

“I’m going to find somewhere to coach.”