On the surface, every single thing about Stormy Baver is fascinating, from her softball playing credentials all the way down to her unique name.
Frankford is hoping its new softball head coach can add a Public League championship to her diversified resume.
But first, let’s start with that name, which is indeed Baver’s given one.
“My mom wanted to name me Victoria, but my father named me Stormy,” Frankford’s energetic new oftball coach said. “My father saw a story about a little girl named Stormy who was killed when she was hit by a train. The way he saw it, one Stormy left while another one came into the world. So it’s all my dad’s fault. But it’s his fault I’m an All-American, too. He worked me pretty hard.”
Baver’s dad, Forrest, was her softball coach growing up. When Stormy was 8, her father sent her to behind the plate when his team needed a catcher. Baver, who grew up in Kutztown, never left the backstop after that, crouching all the way to a playing career at Ursinus College, where she was a Division 3 All-American in 1985, her senior season.
Baver has been in Philadelphia for 18 years, the first 13 of which she spent as a physical education teacher at Harding Middle School. Five years ago, she took a similar position at Frankford and has been a Dean of Students for the last two. However, what she’s most enthusiastic about is the opportunity to be Frankford’s new softball coach, replacing Ken Tomczuk, who guided the Pioneers to an undefeated regular season a year ago before falling in the postseason to George Washington.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m at about a 20 right now,” Baver said. “I’m super excited. I’m close with the girls and have gone to their games in the past. We have a very athletic team. We’re going to put them out there and see where it takes us. We’re expecting another winning season.”
One thing becomes instantly clear the moment you spend some time with Baver: she’s got a motor that won’t quit and an undeniable passion for the game of softball. She played in semi-pro leagues following her career at Ursinus, and played in summer leagues up until two years ago, when she was 48. Now, at 50, taking the helm at Frankford has served as a shot of adrenaline.
Not like she needed it.
“Some kids grew up holding a pacifier. I grew up holding a softball,” she said. “It’s in my blood. Spring is my favorite season, and I’ve been out of the game for two years. Now, I’ve got this opportunity, and I’m so grateful and thankful. I’m excited and nervous for these girls. I want them to hold up that trophy.”
Baver described herself as a “reckless daredevil,” and that fire in her belly will undoubtedly translate into her coaching philosophy. The Pioneers moved up into the Public League’s Platinum Division, and Baver is excited for the challenge. She said she’d demand the best from her players, but most of all wanted to see their commitment and effort be steadfast.
“These girls know, if they miss a ball, I’ll be on them,” she said. “They miss it, they run. I’m not sure how Ken ran his program, but this is my program now and they’re taking to the way I’m running it. Every morning, I have them come sign in for the day and leave their cell phones with me. Every single one of them does it. I love them and I’m proud of them. It’s my way or the highway, and I tell them I’m not here to win championships. I’ve already got my accolades; I’m here for them, to do for them whatever I can.”
Baver is certainly excited about her roster, especially returning co-captains/infielders Brittany Fuller and Moriah Cedeno, who she called “the heart of the team.” Baver also singled out freshman pitcher Rhonda Bynum, who played basketball for Frankford in the winter as someone who could be an impact player right away for the Pioneers.
Brittany Fuller’s twin sister, Briana, is also returning, as is junior Melanie Montalvo. And though Baver admitted she hasn’t been able to work as much yet with players at her favorite position, she did express optimism over sophomore catcher Laquana Nagbe, who Baver called “the best athlete on the team.” Catcher will be one of Frankford’s biggest voids to fill, as four-year starting catcher and former captain Danielle Corr graduated.
The coach said she’s not too sure what she has yet, needing to see how her team handles in-game situations before she’s willing to make an assessment on how far Frankford can go this season. But as she said, “We’re not looking to lose. I want to win, and so are these girls. That’s what we’re out here to do.”
“I tell them all the time that I expect perfection but will respect hard work and discipline,” Baver said. “That’s what they’ve given me. I’ve had them out practicing in the rain and snow and they haven’t complained once. I want them to succeed and become productive, successful, respectful girls, and I’ve got 18 of those right now. I couldn’t ask for a better team.” ••