GRANGER TWP. — It took a death for Nick Spirtos’ love of softball to be reborn.
A doctor who specializes in fertility and reproduction, Spirtos was attending a funeral for the mother of one of his nurses in early October. The nurse’s daughter had played softball at Ellet High, and while listening to his employee talk about all the good times the family had at games, Spirtos got a sudden yearning to coach again.
As fate would have it, Highland athletic secretary Terry Pollock called Spirtos the next morning to tell him Mandi Myser had resigned and the head coaching position was open.
“I applied and here we are,” the 60-year-old Spirtos said Wednesday.
Spirtos is no stranger to the position, having served as varsity head coach in 2002 and ‘03 after leading the junior varsity for four seasons.
Led by Spirtos’ daughter Jaclyn, a catcher who earned 2003 Gazette MVP and Gazette Senior Female Athlete of the Year honors before going on to play at the University of Akron, Highland went 13-10 in his first season in charge of the varsity and 19-6 in his second.
Spirtos’ daughter Pennie, like Jaclyn a standout in softball and tennis, was Gazette Senior Female Athlete of the Year in 2001, while oldest daughter Tonie, a 1999 graduate, and youngest child Aris, a 2007 grad, also played tennis for the Hornets.
“Since I no longer have kids playing, I won’t have to worry about what they are doing, but I still have a genuine love for the game,” Spirtos said. “I enjoy teaching the kids so they’re more knowledgeable and have more fun playing.
“Winning is always fun, of course, but if you can become a better ballplayer, I enjoy that aspect of it.”
Spirtos will take over a Highland team that went 14-13 overall and 8-6 in the Suburban League last season. He will be assisted by former Hornets standout Heather Bauer, who played a year at Wright State and three seasons at Akron, where she batted cleanup for the Zips while playing shortstop and pitching.
The Hornets return first-team All-Gazette pick AnnMarie Kirchner, a pitcher/first baseman, as well as honorable mention pick Kaitlin Krajcik, a catcher who will continue her career at Division II Ursuline College.
Honorable mention selections Kelley Cejer, a third baseman, and Taylor MacWhade, a second baseman, also return, while big things are expected from talented freshman Samantha Catron.
“I’ve spoken to the Cloverleaf coach and the Revere coach and they’re picking Highland to win the Suburban League championship,” Spirtos said. “That’s a lot of pressure, but we have some good athletes and three strong pitchers. We’re strong up the middle, so we have a chance to be pretty decent.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.