By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – Granted, the weather lately has been anything but springlike and we only just turned the clocks back last weekend. But the truth of the matter is that spring sports season is just five short months away and it’s not too early to be thinking about green fields and coaching decisions.
With the retirement last season of varsity baseball coach Frank Carey and the resignation of softball coach Rusty Russell, North Reading High School Athletic Director Dave Johnson has moved quickly to name their replacements.
It may be months before the baseball and softball Hornets hit the playing fields but they already know who their coaches will be: Eric Archambault for the baseball varsity and Michelle Morales for the softball varsity.
Archambault teaches physical education at the North Reading Middle School. He’s currently an assistant football coach and for the last two years has served as freshman baseball coach.
“He’s very well organized and came in with a great deal of enthusiasm for the job, which will be contagious,” said Johnson. Following a legend like Carey, who holds the all time state record for high school baseball coaching victories, takes “guts,” said Johnson. But Archambault “never blinked. I consider him a very solid student of the game who will continue the tradition while being open to new ideas. He’s a solid young baseball guy and he’s going to do a great job.”
Johnson feels there’s a lot of advantages to having a coach who is on the faculty, especially since the middle and high schools will literally be connected by 2015. “Those advantages will be available to us, he’ll be working with the sixth, seventh and eighth graders as well as the older kids.” Archambault is in his third year as a teacher at the middle school.
In softball, Johnson’s choice is Michelle Morales, from Woburn. “She came up through the ranks in Woburn, is very well schooled in the sport and her father ran youth softball in Woburn for years. She’s very well organized and will do a really solid job.”
Morales’ coaching experience includes being Emerson College assistant coach, head coach at Arlington High School from 2012-2013, head coach at Emmanuel College and was a four year starter in college for Holy Cross.
“Michelle was a pitcher, so she comes in with that type of expertise, which is always good,” he said.
“I think we’ve brought in two outstanding young coaches who are ready to embrace the opportunity and reputation of North Reading. They’re here to embrace the championship tradition and to continue it. Our tradition is in winning Cape Ann League championships and competing for Eastern Mass. and state championships in both sports. They’re here to continue that and promote kids playing the right way and coaching the right way,” said Johnson.
Both Morales and Archambault couldn’t be more excited about their coaching opportunities in North Reading.
Morales told the Transcript she’s excited about the challenge. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about the team, there are a lot of strong, returning players and I know the team can hit. We will work on all the basics and stress the fundamentals and figure out who fits every position well. That’s key with a lot of good players, to have them in the right spots. We’ll figure out our strengths and go from there.”
Archambault said, “You don’t replace someone like Frank Carey, that would be an extremely large task. In my opinion, he’s the best baseball coach the state has ever seen in terms of the impact on baseball in the state and this community.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough as the freshman baseball coach for the last two years to learn from him. The thing I probably learned the most was the way he ran the program, handled the kids and cared about each individual kid. Being able to work with him for the last two years, I’ve been extremely blessed.
“I’m extremely excited at the opportunity to take over from him. There are some things I will do that are different from the way Frank handled things but I’m excited about the opportunity.” Archambault has previous coaching experience at Springfield College and Weston High School, but he knows North Reading is special because of the depth of community support.
With only three or four returning seniors, next year’s squad is a young team. But the upside to that is all of the current sophomores and juniors have played for Archambault as freshman baseball coach.
“I do feel fortunate in that aspect, they know how I run things and we seem to be on the same page. “It’s definitely an advantage, having coached them and knowing them. There’s a lot of talent coming up and I’m really excited for these first few years.”