Shady Side Academy’s New Gene Deal Champs Receive Rave Reviews From Namesake

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Sunday, October 16, 2022 | 11:01 a.m.


Growing up in the Utica, New York, area, Gene Deal never imagined sports fields would be named in his honor.

But the new multi-purpose ball diamonds on the Shady Side Academy campus were scheduled to be dedicated to Gene Deal Fields on October 14 and 15 as part of the school’s homecoming weekend.

Shady Side has transformed the low grass sports fields into a modern complex that will host baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. The 154,000 square foot field is one of the 10 largest continuous sports artificial turf fields in the country.

After arriving at Shady Side Academy in 1982, Deal served as a coach and athletic director from 1990 until his retirement at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Deal was one of the driving forces behind the 1992 decision to join the WPIAL after 70 years away.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the board and our then-chairman Peter Kountz and director Keith Ellis,” Deal recalled. “We spoke to a number of alumni and students. It was a test and one of those where you really had no idea how it would turn out.

Shady Side was a member of the Interstate Prep League. Kountz sent letters to all private schools in Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and West Virginia to gauge interest in creating a larger league. Only two schools responded, and Kountz told Deal it was time to take a look at the WPIAL.

“God bless Chuck Heberling, leader of the WPIAL at the time,” Deal said. “He was the best. He helped me along the way. He guided me and told me what to do and how to do it every step of the way. He really helped with this transition .

Deal said the school joined the PIAA and WPIAL later for three reasons: consistency in programming, women’s sports were not served by the Independent Girls Athletic League, and third, a desire to make part of the Pittsburgh community allowing student-athletes to try out for playoffs and championship games.

“I’m amazed to this day, it’s a wonderful thing how the WPIAL runs their championships and what a great job they do,” Deal said.

It didn’t take long for the school to celebrate a PIAA title, winning all in men’s basketball in 1995 and again in 2000. The first football title came in 1998.

In total, under Deal’s tenure, Shady Side has won 64 WPIAL titles in various sports and 18 PIAA titles in 15 sports.

“It was the perfect storm there in the initial period. Our college was all-male,” Deal said. that we are all mixed. It was a great period. When we joined WPIAL, our whole girls program grew and was just as strong.

Several sports facilities have been renovated in recent decades, as well as the main school buildings, some of which are over 100 years old.

The president who succeeded Koutz, Tom Southard, first wanted to modernize the academic facilities, then the sports facilities, in particular by replacing the cinder track.

The new complex will have the Galliot family grandstand, seating 405 people, which is built into the hillside overlooking the pitch. The Howson Family Terrace will provide a viewing and gathering space.

The Killian Cavanaugh Memorial Baseball Field and Softball Pitch will feature dugouts, batting cages and bullpen. When not in use by Shady Side middle and high school teams, the Gene Deal fields will be available for rental by youth and community organizations.

The project was funded with $2.2 million in private donations.

Says Deal: “Our president, Bart Griffith, has done a terrific job of pushing this thing forward. Paul Francioni, Ray Battistel, Aspinwall’s turf manager, and Benny Palumbo who does the work below did a top notch job. Nothing is easy these days to obtain permits to start building. What a facility. We can convert softball and baseball to lacrosse in no time. This is the great thing for children.

Never one to honk the horn or dominate the stage, Deal was surprised when he learned the fields would be named after him.

“I just feel blessed, really humbled,” Deal said. “I know how lucky I am to have this kind of thing named after you.”

Today, Deal serves as the academy’s special engagements representative, traveling the country and meeting and staying in touch with alumni.

Tags: Shady Side Academy

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