By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING — How do you replace a legend?
Eric Archambault, the new coach of the NRHS varsity baseball team, is very much up to the challenge of succeeding 49–year head coach Frank Carey, who retired with 736 career wins and five state championships on his resume.
In addition, last year’s Hornet team that finished the season 20–5 and won the Division 3 North championship lost 11 seniors to graduation, so Archambault and his assistant coaches Tristan Irish and Evan Noce will have their jobs cut out for them next year.
Archambault is unfazed by what others would consider daunting challenges, because he’s looking to put his own stamp on the program, not replace Carey.
“I don’t think you can replace someone like Frank Carey. What he means to this town and the whole community is truly incredible.” said Archambault, who is in his third year teaching health and physical education at the North Reading Middle School.
Archambault was freshman baseball coach for the last two seasons and after every game or practice he would come down to the varsity field to watch the team play and soak up Carey’s expertise because he’s so knowledgeable.
“That being said, I am trying to put my own mark on this program and I do somethings differently, I try to incorporate my ideas and philosophy with the kids and so far we’re off to a good start.”
There are a lot of similarities in Carey’s and Archambault’s approaches. “I expect my kids to be good students in the classroom and role models around the school and respectful of their classmates, teachers and opponents on the baseball field. I do think their character is an important part of who they are as a baseball player.”
“Baseball tests your mental toughness more than any other sport in my opinion. It’s a sport based around failure and it’s how you persevere and respond to that,” he added.
Carey has been extremely helpful with the transition, “I couldn’t ask for more,” Archambault said.
The boys have been busy with indoor practice in the gym the last few weeks and Archambault has his doubts as to whether the season will start on time. The Carey Park baseball field is still covered with snow even though it has a southern exposure and many other fields in the Cape Ann League are in a similar situation, if not worse. Just last week, the MIAA voted to move the state tournament dates back a week.
“We’re preparing as though the season will start on time and we’ll be ready to go whenever our first game is scheduled,” he said. “We’ll be doing everything we can when the field is available to us.”
If you’ve gotten used to watching the Hornets the last two or three years, you’ll probably need a roster for the first few games of the 2015 season. Last year’s team graduated all nine starters but Archambault has previously coached the current juniors and sophomores and there are only four players, all seniors, that he hasn’t coached before. “They know my philosophy and what to expect from me.”
The team only has one returning varsity player from last year, Jeff Mejia. The four seniors are Brendan Tilton, Derek Hogan, Taylor Robinson and Tyler Stansbury.
The team’s slogan this year is “Right Now.”
“The purpose is to live in the moment, to focus on every pitch, not look ahead for anything. Some people say we have a young team but no one is looking past our next game or this year. We’re here to play baseball and compete this year. There’s no next year for our seniors. Nothing is promised, nothing is guaranteed.
“We’re focusing on getting better with each practice. Look for us to be aggressive on the base paths and our defense is something we’ll be constantly working on.”
Archambault expects the Cape Ann League to be strong and very competitive as usual, with Masconomet, Hamilton–Wenham, Newburyport, Pentucket and Lynnfield expected to field tough teams.
“From top to bottom I think it’s a very competitive league. We’re going to battle each game and see where it gets us.”