The smile on Emma Cooney’s face was always a part of her persona. Behind that smile was a burning intensity, which demanded excellence on the field, both at the plate and behind it, and included a respect for the game, of herself and her opponent.
And of all the accolades from coaches, opponents and teammates, perhaps it was Emma’s dad who provided the ultimate compliment to his daughter’s character.
Emma and her dad, Jim, after a game in 2018. (Click on photo for larger image)
“There’s never been anything but a great day with her,” said James Cooney. “Really, she’s incredible.”
While Mr. Cooney may be a little partial, take it from me, having known Jim for the better part of 40 years, the man throws compliments around with the ease of a manhole cover. And that includes demanding that his own children live up to the standards under which he grew up.
James and his wife, Rosmeary’s work ethic was instilled into Emma at a young age, and it’s obvious with the way she played the game that there was no such thing as a day off.
Cooney (left) and Ashley Reuter celebrate hits #100, along with coach Jason Daily.
Emma (stud name, Charismatic) often downplayed her own successes on the softball diamond, deferring to her teammates’ accomplishments. She talks like a second coach on the field. Her own coach, Jason Daily, trusted her to call the pitches, in an era where most high school coaches, or their assistants, make the calls, through the catcher.
“I learned from a real good catcher here, in Marina Lombardi,” Emma said, referring to the marvelous catcher in Lombardi, who starred at Livingston from 2012-2015 and earned the stud name ‘Silver Charm‘. “I was a freshman when Marina was a senior. I watched her play, how she handled the cuts and back ups, called pitches, worked with the pitchers. It was really interesting.”
Pitcher Syd ‘The Kid’ McCormack led Livingston to a state sectional title in 2016. Emma Cooney was her batterymate. (Click on photos for larger images)
Marina Lombardi (left) here stretching with Jess Peslak before the 2013 Essex County Tournament final, was a standout catcher before Cooney arrived on the scene.
Calling her own pitches was enjoyable for Cooney.
“I learned from Marina, but also I call pitches a lot, in summer ball,” she said.
Cooney played on a state championship team in 2016, as a sophomore, Two years later, Livingston made a serious run to another championship, losing in the sectional final, to Mt. Olive, 2-1, in 10 innings.
“I can’t believe my high school career is over,” said Cooney. “It went by really fast. This season started tough, because the weather was so bad in March that we really couldn’t get on our field to practice much. We were in the gym, a lot, and on turf, when we could, but it’s not the same. Then we opened with a tough game at Cedar Grove, against a really good team, and struggled.”
Emma enjoyed a light moment with good friend Lily James, of West Essex, after a late season game this spring. (Click on photo for larger image)
Livingston lost that day, 8-2, at Panther Park, but Cooney did hit a homer to lead off the game. As the season went on, more and more teams preferred to intentionally walk her. In one game against Cedar Grove, in the Essex County Tournament, she drew four straight walks, three intentionally.
“I can’t blame teams for doing that,” Daily, her coach, said. “She was our best offensive player, and if there’s a way to avoid her bat, teams were going to do that.”
Cooney took it all in stride.
“It’s part of the game,” she said.
Nevertheless, Cooney would pick up her 100th career hit, in a state tournament game. And to make it even better, she accomplished the feat on the same day as her senior teammate, Ashley Reuter, also reached the century mark. And to make it better, they both attained number 100 in the same inning, at Bergen Tech.
“Ashley was such a good player,” Cooney said of the talented shortstop. “She could do it all, and she’s such a tremendous athlete.”
Cooney also spoke with pride of catching Syd ‘The Kid‘ McCormack for two years and then working with Jess Gorman, who will graduate with Cooney this spring.
“Jess became a really good pitcher, and she reminded me a lot of Syd,” said Cooney. “I’ll tell you what, in the state sectional final, Jess pitched an incredible game. It was amazing, catching her that day. She was so on.”
Emma’s friendships with players from other Essex County teams were also evident.
“I have a lot of good friends on the other teams,” she said. “When we play, we compete, but off the field, I consider Mia Faieta, Sami Huetter, Lily James, Bridget Betley and Ava Fernandez really good friends. I’m teammates with some of the girls in summer ball, as well.”
Emma’s summer coach is Phil Delgado, who had a good run as Montclair’s head coach before moving on to the collegiate level. Delgado coaches the NJ Fight in the summer and fall.
“Phil has taught me a lot,” said Emma. “He and Coach Daily have different kind of personalities, but they’re alike in a lot of ways, too. And I know Phil has always respected Coach Daily. We had a great game with Phil’s Montclair team, in the county semifinals (in 2016). Montclair won, but I think that game really got us focused on the states, and we ended up winning a (sectional) title later that year. Even though we lost to Montclair that night, that was such an exciting game, in front of a big crowd (at Ivy Hill Park)..”
Emma will play college softball at William Paterson University, where Delgado is an assistant coach.
“I can’t wait for college,” said Emma, who has an older sister, Katie and younger brother, James. “This has been a wonderful part of my life, playing at Livingston, and I’ll never forget it. I think Livingston will have a really good team next year, too. But I’m ready for the next step.”
Cooney plans to major in Elementary Education, with a minor in Special Education, as well as concentrating on English Literature.
One thing is for sure, if Emma Cooney continues that tireless work ethic, she’ll be a marvelous success in whatever career she aspires to.