Coach Rielly Embrey and his Del Norte team made their first trip to the section baseball finals.
As Rielly Embrey walked toward the team bus after Del Norte High clinched its first trip to the section baseball finals, his grandfather, legendary football coach Chick Embrey, discarded his walker and gave Rielly a big bear hug.
It was quite a moment since the Nighthawks’ first appearance in the San Diego Section finals also would be a first for Rielly as Del Norte coach.
“My dad was so involved as a coach. He knew what it takes to get a team to the finals,” said Mark Embrey, Rielly’s father. “He let Rielly know how great a thing this really was in his career.”
Last week, that moment came and went pretty quickly, too fast for the Nighthawks and just as fast for a family that has coached in more than its share of finals.
Christian High scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to escape with a 5-4 Division III victory over Del Norte at USD’s Fowler Park.
“Yeah, this was worth it,” Rielly said after his players had exited the field. “When we scored to go up 4-3, our dugout erupted. They didn’t care if it was finals day for seniors or whatever.
“The whole thing was pretty neat. I saw most of the parents losing their minds more than their kids. It was a special, special day.”
Other family members who have preceded Rielly into championship moments beamed about the latest Embrey day in the sun.
“I’m so thrilled Rielly gets to coach a finals,” Mark said. “I told him to keep the game in perspective, have some fun and enjoy the moment because you never know if there’s another moment out there for you.”
Though the game was Rielly’s first title game, the Embrey name has been there before.
Chick took his Cougars to four of them, winning it all in 1960, ’62 and ’69. The 1960 title was the first football championship in section history.
Mark Embrey was an assistant coach on Jay Trousdale’s girls basketball team for five of Trousdale’s 10 title appearances at Poway, winning the championship in 2008.
Rielly accompanied his dad for several of those girls basketball finals.
“He went on the bus with us and sat on the bench a couple of times,” Mark said. “He was a sports junkie at a very young age.
“The last time we went, in 2010, all of my kids showed up wearing their old letterman’s jackets to cheer on the Titans.”
Matthew Embrey, Rielly’s cousin, was an offensive line coach on Rob Gilster’s football staff at Valley Center for seven trips to the finals that included championships in 2004, ’05, ’07, ’08 and ’11.
Coincidentally, Gilster played on Chick Embrey’s final team in 1977.
This is the fifth baseball season at Del Norte for Rielly, 33, who has claimed Valley League titles in 2011 and again in ’13.
The former Poway High slugger also holds the distinction of hitting the first home run in a game at Petco Park while playing for coach Tony Gwynn at San Diego State in 2004.
“I was surprised at how loud the whole thing was,” Rielly said of the championship scene at Fowler Park. “I’ve played in front of loud crowds before. It was louder today than I anticipated.
“We wanted to take a few steps forward this year. Yes, this is now the goal each year. Getting here is hard that first time, but once you’ve been there it slows down a little and there less to be frantic about.”