Brian Fili is known to some as the 8th grade mathematics teacher at Strath Haven Middle School, to others as the high school baseball coach, and, outside the community, as a member of the newest class inducted in February into Villanova University’s Varsity Club Hall of Fame for his excellence as a baseball player.
Mr. Fili attended Villanova during the years of 1993 to 1997 and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in secondary teaching. Fili played varsity baseball for his four years at Villanova, becoming one of the Wildcats’ all-time greats as a centerfielder and leadoff hitter, and he remains the most successful base-stealer in Nova history. Fili’s profile was of a player who played hard all the time, maximized his strengths every day at practice, and worked on the things he needed improvement on.
In his senior year, Villanova made it to the Big East Championship. Though they were defeated by St. John’s, along the way Nova managed to upset Notre Dame twice. During his college career, Mr. Fili played with and against many future major leaguers, including Brad Lidge, Jason Grilli, Mark Mulder, and Matt Morris — players who are, Fili said, “now old like I am.” But he continues to have success in the game he loves, as coach of the Strath Haven Panthers.
Strath Haven baseball co-captain Noah Atsaves says that “Coach knows how to connect with us as players. And it is inspirational to be with a coach who has played at a very high level.”
Fili said his experience playing college ball has helped him coach the young men of the Haven baseball team. He said: “I played the game the right way as a player. I try to instill this in all of my players. Play hard, play with energy, run everything out, play smart, play with mental toughness, and pay attention to detail. Paying attention to the little things will lead to wins!”
Senior co-captain Brady Mutz noted another Fili theme: “Coach has taught us how to deal with failure. Baseball is a game where the best players succeed three out of ten times. He has taught us that the best thing about baseball is that we get to play again tomorrow. If you have a bad day, you can come out the next day and prove you are better.”
As with the Phillies, Fili’s Panthers team will go as far as its pitching takes it. Every year, the coach stresses that the most important thing the team needs to do in order to be successful is throwing strikes. Over the years, that has been good approach, since Strath Haven baseball has been very successful. The team has won three Central League titles and 1 District title, and there are currently 16 former Haven players on college baseball rosters around the country.
In order for this year’s team to make it to Centrals Fili said that “We have to keep getting better every day. I ask the players ‘What are you going to get better at today?’ We have to improve defensively, run the bases better, need to make better decisions and we have to get the younger players up to speed on the varsity pace of the game.”
Mutz and Atsaves, along with fellow seniors Andrew Yates and Jake Fisher, are being counted on to help Coach Fili lead a good group of talented and young players.