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updated: 5/21/2014 8:22 PM

Coppersmith decides time is right to hit the road

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Asked if a "good cop-bad cop" situation existed atop the Hinsdale Central softball coaching staff, Lee Maciejewski laughed.

The Red Devils coach knows the perception of who would fill out that lineup. He's perfectly fine that the nice guy is his longtime right-hand man and pitching coach, Al Coppersmith.

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"I'm trying to get out of the 'bad cop' role, but when it comes to 'good cop' Al's always been the good cop," said Maciejewski, whose team, 13-9 as of Wednesday, earned a No. 6 seed at the Class 4A Reavis sectional, its highest seed in seven years.

"He's a perfect assistant because a lot of times when the girls have questions or concerns they don't always feel as comfortable going right to the top, and they always feel they have an advocate in Al ... He always seems to soften the blow," Maciejewski said.

"He's just been wonderful for the program, because as we wrote in our end-of-the-season brochure, we noted that everybody in our program -- from parents, kids and other coaches -- knows where to go to get advice and solve problems, and it's Al Coppersmith."

Maciejewski may need a refresher on warm and fuzzy because after this season, alas, Coppersmith will literally be moving on. Helming a 1973 Airstream trailer he rebuilt upon orders from his wife of 39 years, Patty, a newly retired interior designer, the couple will steer the "Silver Twinkie" to parts somewhat unknown. It's Yellowstone and beyond until the snow flies, then resettling from Glen Ellyn to Novi, Michigan, to be near daughter Colleen's family.

"We're going to take it out to see this multiple-state America because there are many Americas and they are all fascinating," Al Coppersmith said.

Fascinating? Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World," apparently reduced to raconteuring from a lounge booth, has nothing on Coppersmith, whose hobbies include rebuilding 1940s-'50s-era woodworking machinery.

At Glenbard West -- where he met Maciejewski and in 2007 officially retired within three hours of him -- the renaissance man was in four different departments and taught 35 different courses in 32 years.

"It was a great career," said Coppersmith, a former East Leyden wrestler and Augustana liberal arts major hired at 22 to teach honors English. "I enjoyed my time on the Hill."

As a young man he played fastpitch softball. The first riseball he ever saw whizzed past for a strike. Coppersmith asked the catcher what that pitch was and got the answer on strikes 2 and 3. He turned around to become a lefty slap-hitter.

When Colleen was 9 she started playing softball, specifically pitching. That led Al to enter into his craft. Years later it paid off in Glenbard West's 1998 West Suburban Silver title.

"I started coaching pitching because nobody wanted to do it, basically," Coppersmith said.

While Colleen was still in Park District ball Al took up with a former student he'd had in study hall his first year at Glenbard West, Scott Swords, and the duo began offering pitching clinics at Hadley Junior High, a relationship that lasted some 15 years.

"He's an interesting guy. An accountant, but an interesting one," said Coppersmith, who followed Maciejewski to Hinsdale Central softball after their Glenbard West run ended.

Coppersmith said patience is the key when dealing with pitchers, even if it means telling them they pitched well in a loss. Maciejewski sees his calming presence daily, consistent over the years.

"Our girls that have come into the program, because they haven't had a feeder program in town, come in with very little background. His ability to take them from being behind other programs' pitching to make them competitive has just been an amazing ability," said Maciejewski, who meets Coppersmith every day for a coffee.

"His patience, his guidance and his even hand in dealing with pitchers, his ability when things go wrong to find a silver lining and when things are going good to keep them on task are all part of the things that make him excellent at what he does."

Coppersmith has less than a week left in his last regular season plus Hinsdale Central's run in the state series. Then, after he and Patty explore the great Americas in their Silver Twinkie, a young pitching student awaits in Michigan -- Colleen's 6-year-old daughter, just starting in tee ball.

"She'll learn how to spin 'em," Coppersmith said.

Comings and goings

Speaking of Maciejewski, he's concluding his 114th straight season -- fall, winter, spring -- of coaching high school sports. Once he passed 100 his goals expanded to coach three sports for 40 years, and he's two away. Also, of coaching till he's 70 and he's ... not far off.

That longevity goal did not speak to his son-in-law, Mike Hofland, who after last season resigned the Glenbard West girls basketball position to spend more time with his family.

On Tuesday, Glenbard West athletic director Joe Kain released the news that varsity assistant Karen Persinger will be the new girls basketball coach.

"I'm very excited," she said.

Until she assisted Hofland last season, Persinger had been away from basketball for three years, yet she's exceedingly well-versed.

All-state in basketball, softball and track as a student at Harrisburg High in Missouri, after earning all-Big 12 three times as a Missouri softball outfielder -- Persinger was invited to tryouts for the 1995 Pan American and 1996 U.S. Olympic softball teams -- she went into coaching at Southern Boone County High School in Missouri.

She assisted in girls basketball for nine years while compiling a 166-82 record as softball coach, directing four district championships and a state final four team. Moving to Carol Stream, she's been a Glenbard West softball assistant four seasons and also is a fastpitch instructor at the Bulls/Sox Academy's Glen Ellyn facility.

Persinger said she enjoys Glenbard West student-athletes because they show up ready to be challenged and open to coaching.

"I think for me the biggest thing going into the program and starting fresh is I want my kids to enjoy (and) have a passion for what they're doing, have a passion for the game and do all the little things right. To hustle, to go after loose balls, play great defense. I think that if we can do those things it's going to help us be successful," said Persinger, who once played on her high school boys golf team because there wasn't a girls team.

"We've got a great core group of girls to work with," she said. "I can't wait to get to work with them and find our identity as a team and learn to come together and work together every day."

Always a Ram

Former Glenbard East football coach and current assistant boys track coach Dennis Lueck was pleased to hear a pair of former Rams football players, Romelle Taylor and Mike Jezioro, were headed back to their alma mater in administrative roles.

Taylor, a 1998 Glenbard East graduate who was at Bolingbrook and before that helped Colin Madison win a state shot put title as Willowbrook's track coach, will succeed Omar Davis as Glenbard East's athletic director.

Mike Jezioro, Class of 1999, will arrive as a dean, out of Oswego East where he also was the wrestling coach. On Wednesday Jezioro acknowledged his hiring had been approved, but no details on prospective coaching positions had been finalized.

Lueck had them both in football, as teammates. At a recent track meet, he said: "I think they're going to be great additions to Glenbard East. They were good kids when they were there."

Birdies flew

York's Terry Clarke pointed out that behind the top-eight doubles team of twin sisters Emily and Hannah Spoolstra the Dukes finished in the top 10 at the state badminton tournament a third straight year. Naperville North, paced by fifth-place singles player Jessica Hu, finished in eighth right ahead of York, tied for ninth with Lockport. Naperville Central's Allison Ma took sixth in singles.

Hinsdale Central was fifth overall, the doubles team of Amy Wey and Samantha McClary finishing sixth last weekend at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

York indeed is strong in the sport at the state level, but Hinsdale South heads the locals in consecutive top-10 finishes.

Coach John Charters' usual-suspect Hornets finished fourth to gain top-10 status a fourth straight year. Judy Yang went 5-0 to reach the singles championship before falling 22-20, 21-13 to Lyons Township's Stephanie Lin.

The Hornets have won sectional titles in each of Charters' 14 seasons with consecutive state championships in 2005 and 2006 (when South tied for the title with fellow power Downers Grove North), a runner-up finish in 2008 and third in state in 2002.

It's interesting that the state tournament is held in Charleston. Two of 16 sectional hosts, Lincoln-Way Central and Thornton Fractional South, lie south of Interstate 80, just barely.

Attention!

Benet quarterback Jack Beneventi and Downers Grove North quarterback David Edwards have been nominated for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. They're among 400 current nominees, and seven Illinois players, on a list that will be culled to a final 90 starting in September.

Those lucky boys will get the chance to showcase "their talents," as LeBron James once said, at the 2015 Bowl on Jan. 3, 2015, in San Antonio.

Pluck of the Irish

On May 1 we wrote that St. Francis sophomore Shea Mahoney, by virtue of winning floor and all-around routines at a USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics regional, would compete at the National Championships in May 7-11.

It was 7s and 11s for Mahoney at the big meet in Jackson, Mississippi. The sophomore, a University of Alabama recruit, won bronze medals on floor and beam and took sixth in vault, helping her team win a national title.

Mahoney's combined regional and national finishes earned her a spot on the Region 5 All-Star team, among 12 gymnasts representing Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. St. Francis administrative assistant Megan Jamen reported the all-stars will represent USA Gymnastics on a trip to the Dominican Republic in July.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

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