Frank Catalanotto of Smithtown, who enjoyed a 14-year Major League Baseball career, was named the 15th head baseball coach at Hofstra University on Wednesday afternoon by Hofstra Vice President and Director of Athletics Rick Cole Jr.
The 47-year-old Catalanotto guided New York Tech to its first NCAA Division II College World Series, in 2019, winning a program record 37 games.
"This is a great challenge and the next logical step in my coaching career," Catalanotto said. "We’re going to build a consistent winner at Hofstra. I inherited a program that was underachieving at New York Tech and turned it around fairly quickly. And now I’m really excited to change the culture of the Hofstra baseball program. If you lead the right way and everyone pulls from the same side of the rope, really good things will happen."
The unexpected retirement of John Russo, the winningest baseball coach in Hofstra history, led Cole Jr. to Catalanotto. The shutdown of all sports in the New York Tech athletic program in 2020, left Catalanotto available. Cole Jr. feels he’s found his man.
"Today is a very exciting day for the Hofstra University baseball program," Cole Jr. said. "It is not every day that you can hire someone with the track record of Frank Catalanotto to lead your program. Frank has proven to be a success in everything he has done in the baseball world. We look forward to that carrying over into our program."
Catalanotto played 14 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers, and Mets. He is currently the lead hitting instructor for Steel Sports, which owns the indoor facility at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank.
"I was fortunate to have some success at the Division II level and am really excited to take on the challenge of competing in the Colonial Athletic Association with the Pride," Catalanotto said. "I would like to thank President Rabinowitz and Rick Cole Jr. for allowing me to have this opportunity and welcoming me into the Hofstra family."
Catalanotto said Hofstra’s hitting coach, Matt Wessinger, will stay with the program and also serve as the team's first base coach. He also expects to bring in his staff from New York Tech, including pitching coach Chris Rojas, and infield guru Jimmy Goelz, who will serve as the team's third base coach.
"They’re going through the hiring process," Catalanotto said. "I've met with the players and I’m fired up to get started on Monday."
Catalanotto knows all about the competitive CAA and the challenges that come with playing against mostly top-tier southern schools.
"Everyone says you can’t win in the CAA and that just totally motivates me," Catalanotto said. "I understand it won’t be easy. But whenever someone says, ‘you can’t do it’, you have to prove that you can."
Catalanotto starred at Smithtown East High School and signed a letter of intent to attend Seton Hall University. However, he was selected by the Tigers in the 10th round of the 1992 MLB Draft and signed a professional contract.
He posted a .291 career batting average with 1,113 hits while playing five positions - left field, right field, first base, second base and third base – and DH.
In 2000, Catalanotto set Rangers records for hits in consecutive at-bats (10) and plate appearances reaching base (13). He then set the Blue Jays record for hits in a nine-inning game, with a 6-for-6 performance on May 1, 2004, against the Chicago White Sox. In addition to his major league career, Catalanotto played for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.
"This is the next step for me," Catalanotto said. "I can’t wait to get started."