BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — A few minutes before the start of an April 13 softball game against Saratoga Springs, Niskayuna pitcher Stacy Gordon smiled as she explained why her team had some new leaders for the day.
“Our coach isn’t here today,” she said.
The team’s coach — Jules Paul — was absent for that day’s 2-1 win against the Blue Streaks, as his wife had given birth to the couple’s first child several hours earlier. He also missed Niskayuna’s 1-0 win April 15 against Guilderland before returning for a 6-5 loss April 16 to Mohonasen.
The Silver Warriors do not have a full-time assistant coach. This meant that, in Paul’s place, Niskayuna had a rotating cast of coaches for its April 13 and April 15 games — which, when including the club’s April 16 game, equaled out to the team playing three games in four days with five different coaches.
So, yeah, it was a different type of week.
The fun actually started even earlier, when Paul coached Niskayuna against Shaker in the Silver Warriors’ season-opening loss. During that game, Paul’s wife, Mandie, started to feel contractions.
“When we got home, my wife said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know something,’ ” Paul said, laughing.
Late that night, the Pauls headed to St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. There, the couple welcomed Samara Elizabeth Paul at 12:54 in the afternoon — an arrival Paul, who has worked in the Niskayuna school district for seven years, said he had long told his co-workers and players to expect.
“I feel very at home at Niskayuna. As soon as I had found out, I told everyone,” said Paul. “When Mandie and I found out we were having a baby, I had shouted it to the mountaintops.”
A few hours after Samara was born, volunteer assistant coach Dawn D’Agostino teamed with modified coach Jim Aldous to lead the Niskayuna varsity squad against Saratoga Springs.
Originally, it was expected Paul could be back for the team’s next game, but a delay at the hospital caused him to miss the Silver Warriors’ April 15 game, too.
Niskayuna Athletic Director Larry Gillooley said it was a “scramble” to find a replacement for Paul for that second game, as both Aldous and D’Agostino were busy.
“We couldn’t find anyone, so I jumped in,” said Gillooley, who coached that game along with physical education teacher Bridget Daoust.
Before becoming an athletic director at Niskayuna, Gillooley had coached a host of sports — baseball, basketball, football, and more — at a variety of schools. The pinch-coaching experience was actually the second of Gillooley’s career, he said, as he once filled in as the coach for the Guilderland field hockey team in the early 2000s.
In that field hockey game, Gillooley said his team was a 1-0 winner — the same exact result the Niskayuna softball team had under his watch.
“We don’t give up points when I coach,” he said, laughing.
Gillooley said he had to do very little besides hang out in the dugout for the game with the Silver Warriors.
“They’re a self-sufficient group,” he said. “They’re quality kids that do an excellent job and pretty much run themselves.”
Paul returned to coach the next day before hurrying back home to be with his family’s newest member. Paul and his wife had known in advance they were going to be bringing home a girl from the hospital, he said, and that sat well with him.
“I’ve got my own little softball player now,” he said.