Frankford softball coach Ken Tomczuk is always quick with a clever pun, so it was no surprise he offered this up about Danielle Coor, his four-year starting catcher:
“She’s thrown out more players than the bouncers at The Infinity Club.”
Witticisms aside, Tomczuk’s assessment of his star player is not far off. Coor, a senior who also played varsity basketball for the Pioneers, has started every game behind the plate in her career, a remarkable feat given the lumps catchers take manning the backstop.
It can be an unforgiving position, one many young kids are reluctant to try due to the possibility of being struck by bats or foul tips, not to mention being bowled over in collisions at the plate. This hasn’t been a problem for Coor, who started playing at age 4; formerly a third baseman, she tried catching when she got to Frankford because the team didn’t have anyone willing to try it out.
She took to it instantly.
“As catcher, every play is in my hands,” Coor said. “I love calling the plays, telling my pitcher where to throw the ball. There isn’t another position on the field where you have that type of control.”
And how about those possible collisions at the plate?
“That’s my favorite part,” she said with a laugh. “I love when people try to score on me … it’s such an adrenaline rush.”
Tomczuk backed Coor up, summing her up in a way only he could: “She takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”
Tomczuk, a respected figure at the school for the staunch emphasis he places on academics, recounted a story from the 2013 season opener against Science Leadership Academy when Coor went 5-for-5 at the plate and threw out two runners at second, one at third and tagged out two more at home.
“That’s a season for some catchers,” the coach said. “For her? Just another game.”
In her four seasons on varsity, Coor, a team captain and consistent All-Public selection, has built a reputation around the league. Opposing coaches work their game plan around stopping her — it hasn’t worked; Frankford is 6-0 this season — and even the umpires like and respect her.
Coor has gotten here through hard work, both on the field and in the classroom. An honor roll student with ambitions of becoming a forensic scientist, she’s arrived at this point by following the blueprint for success Tomczuk lays out for all of his players.
Like all high school teachers and coaches, he maintains that academics come first; however, listening to Tomczuk tell it, it’s evident that his policy is much more than just rhetoric.
“My job is to teach them, to constantly approach every situation as a learning moment and drive them toward their goals,” he said. “The whole idea is to give them something that will ensure they’ll come to school, and they get that by being a part of a team. By stressing them having to make the grades in order to play, it drives them to work a little harder. It’s a hook, but a good hook.”
Coor, who has never had a problem keeping up in the classroom, serves as an extension of her coach in making sure the rules are followed. She aids teammates whenever she can, helping them herself with homework, or by pointing them in the direction they need to go to get assistance from a teacher.
Together, they teach the rest of the team that it’s OK to make mistakes; rather than dwelling on them, Coor and Tomczuk preach turning any and all low points into positives.
“That’s why they put erasers on pencils,” Tomczuk said. “Every 30 seconds of anger is 30 seconds of happiness you lose.”
Coor holds herself and her team accountable for the standards Tomczuk has set. It’s an environment that breeds positivity, regardless whether the team wins or loses.
She’s never won a softball championship, and although she thinks this is the year the Pioneers get to that point (they got to the league semifinals a season ago), Coor won’t beat herself up if it doesn’t happen. She’s much more concerned with the future of the program when she’s gone.
“I think about it all the time,” she said of graduation. “But more so for helping my teammates once I’m not here anymore. Nobody else has played catcher here in four years, so I’d like to get someone ready.”
Tomczuk wasn’t surprised when hearing about Coor putting her teammates ahead of her own personal goals.
“That’s what Frankford’s all about, becoming a part of something,” he said. “She has confidence in herself to the point where she wants to achieve for someone else and not just herself. Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, she’s already won as far as I’m concerned. Her attitude has prepared her for whatever comes next, the one that says anything is achievable. She believes very strongly in that.”
Coor, who lives right on the Frankford/Wissinoming border, is enjoying the time she has left at school. She relishes in the fact that her prowess behind the plate and at bat is known by every team Frankford faces, giving her a drive to continue living up to the enormous expectations she’s built for herself.
“It means everything to me that other coaches know about me,” she said. “I make it known that nobody should try to steal on me. If a runner gets on first, I’ll try to pick her off any chance I get. I’ll get you.
“And I’m not cocky, even if some people think I am,” she insists. “It’s just a matter of playing hard for something that matters to you. People know me for what I do on the field, and it’s fun walking around the hallways at school having people asking you about the game and how you’re doing. I love that people say there’s no other catcher like me in the Public League. They’re right, too.”
The atmosphere around Coor has fostered positive thinking, no matter what it says on the scoreboard.
“Every once in awhile, someone with a little extra spirit and oomph comes along,” Tomczuk said. “When you think the tank is empty, these players pull more out and give you an extra lift. That’s Danielle.” ••