Passaic, NJ—A husband, mentor, teacher, and best known for what he loves, coach Mario Maravi can now add another attribute to his name “Coach of the Year.”
When Maravi was hired by Passaic High, he was as much of an outsider as any high school softball coach could be. New to the title, he and his coaching staff were determined to change the culture in Passaic around.
With the help of assistant coaches Jill Leonard, Jaime Lebron, and Eric Costarelli, who are the backbone of the program, these assistants have become more than coaches to the young ladies, they’ve become family to them.
One of Maravi’s first tasks was to appoint Leonard as his pitching coach. It was a match made in heaven and the key component to making a turn for the better.
It was a day-to-day process to rebuild the Indian program which carried the rep of being unsuccessful. However, with the right staff in tow, Passaic softball was now ready to take on its own identity.
Nowadays, pitchers deal with pressures believing if they’re not producing 60 mph+ throws, they are failures. Not only are they carrying that weight on their shoulders, but their parents are also right behind them saying “Snap harder!”, “Speed up your arm!”, I’ve even heard “Use your knees”. In all actuality, what does that even mean? I have covered games for years, and very few female players hit 60 mph. But one young lady is changing the dynamics making a name for herself, D’Ani “Deedee” Morales from Passaic, New Jersey.
Deedee, a junior at Preparatory Academy high school in Passaic, has a 3.5 GPA, is a 6’2 pitcher and, plays first base as well. This is D’Ani’s first year playing varsity striking out 140 batters for the season and making First Team All-League Pitcher.
Coach Maravi recalls a phone conversation with Morales;
“Coach I want to put this team on my back. I want to carry this team and I want to change this program”.
Coach Maravi’s response: “You’re not ready to do that. You’re not going to give me what I’m looking for. I’m looking for someone who’s not going to cut corners and give me an attitude. To be elite and take your game to the next level there are no days off. I need someone to say coach give me the ball. I want to be a leader for this team”.
DeeDee internalized her coach’s assessment and made it her personal mission to make him proud of her.
Morales put in a lot of work during the summer, fall, and winter seasons. The hard work paid off huge dividends.
D’Ani currently ranks 4th in strikeouts with the Big North Conference stat leaders through May 21st. She is also a two-way player. Not only is she is a solid ace who pitches around 62 mph, but she is also a very good hitter. Her batting average was .489 for the season and was ranked 2nd in stats with four triples in the Big North Conference. Morales landed the third spot in the lineup as a result of being the Indians’ best hitter.
Once Deedee was on her way of approaching her 100th strikeout milestone of the season, Passaic’s athletic director Kim Kenny and coach Maravi sat down and researched to confirm if anyone within Passaic’s history has accomplished such a prestigious feat.
After communicating with past coaches and exploring prior stats, all coaches agreed there was one girl who could have eclipsed that record. Long and behold the name Ejonte Guilyard was reborn.
EJ graduated from Passaic in 2010 achieving the strike-out record in 2009 with 101 K’s. Maravi began looking into social media in an attempt to locate her and one of the coaches via mutual acquaintances within our Passaic community.
Ultimately, they were able to connect with her and the rest was history. The entire staff invited EJ to Deedee’s ceremony. In honor of her legacy, Kenny awarded her to throw out the first pitch. After speaking with EJ the excitement of her acknowledgment couldn’t be more priceless.
“Ej is a beautiful person inside and out and she will always be part of Passaic Softball. I am so glad we found a piece of softball history and it couldn’t happen to a better person like EJ. It means the world to me especially being born and raised in this city. That I can be a part of this special day.” Passaic coach Maravi raved.
“These bunch of young women really worked hard and exceeded all of our expectations. They believe in our vision and never questioned when they got coached hard”.
“We are on the path to building a feeder program. Trying to get more volunteers to help with our softball teams at the younger level. It’s time for our girls to get their own identity in Passaic. I truly feel Morales and Guilyard have paved the way for the ones coming after.” Maravi said.
Aysha Chaney-made Second Team All-League Infielder.
Lisbeth Bernabe signed her letter of intent to NJCU for softball, also Honorable Mention.
Selena Romero-Honorable Mention
Though Coach Marvai’s energetic style of coaching softball is unique, his message is very clear and succinct. He wants the very best for all of the girls in his program, period.
Passic Board of Education got this one right with Marvai and his staff. They are true game-changers.