First Posted: 3/22/2013
She was one of the best student-athletes to ever come out of Greater Pittston, now she’s hitting them out of the park for Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Pittston native Maria Zangardi, a star softball player at King’s College, is now a team member at Pennsylvania’s first casino.
Zangardi, a 2000 Seton Catholic graduate, excelled in tennis, basketball, and softball while there. She wasn’t just an athlete at Seton, she graduated salutatorian while juggling all three sports. After graduation, she was accepted to King’s College picking up where she left off in high school.
Pittston Area graduate and current head softball coach at King’s, Lisa Gigliello, was thrilled to have Maria on her team. “She was a hard worker that was extremely intelligent,” said Gigliello. “She always spoke with her actions and continues to do so today.”
Gigliello is closing in on her 500th win at the collegiate level with many of those wins taking place when Zangardi played for her from 2000-2004. “We took four conference titles while Maria was on the team,” said Gigliello, where Zangardi was captain of the team.
While at King’s, Zangardi racked up quite an impressive resume. She was named Female Athlete of the Year (2004); Female Scholar of the Year (2004); Conference All-Star (2004); National Fast Pitch Coaches Regional All-Star (2004); and National Fast Pitch Coaches National All-American (2004) to name a few. She was also selected Player of the Week in the Middle Atlantic Conference on several occasions during her college career.
Zangardi and Gigliello have been friends since Maria’s college days and in fact have played basketball and softball together throughout the years. In 2009, the two were part of a team that won a state title in softball.
Upon graduating from King’s with a 3.98 GPA and a dual degree in Mass Communications and Spanish, she was hired by the college as an admissions counselor where she began honing her skills, which will later on pay dividends. “I got to travel for two-years, recruiting students for the college I love which was easy to sell,” said Zangardi. “It was easy to sell students on something that I had such a good experience at; it was great.”
During her two-years of recruiting students at King’s, she continued taking graduate courses when she had an opportunity to work at the newly constructed casino at Pocono Downs. “I was recruiting for King’s and I was traveling a lot, which I liked, but at the same time, I really wanted to get into finishing up my Masters and have a career path,” said Zangardi. “I thought, I’m recruiting students and maybe HR (Human Resources) is the direction I should go and do some recruitment and get in on the ground floor here (at the casino),” said Zangardi.
In 2006 before the casino evened opened, Maria was hired at an employment specialist contributing to the hiring of approximately 1800-team members at the state’s first casino.
She was elevated to Employment Manager in May of 2008 working under HR Director Kawel LauBach. “Kawel was the best mentor I could have,” said Zangardi. “He really helped me grow and learn all of the philosophies behind great human resources of creating a fun, friendly atmosphere. It was because of him, I learned so much.”
Zangardi achieved a Masters of Science degree in Human Relations and Counseling from the University of Scranton in 2009 and a year later, she was elevated to the position of Human Resources in May of 2010. “A lot of HR is really understanding people and motivating them where they’re at,” said Zangardi.
“It’s not necessarily getting them to do what you want, but finding out what drives them and motivates them and providing people with the tools.”
Maria is excited about the hotel and convention center being erected on the grounds at the casino. According to Mike Bean, General Manager of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs since September, 2012, the $50 million expansion consist of a 238-room hotel, including 20-suites, a spa, pool and a convention center that can seat as many as 1800-2000 for concerts. The convention center will also host special events including trade shows, weddings, banquets and of course, conventions. Completion for the project is targeted for the end of this year.
“There are a lot of opportunities for employment for local people here,” said Zangardi. With the expansion, the casino is looking to hire an additional 250-300 team members consisting of front desk supervisors, reservation center, cleaning and maintenance staff, etc. “There will be a bistro located in the hotel as well as a sundry shop,” added Maria. “We will have a career fair sometime in the summer.”
With all of the success Zangardi has achieved in her 30-years; none of it would have been possible if it not for influences of her parents, Al and Barbara, and her brothers Alphonse, Jr. and Gennaro.
Maria feels lucky to have encountered the people she’s met over the years like teachers, coaches and bosses. “I honestly feel lucky. I do believe things are fated sometimes you are meant to be in certain places to meet certain people who kind of help you,” concluded.
It’s safe to say Maria is in the right place at the right time having the greatest time of her life looking for the next challenge to come her way.