Aaron Albert excited to be ‘home’ coaching Kiski Area baseball

Friday, June 22, 2018 | 8:33 PM

Only one school could pry Aaron Albert away from his position as Beaver's baseball coach. And that school came calling.

Calling it an opportunity he couldn't pass up, Albert accepted the baseball coaching job at Kiski Area, the school where he already works as an assistant for his father, football coach Sam Albert. The Kiski Area School Board approved Albert's hire earlier this week.

“I'm thrilled,” Albert said. “As I told my AD at Beaver — and really anybody who asked — I wasn't really in the market for another baseball job. I didn't plan to apply for a bunch of jobs. It was the Kiski job or nothing. They had a coaching change a couple years ago, and I kind of viewed it as something that might happen down the road but certainly didn't think about it this year.”

Albert, 34, coached the past two seasons at Beaver, leading the Bobcats to a 16-21 overall record. With a senior-heavy team expected to return in 2019, Albert said he thought he would “see those guys through” and potentially lead the team to the playoffs.

Then Kyle Morrow resigned after two seasons at Kiski Area, creating the opportunity for Albert to stay at the school year-round in a coaching capacity.

“I knew this opportunity wasn't going to be around here next year or maybe ever again,” Albert said. “This is the place I wanted to be and where it makes the most sense that I go right now.”

Albert, a 2002 Knoch graduate, played baseball at IUP and held single-season school records in batting average and hits when he graduated. He also competed as a professional wrestler under the name Ashton Amherst, although he is retired.

Now Albert will wrestle with turning Kiski Area back into a playoff contender after the Cavaliers went 6-30 over the past two seasons.

“Long term, (the goal is) definitely to rebuild the program here,” Albert said. “I know in the past 10 years or so they've had a bunch of coaches. Back when I was at Knoch in 2002, my senior year, we were 14-3, but a conference loss to Kiski kept us out of the playoffs. And they were a perennial power back then. I want to bring back that tradition and that expectation of winning.

“I'm not just here for one season. I'm here for the long term. There's no other job in the WPIAL that I'd take over this one. But with that said, we return some talented underclassmen, and we expect to compete for a playoff spot Day 1. That will be a talked-about and defined goal for us and especially for this senior class.”

If his work with the football team is any indication, Albert can expect a motivated baseball squad. He said despite a 1-9 record on the gridiron last fall, the coaches “passed out 89 helmets” to players interested in competing in the fall — an increase of 30 players.

“There will still be a huge learning curve and establishment with these kids, too, but I do know most of them or a lot of them,” Albert said. “Compared to coming in somewhere where no one knows you and you're not from, like I did two years ago, it's light years away from that. Whatever your coaching philosophy is, if you care about the kids and they know you care about them, that's the whole first year. I think I have that, pretty much.”

Albert said some of the football players he works with already are talking about coming out for baseball, even if they haven't played in years. He also coaches a travel ball team that includes Kiski Area rising senior Ryne Wallace, the Cavaliers' quarterback and one of their top returning baseball players.

“I am very excited for him to be our coach,” Wallace said. “ … He relates to all the kids well and will always have his teams ready to play. He has experience from coaching at Beaver for baseball and played at the college level. Also, it will be nice to have him coaching in two sports. It's a privilege to play for him.”

When Sam Albert was hired as Kiski Area's football coach before last season, he labeled it his “dream job.” Now Aaron Albert said his father is “Mr. Kiski,” helping out with parking at basketball games.

Aaron Albert, who was born in Leechburg before moving as a child, shares his father's sentiments about Kiski Area being “home.” He said it was a “whirlwind 24 hours” waiting for his hire to get approved earlier this week, and he's happy to see everything now official.

“I went (to Kiski Area) on Monday for weight room, and it kind of feels like home when I walk in the building,” he said. “I'm excited I'm there and excited to build upon the football stuff we've started.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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