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Siena baseball coach Rossi: 53 years at helm, still counting


LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Siena baseball coach Tony Rossi places it plain and easy — he’s been hooked on baseball since his first hit as a 7-year-old.

That was 71 years in the past. Although he’s coped with cellphones and social media, his 53rd season with the Saints received’t be the final.

“I have no hobbies,” mentioned Rossi, the longest-tenured coach in Division I baseball. “This is my hobby. It’s my everything that I want to do, and have wanted to do. It’s going to have to be grappling hooks to pull me off or something like that. I just hope I don’t fall face-down because I still coach third.”

Rossi, who grew up and nonetheless lives in close by Schenectady, has been a busy man his complete life. He taught center faculty math for greater than three many years whereas he and spouse Val raised two youngsters, managed the Sons of Italy to 3 championships in 5 years within the Albany Twilight League, and served as assistant athletic director at Siena. He was named baseball coach in 1970 — two days earlier than the Beatles broke up — after briefly teaching junior varsity lacrosse.

“Tony was terrific,” mentioned Richard Hunt, a lifelong educator who was a pitcher-first baseman on Rossi’s first groups. “He made us love baseball. He let us be students. I can’t say enough about what a great experience it was.”

The Saints had been a Division II faculty in Rossi’s first seven years earlier than transferring to the highest stage. They’ve been a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference since 1990, and Rossi’s 401-329 convention document makes him the all-time winningest coach in any sport in MAAC historical past.

The wins towards groups with comparable expertise ranges matter, however not a lot as the actual purpose the gamers attend the small Catholic faculty (enrollment round 3,300) in Loudonville, New York, simply outdoors the state capital of Albany.

“I’ve always harped on the education,” Rossi mentioned. “I always tell them, we have a game tomorrow and some guys are going to stay in class. They’re not coming until after their classes. That’s the important thing. They have to stay on task. Otherwise, they’re not going to make it through.”

A workaholic who can’t keep in mind ever lacking a day, Rossi arrives at his second-floor workplace overlooking Connors Park, the varsity’s baseball subject, lengthy earlier than the break of day — often round 4 a.m. — and lengthy earlier than first-year assistant coach Joe Sheridan and supervisor Alex Feuz pop in.

Fairleigh Dickinson coach Rob DiToma is aware of the routine. He labored for Rossi in 2009.

“I’ve been the head coach here three years and I feel like I’ve aged 20 years in those three years,” mentioned DiToma, whose Knights misplaced at residence to Siena in mid-March. “He doesn’t look like a lot of coaches we play against, he’s older, but my players were amazed how locked into the game he was. He doesn’t seem to miss anything, still. You do anything for 50 years, you would probably naturally get lazy with it and all that stuff. It’s not in his nature.”

Rossi, who’s received 5 MAAC championships and 6 coach of the yr awards, schedules video games towards top-flight groups from the South to begin every season to offer his gamers expertise towards a few of the greatest expertise. So given Siena’s restricted sources — assistant coaches repeatedly come and go — it’s not shocking that Rossi’s profession document is 933-1,187-8, with 873 of the wins in Division I. Still, since 1985 he’s had 20 20-win seasons and three with 30 or extra victories, highlighted by a program-record 34 in 1999.

This yr hasn’t been so variety. Plagued by accidents that left the roster razor-thin with simply 10 place gamers, the Saints are 10-32 total and ninth within the 11-team MAAC at 7-11.

Rossi counts recruiting as probably the most tough a part of the job, though he does have a eager eye for expertise. Left-hander John Lannan, who pitched eight seasons within the majors, primarily for the Washington Nationals, is amongst greater than 30 Siena gamers who signed contracts with main league organizations.

As for social media, he offers with it as greatest he can — he doesn’t go on Facebook or Twitter — however don’t even point out the switch portal.

“I think it’s the stupidest thing in the world, without a doubt,” he mentioned. “I lost five kids to the portal last year.”

And he’s dropping one other. Senior left-hander Ben Seiler, a homegrown expertise, has determined to go elsewhere for his last season of eligibility as a graduate scholar. Rossi took the information in stride.

“He wants me to be successful,” mentioned the 6-foot-6 Seiler, who struck out an NCAA season-high 19 batters in a nine-inning, no-decision efficiency final month towards Niagara, throwing 152 pitches all of the whereas speaking with Rossi because the pitch depend mounted. “He let me roll, so I’m lucky. He wants me to strive to be the best pitcher I can be. I thank him for that. These four years have been amazing.”

Val, a retired elementary faculty trainer, is the rock in a relationship that started in faculty when Rossi performed ball at Brockport State University in Rochester, New York. The final baseball widow, she is aware of grappling hooks could be ineffective.

“It’s been my life. People say, ‘How do you put up with it?’ I’ve done it so long that when he’s around a lot — watch what you wish for,” she mentioned, with a chuckle. “I don’t know how long he can keep going, but obviously there will be an end.”

Rossi is poised to match the longevity of Bob DeFelice, who simply retired at age 80 after 54 years at Division II Bentley University close to Boston. An even 60 has a pleasant ring. That would put Rossi on the high, another season than the late Gordie Gillespie, who holds the all-time faculty document.

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