The Newest Hit at Westfield: Softball Coaching Staff

Kelsie O’Brien, 10, winds up for a pitch facing South Lakes High School. Photo courtesy of

          As spring sports kick off, Westfield softball looks to add the glimmering state cup to the trophy case. In order to accomplish this goal, the team will have to overcome many challenges. Westfield softball is unknown compared to other sports, only winning regionals in 2008 and 2011 and never achieving the title of state champions. Westfield has also experienced a struggle with steady interest in the sport, as the program has barely had enough players to have a junior varsity team, especially during the pandemic.  

          After the 2022 spring season, JV coach Alex Manikas proclaimed that she would not be returning for future seasons. In fall 2022, it was announced that Brian Fleury and Richard Beville, the varsity coaches, would be stepping down as well, leaving the softball program with no coaching staff. A couple of weeks later it was announced that Donnie Dutton, who has been a part of Westfield’s softball program since day one, would be taking on the role as varsity head coach along with his assistants, Joe Tenney, Taylor Estabrooke, and Westfield alumni Haley Koeninger. Following this announcement, two Westfield teachers would join the JV staff, history teacher, John Carey, as the head coach and Abby Rogers, health and physical education teacher, as his assistant.

          Carey has been a coach for Southwestern Youth Association’s Little League Softball program for the past six years, putting an emphasis on teaching his players strong defense and the “importance of teamwork and required communication.”

          In the preseason, Dutton has been holding numerous preseason workouts to prepare for tryouts and then games. During these practices, Kelsie O’Brien, 10, a pitcher on last season’s JV team, elaborated that the team has  been “lifting weights, running, and the coaches have been helping me get better at softball.” 

          Furthermore, significant work has been done to the field in order to improve it for the upcoming season, involving players, parents, and coaches in a field clean up day. Some of these changes include new turf surrounding the infield, new netting for the batting cages, and a portrait of a bulldog on the outfield fence. Two long term projects the coaching staff hope to achieve are a bullpen for pitchers to warm up along the home team side of the field, and eventually a second batting cage. 

          More than ever, varsity is aiming to represent Westfield at districts, regionals, and end the season, winning at the state championship. For JV, Carey is looking to implement his and his players love for the game into the program, as well as bring “positivity and a commitment to hard work” to the team and program.

          Regarding tryouts, O’Brien is facing normal nerves: “I am kind of scared with the new coach, because I don’t really know how strict [the coaches] are going to be,” but she is still generally excited to see what this season has to offer for her softball career. 

          Looking ahead to this as well as future seasons, Carey noted, “I hope we build a strong foundation of success on and off the field that future students will take pride in continuing,” a crucial part in building a strong program for JV and varsity alike. 

          As tryouts conclude and the regular season for spring athletics quickly approaches, be sure to support Westfield’s softball teams as they prepare to tie their cleats and step onto the diamond!