- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

NICEVILLE, Fla. (AP) - There is a love-hate relationship between Charlie Marello and Lee Hale. You might say they are frenemies.

In 1988, Marello, who was a second baseman at Niceville High School, and Hale, who was a second baseman at Choctaw High School, found themselves constantly up to bat against one another. Twenty-eight years later, both men find themselves sliding into home, this time as principals of their alma mater.

Marello was principal at Destin Middle School until he was recently appointed principal at Niceville. In April, Hale, who was principal at Meigs Middle School, was appointed principal at Choctaw. The two sat in Marello’s new office recently reminiscing on an old Daily News game photo where a 17-year-old Hale slides into second base as a 16-year-old Marello attempts to make a tag.

“(The picture) epitomizes the rivalry,” Hale said.

Back then, Marello said he and Hale might have been small, but they played big.

“If you were a teammate, you loved us,” Marello said. “But you didn’t like it if you played against us.”

After high school, Marello had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, but found himself in education. Hale also went into education, but hadn’t stayed in contact with Marello. Then one day, education brought them back together again.

“I passed by a classroom and there’s Mr. Marello,” Hale said. “I made the connection that we are of like minds. Even though we weren’t communicating, we were taking the same steps. It’s been neat.”

As both men continued to excel in their careers, they said they served as resources for each other. And now, they say their names are oftentimes mentioned in the same breath.

“I consider him a partner along with other principals,” Hale said. “If one of us is stronger all of us are stronger.”

Marello agreed.

“Dr. Hale has been a big help to me,” he said. “I have the utmost respect. It’s been cool to become friends after so many years.”

Marello and Hale said they are adjusting to the transition, but they have many plans to improve the academic excellence in their schools. At the end of the day, they are both most excited to be back.

Come Friday nights though, Hale and Marello said some things will never change.

“Okaloosa County is going to make a big step foward,” Hale said. “We own these schools. It is a part of us and we are a part of it.”

___

Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), https://www.nwfdailynews.com

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