Ron Maestri to return to UNO baseball team

Hoping for a quick fix and instant credibility as it embarks on a new start in the Southland Conference, the University of New Orleans lured Privateers coaching legend Ron Maestri out of retirement to resurrect its downtrodden baseball program.

Maestri, 72, will be introduced as the school’s new baseball coach at a 2 p.m. news conference Tuesday at Lakefront Arena, he confirmed in a text message Monday night. He succeeds Bruce Peddie, who was fired May 31 after going 40-161 in four seasons.

Maestri coached the Privateers from 1970-84 and was the university’s athletic director for 21 years, from 1979 until he retired in 2000. His teams went 518-247-1 (.677) and never had a losing season in 15 campaigns. The Privateers qualified nine times for the NCAA tournament and in 1984 became the first Division I school from Louisiana to reach the College World Series; they finished fifth.

Maestri is currently executive director/chief operating officer of the New Orleans Zephyrs.

Attempts to reach UNO Athletic Director Derek Morel were unsuccessful. Zephyrs General Manager Mike Schline would neither confirm nor deny the reports, saying the club would comment on Maestri’s status after UNO’s news conference.

A few weeks ago, Maestri sidestepped questions when reports surfaced that he might be a candidate for the job.

“Right now, my only involvement with the job is being part of the coaching search,’’ he said. “That’s really all there is to it. But never say never.’’

Maestri’s return to the college baseball scene, where he is revered as a marketing pioneer, comes as a surprise, but his fingerprints remain all over the Privateers program more than 10 years after his departure. He has remained a local sports ambassador for the school and one of its biggest supporters.

The school’s baseball stadium bears his name — Maestri Field at Privateer Park — and is undergoing a $3 million renovation, its opening scheduled to be Feb. 15 against LSU.

UNO officially joined the Southland on Monday, along with new members Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word. The additions grow the conference to 14 members.