Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Big Challenge for New Coach

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Big Challenge for New Coach

Article excerpt

Mark Cieslak has a confession to make.

"I'm not so comfortable [playing at NV/Demarest]," the St. Joseph baseball coach said. "I've been here 10 years now, and I don't think we hit the ball well. Maybe one time we put up a lot of runs, but it's always been a close game.

"[Former coach Frank Salvano] was comfortable with that. I'm not. The grass is slow. The ball doesn't carry sometimes. That field is an equalizer."

That could be an issue, considering top-seeded St. Joseph faces 12th-seeded River Dell today in the Bergen County tournament semifinals at NV/Demarest.

Cieslak has done a solid job in his first season as the Green Knights head coach, leading North Jersey's most talented team to 21 wins and a coveted Big North United Division title.

But that's just the appetizer.

St. Joseph (21-3), No. 1 in The Record baseball Top 25, has been dealing with great expectations all season, but nothing like this weekend. That's because these next two days at NV/Demarest are where Cieslak truly could make this program his own.

"I do feel it's important, but it's not about putting my name on the program," Cieslak said. "This is about our team, a good team that everyone expected to be here.

"This weekend is a challenge, and I want to rise up to the challenge. I don't want to be the guy who couldn't get them there."

The Green Knights already have won a couple of Bergen County tournament games this month at NV/Demarest, but this weekend is different. Memorial Day weekend on that field is a Bergen County baseball tradition, and much of that tradition was carved out by the Green Knights.

This was where Salvano became the king of North Jersey baseball, winning seven county titles. This was Salvano's playground, a place he was so successful at that he routinely called it his "home away from home."

Now Cieslak is moving in. …

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