Ever since his playing days were done, Fernando Fuentes always longed for the chance to be a head coach.
The Weehawken native and former Weehawken three-sport standout who was drafted by the New York Yankees out of high school and played minor league baseball spent the last few years as an assistant coach on all different spots in high school and college.
Recently, Fuentes was the pitching coach at Caldwell University, was the hitting coach at the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Bronz and was all set to become the pitching coach at Rutgers-Newark.
“I really wasn’t going to coach at all this year,” Fuentes said. “I have a baby coming in March. I was going to stop coaching for a while and maybe become an umpire. But I had no anticipation of coaching.”
Fuentes, who is a special needs counselor in West New York, then received a phone call from Mauro DeGennaro, the athletic director at Marist High School.
“I took the call and didn’t even think about it,” Fuentes said. “I had a meeting with Mo. I didn’t think it was an interview. I thought it was more of a meet-and-greet. But three days later, I got the call that I was being hired as the head coach.”
Fuentes was well aware of the rich baseball history and tradition at Marist, a program that has won three NJSIAA Non-Public state championships over the years,
“I most certainly do know about Marist,” Fuentes said. “I was a big fan of Bobby Powers[the former Marist All-State infielder who was drafted and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers]. I knew that Joe Borowski [the former Major League Baseball All-Star closer with the Florida Marlins and Chicago Cubs] pitched there. Marist had some good runs. I’m happy to be part of that long standing tradition. I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Recently, in 2012, the Royal Knights won the Non-Public Group 1 state championship.
It didn’t take long for the 36-year-old Fuentes to start thinking about the future.
“I definitely think we can do it again here,” Fuentes said. “With the small amount of research I’ve done with the program, I see a school that offers opportunities like no other school. I think of myself as being more of a teacher than a coach. It’s taken me 15 years to get to this point. If I do all the little things that a coach needs to do, well, maybe we can win this year. I’m going to work hard with what we have and get the kids ready to compete. I’m going to build on the great foundation we have.”
Fuentes recalled his days as an athlete at Weehawken High.
“I remember Coach [Mike] Guasconi taking 18 guys to Secaucus and playing a [football] game that we were told we couldn’t win and we beat Secaucus,” Fuentes said. “I love Weehawken. We lost Coach [Tony] Colasurdo earlier this year. I got my first coaching job with Coach [Anthony] Stratton. Coach [Jim] Panepinto also helped me. I was lucky to have those guys as coaches, to have those guys in my life. They allowed me to grow and inspired me to be a coach.”
Needless to say, Fuentes is ready for the challenge ahead.
“I’m a Hudson County guy,” Fuentes said. “I know that I can help these young men become better human beings, be better students and at the end, they’ll be better baseball players. I see no reason why we can’t be successful. I know about the tradition here and the past successes. I can’t see any reason why we can’t get back there if I work hard enough.”
He certainly has the right approach.
Fuentes replaces Josh Beteta, who was the head baseball coach for the last two seasons. The school has had a host of baseball coaches since Ron Hayward, the architect of the last state champion in 2012 and a Marist alum, left the school to become the coach and athletic director at St. Anthony before the school closed…
Fuentes wasn’t the lone person hired as a head coach at Marist last week. DeGennaro also turned over his football program to Ray Marshall, the guy who turned the Snyder High School football program from a complete laughingstock and losers of 37 straight games into a two-time state playoff participant, the first playoff appearances at the school in more than 25 years.
Marshall resigned at Snyder at the close of the football season and will now take over the program that was headed by Rich Glover, Jr. the last two years. Marshall, who has been unavailable to comment since his hiring, has his work cut out for him, as the Royal Knights won only two games over the last two years…
For the first time in recent memory, there are no clear cut favorites to win the Hudson County girls’ and boys’ basketball tournaments that will begin next week.
On the boys’ side, the seven-time defending champion Hudson Catholic Hawks will be very hard pressed to make it eight straight, but the Hawks have to be considered in the mix of contenders, along with Marist, St. Peter’s Prep, Lincoln and Snyder. Any one of those five teams could legitimately win. Watch out for Secaucus to make some noise in the tourney…
On the girls’ side, Bayonne has to be the favorite, but defending champion Lincoln, defending runner-up Secaucus and Hudson Catholic all are solid contenders to capture the county crown later this month.
Needless to say, it should be a very interesting tournament. Stay tuned…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (15-4). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (11-5). 3. Lincoln (12-4). 4. Snyder (10-4). 5. Marist (13-4)…
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (19-1). 2. Secaucus (14-1). 3. Hudson Catholic (14-4). 4. Lincoln (14-4). 5. Hoboken (12-2). – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com