Frank Catalanotto passed on a chance to go to college more than 20 years ago, opting instead for a career in the big leagues. Now, the former 14-year MLB veteran is going back to school.
Catalanotto was named head baseball coach at NYIT on Thursday, according to a news release from the school.
The former Smithtown East High School standout had committed to Seton Hall, but chose a career in professional baseball after being drafted in the 10th round by Detroit in 1992. The 44-year-old played for Detroit, Texas, Toronto, Milwaukee and the Mets from 1997-2010.
“I had always regretted a little bit not going to college,” Catalanotto said by phone from Toronto, where he is attending a charity event hosted by former Blue Jays teammate Roberto Alomar. “It’s a little ironic that my first head coaching job is at the college level.”
The St. James resident said he had been asked on numerous occasions to coach in both the majors and minors since he retired from baseball in March 2011. But he said the idea of being away from his wife, Barbara, and four daughters for eight months out of the year was not something he or his family wanted. He added he hadn’t thought much about coaching on the collegiate level until he was contacted by NYIT last month.
“At first, I wasn’t interested,” said Catalanotto, who batted .291 for his career while playing leftfield and rightfield, as well as first, second and third base and DH in 1,265 major-league games. “But the more I thought about it — I’m a very competitive person — and I viewed it as a challenge.”
Challenge would be a good word to describe the NYIT baseball program of late. The Bears went 13-25-1 this season, their first at the NCAA Division II level after spending more than three decades as a D-I program.
“I’ve heard of the recent struggles of the NYIT team, and I always want to win,” said Catalanotto, who coached with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic in 2013 and 2017. “I think I can be part of the change and help the team move in the right direction.”
Catalanotto also has been lead hitting instructor at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank the last five years, and has viewed his share of quality, local recruits.
“I get to see a lot of good players on Long Island,” Catalanotto said. “I don’t think I’m going to have to go very far. There’s a lot of baseball talent right here. The last four or five years it seems more of the lacrosse athletes are coming back to baseball, and I’m looking forward to recruiting.”
The Catalanotto name could help the Bears land some of the talent on Long Island and in the Northeast.
“We knew we wanted and needed a head baseball coach who displayed an incredible high level of integrity, work ethic and grit,” NYIT athletic director Dan Vélez said in a statement. “I have no doubt Frank will do exactly that.”
Catalanotto already has his managing style in mind.
“I’m going to coach the way I played,” Catalanotto said. “I always gave 100 percent on the field, and I’m going to tell these kids: show up on time to practice, and get our work in. If it’s a game, give 100 percent. Guys that aren’t going to hustle, I’ll have a problem with.
“The managers I respected the most pulled someone right out of the game if they didn’t hustle. I’m not going to be a stickler. If the kid plays hard, I’ll be easy to play for.”