Longtime Hampton softball coach Ron Fedell steps away
Saturday, May 20, 2023 | 10:21 PM
Hampton star third baseman Mackenzie Reese knew there was a chance longtime coach Ron Fedell would step away after this season.
But that didn’t make the news any easier.
“I was heartbroken,” she said. “He has been there forever, and I’ve had him as my coach all through my years. I definitely grew a bond with him. I was just heartbroken.”
Fedell, who three weeks ago celebrated his 200th career victory, stepped down May 19 after 23 seasons, citing family concerns.
“I’m so sad that I have to walk away,” he said. “It was always going to be, ‘I’ve done everything I wanted to do and I’m going to leave.’ But to leave for this reason — and there’s really nothing else I can do — I just feel so sad and upset about it. But I have to do what I have to do. Family is most important.”
Fedell, 68, said he and his wife Kathy have custody of three grandchildren, including 4-year-old Sophia, who is autistic. The other grandchildren are 16 and 14 years old. Fedell said he needs to focus his time on Sophia, and the demands of caring for her had grown too great to balance with his coaching job.
“She needs a lot of help,” Fedell said. “I’d get to practice a minute before it started, and I’d have to leave out of practice. For games, I’d have to get somebody to watch her.
“I knew halfway through (this season) that I wasn’t going to be able to do this next year.”
Two days after the Talbots’ 9-3 loss to top-seeded Elizabeth Forward on May 17 in the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals, Fedell informed his players and the Hampton athletic department that he wouldn’t be returning.
“It was very surprising and very disappointing,” sophomore second baseman Aliza Michielli said, “but I definitely understand.”
Fedell is 202-194-1 since being hired in 2001, taking the job mainly because Hampton needed a softball coach and his daughter Nicole was entering her senior season as the team’s pitcher.
“I never thought I would be there this long,” Fedell said. “I thought I would be there one or two years.”
The Talbots never played for a WPIAL title under Fedell, but his teams reached the WPIAL semifinals and the PIAA playoffs in 2005 and ‘07, and his ‘19 team went 16-4 and won the Section 2-5A crown.
“He’s just been such a great person for the program,” said ex-Talbot standout Bella Henzler, a freshman catcher at James Madison. “I’m just thankful for all he’s done for me and all of his support over the years.”
Hampton athletic director Bill Cardone said Fedell is “the ultimate AD’s dream.”
“He’s just a good person,” Cardone said. “He really cares about the program. He cares about the girls. He’s been great.
“Ultimately, he chose family matters over the sport of softball. I know it was a very, very difficult decision for him to make.”
Fedell is leaving behind a team with a lot of promise. The Talbots will lose only one starter — Edinboro-bound catcher Addy Maguire — from this year’s 13-6 team, which defeated Greensburg Salem, 6-1, in the WPIAL Class 4A first round May 15 for their first playoff victory since 2019. In the past 15 seasons, only the 2019 team (16-4) won more games than this year’s team.
Top returning starters include Reese, junior shortstop Charlotte Lomb, sophomore pitcher Cassie Vidic and Michielli.
Cardone said the coaching search would begin sometime after the May 30 season-ending team banquet.
Reese was able to take comfort in the fact that Fedell was leaving the team out of concern for his family.
“It’s easier to accept because I know that he’s stepping down for a good reason,” Reese said.
“He has done a lot for us and knowing that he’s going through a lot right now, I just want him to feel better and put all of his time into his granddaughter.”
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