Catonsville High athletic director Rich Hambor didn’t have to go far to hire a new varsity softball coach to replace Steve McCleary, who retired earlier this month after seven years at the helm.
Hambor promoted former Catonsville JV coach Paul Harris, who led the younger squad to an undefeated season and county championship in 2019. That was his last season because the coronavirus cancelled the 2020 campaign.
“He does have the passion and it’s pretty evident to see that passion, not only when you see him coach, but just talking to him about the sport,” Hambor said. “Not only does he know the ins and outs and the intricacies, but you could tell he feels it. It’s something that he lives and breathes and his main goal is to pass that love onto all of his players.”
Before coaching at Catonsville, Harris was a JV assistant at Archbishop Spalding for two seasons and this is his first varsity head coaching job.
“I feel like Catonsville has got a pretty strong program coming up just because of the sheer talent that I know that we have at the JV level and I know we have at the varsity level,” said Harris, a Catonsville resident who coaches Wagners club team in the off-season.
Harris has coached everybody on the varsity team now at the JV level so the transition should be a smooth one.
“There is definitely some continuity that’s there with me moving up to varsity I’m very familiar with all the players and what their talents are and what their ability levels are,” Harris said. “They are very familiar with me as a coach because Steve and I did the exact same things at the JV level and at the varsity level, there is going to be no big change in our offensive philosophies and our defensive philosophies, so I feel like it’s should be a very quick and easy transition for the players.”
One thing Harris won’t tolerate is shoddy defense.
“I’m a fundamental coach and I have this philosophy that defense will always win you championships,” Harris said. “Offense will get you the runs, but you’ve got to be able to play defense to win, so I fully believe in making sure that my players are defensively sound and have very good fundamentals.”
Harris started coaching when his two oldest daughters were four and five years old and he was living in Severn.
“They eventually moved on from softball, they went into cheerleading, but I stuck with coaching softball because I really, really found a passion for it,” Harris said. “I absolutely love doing this. I love coaching. I love being able to pass on this knowledge to young adults and watch them take those tools that I have given them and use them out on the field.”
“It’s something that he lives and breathes and his main goal is to pass that love onto all of his players,” Hambor said.
The spring sports season is scheduled to begin with practices on April 17 and games starting on May 7. Play is supposed to conclude on June 19.
When Harris does gather his squad on the diamond he will have a stable of capable pitchers, led by senior veteran Sammi Sisolak.
“I’m lucky enough to be able to come into this position and have a lot of very talented players that are there now and that will be coming to the varsity the next few years, so we are looking forward to that,” Harris said.
In 2019, the Comets finished 15-5 and lost to Towson in the Baltimore County championship game and Hambor is confident Harris can maintain the winning tradition.
“Our community provides such great softball players and it could be a challenge to put the team together and that’s something he’s been able to do for the last couple of years,” Hambor said. “Having a lot of talent never hurts. That’s a testament to the rec program and the travel and the club teams around. It’s really a lucky spot for any softball coach to be.”