WEST HAVEN >> Joe Morrell and his daughter, Jolie, have a little more to talk about at the dinner table these days.
Joe is in his first season as the head coach of the West Haven softball team. Jolie, a first baseman, is a senior captain for the Westies. Joe’s other daughter, Jocey, a former softball standout at West Haven before playing at Stonehill, is an assistant.
Joe previously coached his daughters during their time with the Shoreline Sting, a summer travel team, but this is the first opportunity he’s had to mentor a child on the high school level in softball.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Joe Morrell said. “I have one year with her (Jolie) before she moves on. To get the one year in is pretty neat for me. I’m excited.”
Sports have been a passion throughout the Morrell’s lives. Joe is also the head coach of the boys hockey team at West Haven and was previously the head coach for both boys tennis and girls soccer at the school.
Morrell’s father Joseph, who passed away last August, served as coach and commissioner of the Shore Haven Junior Baseball League for 43 years.
“Sports have been in my family from my father right on through, and that’s all we talk about every night,” Joe Morrell said. “If it’s not Yankee baseball, or West Haven hockey or soccer, or whatever the situation is, it’s just something else to talk about at the dinner table.”
Jolie has always enjoyed her father also being her coach, but it’s been even more meaningful this year.
“Personally, I love it,” Jolie Morrell said. “I love having him there. He’s there no matter what, but now he can just be a coach and teach me even more, on the field and off the field.”
Jolie said little has changed since Joe became the head coach.
“I feel like when we go home, it’s a lot easier,” Jolie said. “Nothing’s ever pressured, it’s a fun talk. Even when he wasn’t coaching, it was the same thing. We come home and talk about it and when it’s done, it’s done.”
Joe’s taught Jolie several valuable lessons on the athletic field, which Joe has now tried to instill with the Westies.
“It’s more of a team dynamic,” Jolie said. “It’s never just you, it’s never just you by yourself. He’s always been like that. He’s been like that in hockey, he’s been like that in soccer, in softball. There’s never an ‘I’ in team. That’s his major thing, and just to relax, have fun. He says not to put too much pressure on yourself because then you’re not going to play your best with that pressure on you.”
Joe may need to listen to his own advice. He admitted feeling a bit of pressure in taking over for Frank Biondi, who retired in December after 33 seasons with the program. Biondi compiled a 431-280 record, and had the field named in his honor in 2001.
“It’s tough to take over for a guy with a field named after him,” Joe said. “He put so many years in. Frank did a great job with the program for so long. I’m honored to take his spot.”
Kial Watts, a senior captain, says there’s a new dynamic this season with Joe as the coach.
“I think we have a totally different atmosphere at practices,” Watts said. “It’s a different look. We really like to focus on the little things.
“We do a lot of small ball. He does a lot more of dictating the game with different calls and different strategies. I think that’s where it differs the most. There’s different girls that will get into the lineup. There’s no set thing. We don’t have set people everyday doing the same thing.”
Watts, a pitcher, and Jolie are two of the more experienced returning players for West Haven, which is off to a 3-2 start.
“She (Jolie) is very similar to Jocey,” Joe said. “All around she’ll give you a lot of heart, she’ll give you a lot of desire. She’s the No. 2 batter. She can move runners. Jolie will hit in the three-hundreds, and just be a leader on the field.”