I’ve known Joey Pennisi, who is retiring at the end of this school year after 42 years of teaching and coaching in El Paso County (including the Ysleta, El Paso and Socorro school districts), since he was a little tyke.
I watched him grow into one of the finest human beings on the planet.
I used to play golf and tennis with Joey’s father, Joe, as far back as the 1960s and 1970s.
I saw Joey grow up as he:
• Lettered in all four years in baseball at Coronado High School
• Earned All WAC honors in UTEP baseball in 1974-75
• Played basketball for UTEP for the late coach Don Haskins his freshman and sophomore years
• Played professional baseball in Italy and returned to play on the All American Sports Ambassadors team that toured Central and South America, competing against their Olympic baseball teams
• Returned to Italy, where he was invited to coach the Italian elite pitchers for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain
• Was inducted into the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010
• Remained a deeply religious person, staying active in the El Paso area Fellowship of Christian Athletes during his 42-year career
PENNISI SPENT the last 18 years at Montwood High School as the head girls and boys golf coach while teaching health and physical education classes.
Early in his career, he spent 10 years as the head baseball coach at Parkland High School, where he set a record for career wins. He then moved to Eastwood High School, where he served as the girls and boys tennis coach and took his teams to the regional tournament in the fall and spring seasons.
During that time, he also served as assistant tennis pro at El Paso Tennis Club, where he coached and trained five Texas UIL State Champions.
He left tennis coaching to return to baseball, where he coached the Austin High Panthers to their last winning season in 1993.
HE SAYS HE will be retiring on a happy note as his Montwood boys golf team made Socorro Independent School District history by qualifying for the UIL 6-A Regional Gold Tournament in Grand Prairie, Texas.
No other Montwood golf team or any team in SISD history has ever achieved that. Additionally, girls’ golfer Ilia Ortiz qualified for the state tournament.
Pennisi now plans to spend more time with his family, Becky (his wife of 44 years), their four children, and soon-to-be six grandbabies.
TRIVIA QUESTION: Who is the youngest winner of a ladies singles title in the Open Tennis era?
TOM MCKAY, who has been under medication in treatment for cancer for years but is perhaps the most knowledgeable person about boxing in El Paso, is writing a book.
He says: “I’m proud at age 84 to have the time and energy to write this gook for family, friends, students and acquaintances, educators, boxers, kick boxers, martial artists, sports coaches and participants, science enthusiasts, military veterans and classic rock and country music lovers.”
NOW THAT’S WHAT I call a thorough group. But why is he including classic rock and country music lovers?
He says the music of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry made a positive impact on his life.
“I was in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1955-56 and serving in Japan when I first heard Elvis Presley on our radio in the barracks … Once back in the states, the rage was all Elvis and I joined the choir. Suddenly, I was free from being shy and an introvert, and quickly became a classic rock ‘n roll dancer and dated gorgeous women I never thought I could.”
TRIVIA ANSWER: Martina Hingis: Winner in 1997 at age 16.