“You live for those moments”: Bernacet reflects on first year as assistant coach

Monday, July 25, 2022
John Breeden
Harrisonburg, VA

It was last October when Harrisonburg Turks assistant coach Jowell Bernacet was at a baseball camp in Florida talking to Zac Cole — the head coach for the Waynesboro Generals. 

Bernacet was looking for a summer coaching job and Cole said he knew someone that was looking for an assistant coach. That someone was none other than Turks head coach Bob Wease.

“Not even three days later I get a call from Bob Wease going like, ‘Hey, Zac Cole gave you a good reference, you’re in,’” Bernacet said.

Bernacet said he couldn’t turn down the offer. Seven months later, he moved to Harrisonburg — the first place he’s ever lived outside of the state of Florida.

It’s been a fun first experience living outside The Sunshine State for Bernacet. “Waking up and coming out here and seeing the boys grind out bats … it just makes it more fun every day,” Bernacet said.

Bernacet began his coaching career at his old high school, Seminole High School in Sanford. He coached there from 2015-2019 and led the team to become state champions in 2019.

“After I got done with the school … I wanted to get into coaching,” Bernacet said. “They gave me the opportunity just to volunteer my services to them and help them wherever they need.” Bernacet enjoyed coaching his old high school and helping them reach a “winning culture” that he said they hadn’t seen in a long time.

Bernacet went on to Seminole State College, where he’s a junior studying integrated business and the assistant coach of the baseball team. He has immense gratitude for Seminole State head coach Mike Nicholson.

“Things kind of fell out when I first got there [Seminole State] and I made some dumb mistakes that every typical college person would do,” Bernacet said. “Coach Mike Nicholson gave me an opportunity to come back and be a volunteer coach and really prove myself and show him that I’ve actually changed to be a better person … I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

The first few days as a Turks coach were a bit of an adjustment for Bernacet as he was getting to know the team. He said the easiest part was getting to know Wease, who welcomed him with open arms as if he was already part of the Turks family. “He just said, ‘Hey, don’t worry. You’re going to step in this role, you’re going to have fun … and you don’t have to worry about one thing,’” Bernacet said. “Ever since I’ve been here, that’s basically what it’s been like. I had nothing to really worry about.”

Bernacet loves being around the players and said that whenever he approaches them, they’re always trying to converse. He enjoys that there’s a good coach-player dialect and that they’re all about the team rather than themselves.

“Getting to know these guys, it’s the fun part of my job,” Bernacet said. “You get little different challenges from each player because they have different personalities and you try to understand them … I really do enjoy being around this group of guys.”

When comparing his time coaching for the Turks to his previous coaching experiences, Bernacet notices the level of talent as a big difference because he gets to coach players from all over the country.

He’s honored to say he’s a Harrisonburg Turk and hopes to add to the team’s history. “I wouldn’t have ever thought my name would be next to such a historic organization,” Bernacet said. “If my name gets in the record books … it happens … as long as the guys have fun and if we win, they can enjoy that. I enjoy them having that more than I enjoy having it myself.”

Bernacet sums up this summer as a good learning experience and in his two months coaching in the Burg, the biggest thing he’s learned is one thing: Listen. “A lot of people have different philosophies of how they coach baseball,” Bernacet said. “Sometimes you can learn from other people and the only way you can do that is actually listening to what other coaches have to say. I always ask questions and nitpick their brain and always try to find out how they do business.”

When reflecting on the season, Bernacet recalls the first three games of the season being his favorite moments. The Turks won the opening night on an RBI walk-off, dropped their second game on a walk-off grand slam, and lost their third game by one. He said despite two of the games not landing in Harrisonburg’s favor, he was still enjoying himself. “That’s the fun part of baseball, you live for those moments,” Bernacet said. “It was just like, ‘Holy smokes, this is what Valley League Baseball is all about,’” Bernacet said.

Regarding his future coaching career; Bernacet says “dream big or don’t dream at all” as he hopes to someday become the manager for the Chicago Cubs and win a World Series.

“That’s pretty big and that’s pretty crazy, but that’s just where my head is,” Bernacet said. “I know that if I keep moving forward in the sport, no matter what it is, that’s my biggest dream.”

Bernacet’s first year as an assistant coach is coming to a close, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of coming back in the future. He said he told Wease that if he sticks around next year and needs an assistant coach, Wease can give him a call and he’ll be back in Harrisonburg.