Derek Fivelson is a numbers guy.
It would figure since he teaches math and coaches the senior math team at Hoffman Estates High School. Fivelson has also been an adjunct math professor at Roosevelt University.
But Fivelson wasn’t interested in any numbers games as he prepared for his first meeting with his new players Friday as Conant’s new varsity baseball coach.
“One thing that’s going to excite the kids is they all get a fresh start,” said Fivelson, who was a standout three-year varsity catcher from 1995-97 at Hoffman and then had a solid four-year career at St. Xavier University on Chicago’s South Side. “I haven’t seen them play. I was given their stats but I’m not going to look at them.
“I want the kids to understand I have absolutely no preconceived notions about what they’re all about.”
This is also an exciting and new start for Fivelson as he takes over for Jerry Song, whose nine-year tenure ended this spring. Fivelson spent 10 years coaching in the Hoffman program — eight with the sophomores and two with the freshmen — before taking a two-year hiatus to coach his 6˝-year-old son Ari’s little league team.
He was still helping Hoffman coach Todd Meador by working with the catchers. Fivelson missed being around the game on a regular basis, but with his son and daughters Sydney (4) and Camryn (2˝), he wasn’t actively pursuing a full-time return to coaching.
And then the Conant job became open.
“Otis (Price, the District 211 Director of Athletics) sent out a posting, and I was perfectly ready to be a stay-at-home dad in the summer, but I didn’t delete the email,” Fivelson said. “I came home and spoke to my wife (Molly) and said, ‘They posted the Conant job.’ She said, ‘Are you interested in it?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I think I am.’”
Fivelson took his time to make sure this was the right decision. Having his wife and son on board were vital to his pursuit of the position.
“I spoke to a number of people about it and I tried to get as much advice as possible,” Fivelson said. “One of the biggest things that pushed me over was the outpouring of support from people at Conant and people in my own building.”
And many of those people, starting with Meador and current Hoffman assistant and ex-Conant three-sport athlete Tim Heyse, helped prepare Fivelson for what’s ahead. So did Fivelson’s father Paul, former Hoffman head coach Ray Gawron and St. Xavier head coach Mike Dooley.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be around good baseball people my whole life,” Fivelson said. “My program will be a mix of all those guys. It’s a testament to Todd that he’s created two MSL West coaches (Schaumburg’s Cal Seely).”
And Fivelson makes it three alums coaching in the division along with Palatine’s Paul Belo, who played on Hoffman’s 1985 Class AA Elite Eight qualifier.
Conant won its only MSL title in 1999 under Mike Fritz and the program’s only regional titles came in 2007 and 2009 under Song. So, Fivelson knows it’s a school where baseball success is attainable, and he said he was encouraged to hear the school is committed to a much-needed makeover of its baseball facilities after the renovations of its swimming pool are completed.
“One of the things that got me really interested is how Conant has the potential to be a powerhouse program,” said Fivelson, who met with his new coaches Thursday and will have his first summer league game Monday. “The program has the potential to be one of the greats.”
Conant hopes that is the case with the addition of Fivelson.
ź Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.