STAMFORD — As with her playing days, Melissa Giordano appeared to be on the fast track to a job as a college softball coach. Giordano was an assistant at her alma mater, Marist, but at the end of last season felt a void.
“Coaching in college is a full-time thing and you have to make a big commitment if you want to make a career, and possibly a move,” Giordano said. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to get into teaching because I like working with kids, and wanted to be close to my family. I wanted a career where I could do both.”
Giordano’s road has taken her home again — to home plate, if you will — and her original alma mater and first love, Stamford High School.
One of the best players in Black Knights history, the former shortstop has filled in this year as a physical education teacher for a staff member on maternity leave. She served as an assistant for one of her former coaches, Mike Smeriglio, with the volleyball team in the fall. Now she is with her other, Tony Esposito, the school’s softball coach.
“Melissa has been a part of the program for the past four or five years,” Esposito said. “She’s helped out and volunteered when she could. This is an opportunity to really get her involved with the program.”
This first year with Stamford has affirmed Giordano’s decision to go back to her roots.
“I like coaching because you meet all different kids, kids from different backgrounds, kids I wouldn’t meet in college,” Giordano said. “I didn’t have as big an influence over them.”
Giordano was renowned for her steady glove, strong arm and deceptive power when she played for Stamford, graduating in 2005.
Giordano also has a low-key manner; she preferred to let her actions do the talking and was otherwise content to avoid the spotlight.
That proved difficult after having one of the best collegiate careers ever by an FCIAC athlete in the sport. It doesn’t take long to find Giordano’s name on the Marist all-time record list: she owns four season and four career marks, including highest batting average (.371).
As a senior, Giordano was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year. Giordano led the MAAC in batting average (.429), hits (66), runs (42), doubles (19) and on-base percentage (.491). She finished with eight home runs and 21 RBIs.
Talking about her tenure at Stamford, Esposito said in an interview several years ago, “She came up as a player right from the start. You could tell right from the get-go. Her work ethic was tremendous. She went from being a base-hit player to, as a junior and senior, driving the ball. Her college career was spectacular.”
Giordano went on to playing professionally for a year in Italy, then coached at Marist for two seasons.
Now she is back home, the fit as perfect as one of Giordano’s old gloves.
Giordano said it was during volleyball season that she really got acclimated to the changes in environment and the type of athlete she was working with.
“I hadn’t been around volleyball like that in a few years,” she said. “We had a great group of girls. They made me feel welcome. It was a nice transition. It made me feel I made the right decision.”
Giordano was asked, as she begins her second week of practice, the biggest difference working with the Stamford softball players.
“Besides the fact that they might listen to you more?” she said with a laugh. “They make you feel like they want to learn. Not that they didn’t in college. I see them in school and have some of them in class so it is nice.”
Giordano’s growth in the profession is being expedited by working with two of the most respected head coaches in their respective sports.
“I would love to be a head coach, but I’m lucky to have Smurf and Espo teaching me the things that they do,” said Giordano, referring to Smeriglio and Esposito by their nicknames. “It’s no surprise they have programs that have been good since they got here, and I’m getting experience and getting it first hand.”
While Esposito, like everyone else, knows Giordano is destined for a head coaching job, he is happy to have her for as long as he can.
“She has a structure to her that I don’t know if I didn’t notice it before,” Esposito said. “She’s in tune with the kids. She has a great demeanor with the kids. Melissa is not a hollorer or a yeller. She whispers and she’s heard. She’s very good at what she does.”
Giordano said while her primary job is to make the girls she works with better players, ultimately there is a bigger picture involved.
“I had a good experience here,” she said. “I want them to have a good experience.”