On Jan. 28, just three days into the softball season, Head Coach Mark Ambler unexpectedly passed away following a heart attack. Ambler, who had been a part of the Eastern community for the past 10 years, was entering his seventh season as head coach of the softball team.
The news came as a shock to the team, but the decision was made to continue with the practice schedule for the upcoming season. “That’s what Coach would have wanted,” senior co-captain Karen Hertzog said. The only day of practice the team missed was Feb. 3 – Ambler’s funeral.
“He was quite possibly the most approachable coach I’ve ever played for,” Hertzog said. “He was willing to work with everyone, so long as you had the passion to learn and play the sport.”
Athletic Director Mark Wagner was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer saying, “While Mark was a competitor like the rest of us, his focus was always more on what was best for the young women he coached than on wins and losses.”
In the two days of practice he spent with the team before his death, Ambler identified three goals for the team this season. He challenged the team to come together and play as a unit, communicate openly with each other and make the playoffs. Most importantly, he told the team not to have fun this season, but to enjoy it.
Hertzog said that the experience has been very difficult for the team, but has ultimately brought them closer, giving them the opportunity to talk through everything together. The team – especially those members who have played for Ambler before – has made it a point to dedicate this season to him.
Assistant coaches Sam Esposito and Mitch Vanallo have stepped in to lead the team in practices following Ambler’s passing, and Colleen Stuppy, former coach of the team and current CCGPS employee, was recently appointed as the new head coach.
Coach Ambler leaves behind a wife and four children. He was buried at St. Gertrude’s Catholic Church in West Conshohocken.