Northeast Times

A Storm is coming

Highly qual­i­fied: New Frank­ford head soft­ball coach Stormy Baver (left) hits ground­ers to her team in pre­par­a­tion of the 2014 sea­son. Baver, a nat­ive of Kutztown and an All-Amer­ic­an catch­er at Ursi­nus Col­lege in 1985, in­her­its a suc­cess­ful pro­gram from former coach Ken Tom­czuk. ED MOR­RONE / TIMES PHOTO

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.” ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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