Sunday, March 28, 2004
Carmen Nocera hopes to recruit more from here to play.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NEW WILMINGTON -- Carmen Nocera of New Castle is bringing several unique perspectives into his new job as coach of the Westminster College baseball team this season.
Nocera, 42, still is a sandlot player himself, with a wealth of playing and coaching experience at various levels throughout the years. He also is very familiar with the Youngstown and Western Pennsylvania areas from where he is determined to recruit more players.
"I played against a lot of the kids that are on our team, probably half of them," said Nocera, a shortstop who still plays in two leagues during the summer -- the Beaver-Lawrence County 18-and-over League and the Beaver County Men's Senior Baseball League for 30-and-over players.
"They learn to respect the knowledge and love I have for the game," Nocera said. "Some of them even think I am pretty good, but my better days are way behind me, but I enjoy the competition."
With New Castle schools
Nocera, a former New Castle High baseball player and coach, and an All-American baseball player at Geneva College, doubles as an administrator within the New Castle Area School District. He is a graduate of New Castle and Geneva and earned his master's degree from Kensington (Calif.) University and his doctorate from LaSalle.
He was promoted to the Westminster coaching job this year after spending five seasons as either an assistant, associate or co-head coach, and helping to turn around a slumping program that struggled to a 4-33 record in 1999 in his first year.
The Titans bounced back all the way to a 25-11 record last season under coach Sean Kelly -- the second-most wins in school history -- and shared the Presidents' Athletic Conference regular-season championship in their first year of eligibility.
Nocera said he began to help with the recruiting in his second year at Westminster in 2000, and that the emphasis then shifted to the New Castle-Youngstown area.
"We have been very successful the last four years due to the number of new players we brought into the system. They were fundamentally sound," said Nocera, noting that the freshmen recruits in 2000 are now seniors and will play key roles this season.
"We are losing 10 seniors so we will bring in 12 players. We are going to try to recruit as many of the 12 that we can from this area."
Played in Youngstown leagues
Nocera played for coach Tony DeLuca at New Castle High and Joe Hudak at Geneva, and is familiar with Youngstown because he was a player for Fabulous Goldsteins in the Class B League under coach Mike Goldstone, and Trolio Sports in the Class AA League under Mike Trolio and Bob Richards.
In fact, Nocera helped Fabulous Goldsteins win the 1980 Ohio Connie Mack Tournament.
So he is hoping to capitalize on that familiarity in his recruiting program.
Hudak, also a New Castle native, now is baseball coach at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C.
Nocera also has enjoyed long associations with two of his assistant coaches, holdover Sam Sibeto of Shenango Township and newcomer Cedric Hawkins.
"I played with Sam Sibeto and Cedric Hawkins for 20 years in various leagues," said Nocera, whose other first-year assistants are Gary Krol and Pat Broadwater while B.G. Davison is a student assistant.
Nocera has high expectations of his players and expects his team to bounce back from a bad start this season as of last week.
"We are only 3-9 so far this season but we played a strong schedule, and hopefully that will help us in PAC," Nocera said.
Cutting back as player
As a player, Nocera said he is cutting back on his usual busy summer schedule in order to spend more time watching his two children play baseball, and because of a degenerative hip ailment. He said he had been playing several days a week and from 70-80 games every summer.
Nocera's son, C.J., 10, will play Little League baseball this summer, while his daughter, Brielle, 7, will start to play youth baseball.
"Most of the high school guys that I graduated with quit playing in their mid-20s. I guess I never grew up," said Nocera, who is grateful for his wife's understanding.
"My wife, Lisa [Cepro of New Castle], goes to all my games and is a big supporter of me. I could never have done it without her. She is a coach's wife and I am not home [a lot]," said Nocera, whose Titans will play at home Tuesday against St. Vincent at 4 p.m.