Bob Baratta watched hours and hours of track and field, and he never forgot any of it.
Baratta, a longtime Bay Shore resident, coached boys cross country and track and field at Great Neck South High School for 30 years and was the longtime Nassau County coordinator for cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field. He later served as meet director for the state Federation cross country meet and co-meet director for the New York and Northeast Nike Cross Regional championships.
“There was nobody like him,” said former Mepham High School coach Paul Limmer, 77, a longtime friend and co-worker. “The man was an absolute genius. You didn’t always agree with him, but in the final analysis, you’d find out that he was right 99% of the time.”
Baratta died April 22 at 87 at his home in Bay Shore after a more than 30-year battle with a form of leukemia, his family said.
“His mind was so sharp,” said former athlete Dan Osipow, 54, of California. “ . . . Just two weeks ago, we talked about the 1983 indoor state meet up at Cornell and how our two-mile relay team finished third in the state . . . He remembered so many things that made you feel great and made you feel that you weren’t just a passerby. You were something to him.”
Born May 4, 1932, in Brooklyn, Baratta graduated from New Utrecht High School. He spent two years in the Coast Guard and then enrolled at Adelphi University in Garden City, where he was a star sprinter on the track team. He ran the 100-yard dash in 9.5 seconds and the 200-yard dash in 20.8, and competed against Olympians Dave Sime and Bobby Morrow, said Baratta’s son Bob.
After graduation, Baratta coached cross country and track and taught physical education at Central Islip High School for two years. He started at Great Neck South High School in 1964 and, in addition to coaching and teaching physical education, spent more than 20 years as the school’s athletic director, his son said.
As a cross country coach at Great Neck South, Baratta went 350-34 in league meets. He was just as successful on the outdoor track, going 414-38, according to milesplit.com.
“It was his whole life,” said Bob Baratta, 62, of Brightwaters. “Outside of his family, that was everything to him.”
Baratta was inducted into the Adelphi Athletics Hall of Fame in 1977. He was inducted into the Nassau County High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016, the same night as basketball legend Julius Erving.
Baratta’s love of sports extended beyond the track. In the 1970s, he worked as a Little League coordinator, overseeing Suffolk County’s District 34 and making occasional trips to the organization’s headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, his son said.
Baratta also was a longtime New York Rangers season-ticket holder.
In addition to Bob, Baratta is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ann; sons Mike of Bay Shore and John of Connecticut; daughter Christine Grello of West Bay Shore; sister Carole Flood of Sayville; brothers Tom of New Jersey and Peter of California, and nine grandchildren. Memorial service arrangements and burial are still pending, Bob said.