The first hint Melissa Torres has softball in her blood comes when someone calls her cell phone and she doesn’t answer. Instead they’re greeted by a pleasant, factory-installed voice encouraging them to enjoy the music while Torres is reached.
While waiting, the caller is serenaded by the time-honored classic “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and it’s only then one realizes Lehman College got it right when it selected Torres to be the Lightning’s new head softball coach.
“I’ve been playing this sport since I was about 4 years old,” said Torres, who was named Lehman’s new coach last week. “My dad and brother and I, we were all associated with the Kingsbridge Little League. So this sport, it’s in us.”
Torres has worked with the Lehman program as an associate head coach under her predecessor, Erin Van Nostrand. She got promoted after Van Nostrand left Lehman to take a position at the College of Staten Island.
Yet, there still was a little trepidation in taking over for Van Nostrand, who won a Division III national championship at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State in 2012, and also earned national coach of the year honors.
“I’m excited, nervous and scared,” Torres said. “Look, you can’t replace a national championship coach, but I learned a lot from her in the two-and-a-half years I was with her. Hopefully it translates into the season.”
The job is so new to Torres she has yet to adjusted to her new title. She doesn’t even have new business cards made up yet.
“No I haven’t gotten used to it yet,” Torres said. “It’s just been weird. But I knew about this for about a week before it happened, but it was only made official” last Wednesday.
Torres knew Van Nostrand was heading for a new gig over the Verrazano Bridge because Van Nostrand gave her a heads up.
“Erin is like my best friend, so I already knew that she was leaving,” Torres said.
One of her first official duties was to gather her team and inform them of the coaching change.
“I got them together and told them the news,” Torres said. “I’m used to them and they’re used to me, so hopefully just because Erin is not here anymore, we don’t lose a step. We just want to continue to build on what we did last year.
“They were happy that I’m here but they were sad as well because Erin has meant so much to the program. They cried a little, but they are happy for her and wish her success. She really brought this program to new heights.”
Torres’ new position adds to an already full plate. Besides coaching the softball team, she’s also the athletic director and volleyball coach at St. Raymond’s High School.
But that won’t be a problem.
“My responsibilities are probably a little bit more now,” Torres said. “I just go from one school to the other each day, but I enjoy it. I’m a local kid. I grew up around Lehman, and my cousin, Samantha Torres, is on Lehman’s, so it’s a lot of fun to have this job and be at Lehman.”
Lehman reached the City University of New York Athletic Conference championship game for the first time in 15 years this past season. Now with its top player graduated and a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores, the challenge for Torres will be to build off of last year’s success.
“We lose a huge, huge player in our two-time player of the year Miranda Diaz,” Torres said. “But we do have a good nucleus returning. We’re very young. There are four or five new recruits coming in for next year. So, yes, we’re going to be young. Talented, but young.”
And from what she learned from Van Nostrand, it’s Torres’ goal to make Lehman a regular visitor to that CUNYAC championship game.
“We know we have a lot of work to do,” Torres said. “We did well last year, and we just want to continue to build on what we did last year. We want to compete in every game. If we compete, we’re going to have good results.”