Keith Osik has always enjoyed challenges. Baseball provides a never-ending string of them, and that's what he relished about the sport.
“I liked baseball because it was so difficult,” Osik said. “The other sports came easy to me. I enjoyed how methodical and intelligent the game of baseball was on top of requiring athleticism.”
The three-sport star showed just how brilliant and athletic he was at Shoreham-Wading River from 1983-87, where he dazzled on the basketball court and soccer field.
But the diamond was where he shined the brightest. A shortstop and pitcher, he was the recipient of the Carl Yastrzemski Award as the most outstanding baseball player in Suffolk County in his senior year.
Osik’s final day on a high school mound would bring not one but two unforgettable performances. After pitching a shutout in a state semifinal in the morning, Osik threw the final four innings of the championship game that afternoon and led the Wildcats to the first and only state title in school history.
“When you’re 50 years old, you still remember that you’re a state champion,” said Osik, now 54 and the head baseball coach at Farmingdale State. “Going on to win the state championship was one of the highlights of my life.”
The day was far from over. With his adrenaline still pumping on the bus ride home that evening, Osik discovered he had been drafted by the Texas Rangers. Having committed to play baseball at Louisiana State University, he faced a choice.
“Ultimately I thought I needed the support of going away to college and getting my education,” Osik said.
In Louisiana, Osik yearned for another challenge. The All-Southeast Conference third baseman wanted to prove he could do more.
“Going into the conference playoffs, our catcher wasn’t doing so well. I told the coach, ‘Hey, maybe I can catch.’ I really didn’t know that I could do it as a catcher, but I figured it out," Osik said. “[The Pittsburgh Pirates] saw me at third that season, but then all of a sudden they saw me at catcher and I guess they thought ‘Wow.’ That was unique at that time."
Osik's versatility became somewhat of a spectacle — he played all nine positions in one game! — and after his junior season, he was selected in the 24th round of the 1990 draft by the Pirates. In seven seasons with the Pirates beginning in 1996, the 10-year major-leaguer primarily backed up catcher Jason Kendall. He also played six other positions (he never played shortstop or centerfield in the majors).
“I used to get goosebumps all the time [at Shea Stadium],” Osik said. “About 100 close people from Shoreham-Wading River and surrounding areas came to the games there. It was just a special feeling.”
In his final three seasons in the majors, he played for the Brewers, Orioles and Nationals before retiring in 2005 and returning home to Shoreham and his wife, Sherry, and their three children, Tyler, Kayley, and Kamryn.
As one door in baseball closed, another quickly opened.
Osik became the Farmingdale State baseball coach in July 2005. In 18 seasons, he has accumulated a 405-263 record, notching his 400th win in April. Osik has coached Farmingdale State to a regional championship, eight Skyline Conference championships and a Division III College World Series appearance.
“It’s really cool just giving back and impacting kids,” Osik said. “I think that’s why you get into coaching. You’re just looking to give back."
Tyler Osik, now 26, grew up watching his dad coach at Farmingdale State. It inspired the former University of Central Florida catcher/first baseman to retire from his minor-league career with the White Sox organization and become an assistant coach of Division II Francis Marion University in South Carolina in the 2024 season.
“Those were some of the best memories of my life sitting in the dugout and watching him coach.” Tyler said. “The togetherness and family feeling he cultivated made me fall in love with the idea of being a college coach.”
Keith also opened and operated his own training facility, Keith Osik’s Major League Instruction, in Rocky Point for 10 years. In 2015, he was approached about a position as the vice president of coach and player development at Steel Sports, a national youth sports and coaching academy. At his present office at LaSorda Legacy Park in Yaphank, Osik’s role entails coaching youth baseball, softball and soccer programs and heading professional development for coaches across the nation.
“It’s refreshing, it’s new, it’s not just baseball. We want to impact kids on and off the field. We’re more [about] character development. That’s the most important thing to teach,” Osik said. “I don’t feel like I've worked a day in my life. I’ve never considered it work teaching kids. I just don’t consider that work.”