Student-athletes applaud hiring of Frank Catalanotto to lead baseball program

Student-athletes applaud hiring of Frank Catalanotto to lead baseball program

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Suddenly, catcher Ryan Kuskowski is no longer the most accomplished Smithtown East High School graduate wearing an NYIT baseball uniform.

Major League Baseball veteran Frank Catalanotto was announced as NYIT's head baseball coach on Thursday. And Kuskowski, a rising junior, was thrilled with the selection of his fellow Smithtown native.

Catalanotto graduated from Smithtown East in 1992 and signed with the Detroit Tigers that year after being drafted in the 10th round.

After thanking the NYIT staff that recruited him, Kuskowski added about Catalanotto's hiring: "I'm super-excited. I look forward to working with him, learning from him and winning with him. This will certainly bring a new, positive energy to NYIT baseball. Everyone knew of him who played varsity baseball at Smithtown East. He also came down a few times to our practices to help out, which was pretty cool at the time."

Student-athletes on the NYIT baseball team universally celebrated the hiring of Catalanotto, a .291 career hitter during 14 major league seasons with the Tigers, Rangers, Blue Jays, Brewers and Mets.

"We are all extremely excited," first baseman Jake Lebel said. "Obviously you see his past, and how he excelled. We want to pick his brain and learn as much as we can. He will be able to teach us things that [former Rangers teammates] A-Rod and Michael Young taught him. He has so much knowledge of the game. It will definitely help us achieve our goal of winning a championship. We can't wait for the fall. We are really looking forward to turning this program around and becoming a force."

Said corner infielder Nick Tedesco: "I was beyond excited to hear the news that Frank Catalanotto will be our new coach. I'm looking forward to learning from an MLB veteran who has done it all and has accomplished so much. Coach Catalanotto has the power to get NYIT back on the map."

NYIT baseball returned to Division II and played its inaugural season in the East Coast Conference this past spring after more than three decades as a member of Division I, including the final four seasons as an independent. The Bears went 13-25-1 overall and 6-18 in the ECC in 2018.

As for Catalanotto's staff, holdover Frank Battaglia — a former Queens College head coach — will remain as an assistant. Two additional hirings, including a pitching coach, are expected in the near future and may have an NYIT flair.

"I think having Frank Catalanotto on our staff is a big positive not only for the players, but for the whole athletic department," outfielder Nic Lombardi said. "He knows what it takes to win. I think he will bring that mindset to our institution."

Said shortstop Ben McNeill: "Hearing that Frank Catalanotto was hired as the new head coach really is exciting news. His baseball knowledge and experience can really help the team and me grow and become better all-around ballplayers. I'm really looking forward to getting back to campus this upcoming fall to get to work with Coach Catalanotto in search of our first ECC championship."