On the grass in deep centerfield, in the shadow of the scoreboard that now bears his name and career accomplishments, Bob Ambrosini stood in front of family, friends, colleagues and teammates, pointed at the brand-new sign and, with a catch in his voice, proclaimed, “It’s not my name up there, it’s our name.”
Ambrosini, the recently retired baseball coach at Connetquot, was honored at a field dedication Monday night by the community and the high school.
The sign reads:
“Coach Bob Ambrosini
Suffolk All-Time Wins Leader
33 Years 602 Wins”
Beneath that inscription was another, listing the Thunderbirds’ championships under Ambrosini: 2 State, 4 Long Island, 7 Suffolk, 20 League.
“As a former player, I can honestly say you are Connetquot baseball and always will be,” Rob Grable told the crowd.
Grable starred for Ambrosini, is the principal at Mount Sinai as well as a Connetquot school board member. “You are the most influential educator I ever had. You prepared me for baseball and for life.”
Connetquot athletic director Mark Dellecave told the crowd, seated in chairs on the outfield grass, “Bob has done so much for this community and this baseball program that we can never do enough to repay him. This sign is a small token of our appreciation. You will never be forgotten.”
Speaking to Newsday before the ceremony, Dellecave said, “We’re fortunate to have Bob Ambrosini in our community. He was a student here, he played here, he taught here, he coached here. He coached his three sons here. Because of his dedication and love for the sport, we have one of the best baseball programs not only on Long Island but in the entire state.”
Ambrosini, in a phone conversation with Newsday earlier in the day, said his love for baseball started early, but not under ideal circumstances. “I was 12 years old and I got in trouble doing something stupid with my friends,” he said. “My parents had to find something for me to do. It was baseball, and that was a turning point for me.”
He excelled as a pitcher-outfielder at Connetquot, then at Adelphi. When his dream to play professionally ended, Ambrosini got a teaching job at his old high school where his varsity baseball coach, Frank Campanelli, made him the JV coach. “Then in 1983 Frank stepped down and I got his job. I kept him on for a year so he could teach me how to be a varsity coach,” said Ambrosini, who pointed out Campanelli to the crowd. “I learned from him and from all the great coaches in Suffolk County. I tried to take a little from each of them.”
But Ambrosini brought his own fire. “I’m very vocal, very enthusiastic about the game,” he said. “I wanted my players to have the same passion for baseball that I did.”
He showed that passion by pitching batting practice. “I loved to throw and challenge the kids. It was more fun that way,” Ambrosini said. “We’d have simulated games. I never really threw from 60 feet, 6-inches, but I’d make them bear down. For me, it was like still being part of the game.”
And now he is a permanent part of the Connetquot baseball stadium.