by Andrew Garda
With spring sports finally underway, the one sport which didn’t have a head coach — or at least clarity as to who was in line for the position — was Montclair High School’s softball team.
Consider that remedied as Michael Goldstein has been officially named as the Mounties coach. The choice had actually been made before the March 5 BOE meeting, but the approval was pushed back a week.
Now, with that in hand, Goldstein can get to work, although the weather has to cooperate at some point too. For now, Goldstein and the Mounties are in the Fred Hill Sports Academy in Verona, getting in some batting and pitching practice while they wait for the snow to melt.
MHS athletic director PJ Scarpello was thorough. He said he interviewed five people with a committee made up of two current coaches, a former coach and himself and he feels really good about Goldstein.
“He’s a good guy,” Scarpello said over the phone on Monday. “He’s a mainstay in so far as he lives there, he works there, he’s committed to the program.”
For Goldstein, it’s the finish to a journey which almost didn’t get started.
After two attempts to nab the head coaching job, Goldstein had been out of the program. Then Valerie Tauriello got the job after Phil Delgado departed and got Goldstein back into the mix as her assistant coach. Goldstein enjoyed his time with Tauriello, and while he finally ended up with the job he’d been after twice before, was sad to see her move on. However, a job opened up with Linden High School, which was closer to Tauriello’s home and Goldstein said she felt she had to take it.
For Goldstein, this is a great opportunity to help Montclair softball get back to prominence. He’s facing a lot of turnover this season, as multiple key players graduated in 2017, but he feels there is a lot of talent waiting to be tapped with the younger players.
“It’s a spirited group. I can see some athleticism, which is good. So maybe as a team we’re a little faster and can bunt a little more,” Goldstein said in between bunting practice sessions in the batting cages. “I’m thrilled. I’m very happy about it. I love working with the kids.”
Now they just need the snow to melt so he can see who can play.
Along with the news of a new softball coach, Scarpello also had a status update for the renovations at Fortunato Field and Woodman’s Track.
The status update is, there’s no status update.
The projects still move along in the approval process, but Scarpello said he has not been apprised of any start date or final approvals.
Announced back in January, the field surface at Fortunato is scheduled to be re-done, as is the track around Woodman Field. The BOE approved the initial budget on Jan. 10, with the Board of School Estimate following suit Jan. 30.
He did confirm was Fortunato, along with Woodman and Watchung Fields, were recently impact tested. The impact test — usually referred to as a GMax Test — measures the shock-attenuation performances of various sports surfaces like field turf.
While Woodman and Watchung both passed, Fortunato did not.
“So I shut down the field,” Scarpello said.
For a brief time, Fortunato had to be shut down while Scarpello looked into whether the turf could be repaired or modified. In the end, he was able to get the field repaired and while the process may need to be repeated throughout the season, for now the field is safe to use, when there isn’t snow on it.
It does mean both the boys lacrosse team and Goldstein’s softball team will have a home to play on and Scarpello will be able to avoid having to juggle schedules for those two teams to work them into Woodman and Watchung along with the Mounties track and field, baseball and girls lacrosse teams at Woodman.
“My hope is we get the field replaced sooner than later,” Scarpello said.
The turf at Fortunato was installed in 2005, at the same time Woodman was installed. Watchung Field is approximately two years older. putting all three surfaces between 10 to 15 years of age and well past their warranty and expiration date.