If we are speaking in baseball terminology, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic can be described as a period of missed hits, strikeouts, and foul balls. Joe Ausanio, Marist’s head softball coach, can speak to these difficulties as he was forced to adapt to the many curveballs thrown his way during the coronavirus pandemic.
These curveballs began in March when Marist’s Softball spring season was cut short due to the pandemic. His Red Foxes were playing strong heading into last season’s spring break with a total record of 10-9 on their season.
In addition to being Marist’s head softball coach, Ausanio works a double duty shift as the director of baseball operations for the Hudson Valley Renegades, a minor league baseball team that plays in the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League.
For those who grew up in the Hudson Valley, catching a Hudson Valley Renegades minor league baseball game is a tradition like no other. It is a chance to enjoy a highly competitive baseball game right in your backyard with your family and friends. Unfortunately, adding to the pile of challenges pitched his way, the Renegades’ season was canceled.
Ausanio is finishing up his 22nd year working with the Renegades. He currently works as the director of baseball operations in which, as he describes it, “handles all things baseball.”
Ausanio’s first role with the Renegades dates back to 1998 where he began starring in color commentary during the television broadcast with legendary baseball analyst Brian Kenny. Ausanio can attest to the pride associated with the Renegades as he comments on how much he loved the culture associated with the team, sensing it would be “a great organization to be a part of.” From there, he took it upon himself to call the Renegades front office to see if there were any job openings.
In 1999, he started working internally for the Renegades as the director of food and beverage. From there he moved up the ranks, doing anything and everything he could to make his mark on the team. He has always been involved in the sales aspect of the organization, whether it be selling tickets or even outfield billboards. About five years ago, he was promoted to the director of baseball operations, which he describes as the “liaison” role between the Renegades and their major league team affiliate the Tampa Bay Rays.
Little did he know, his journey with the Hudson Valley Renegades would lead him to many opportunities, one being the chance to coach for Marist Softball. Since Dutchess Stadium, referred to as, “The Dutch,” hosted the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Baseball Tournament for years, Ausanio was able to connect with the Marist Athletics staff. Tim Murray, Director of Athletics, approached Ausanio in 2007 about coming over to Poughkeepsie.
“Murray came around and said ‘Hey, we just hired a new head coach and I think you would be a great mentor,’” Ausanio said.
In 2009, he was promoted to head coach of Marist softball, and the rest is history.
Ausanio is now in his thirteenth year as head coach and has been credited with transforming the Red Foxes into consistent competitors in the MAAC. Recently, his team in 2019 finished with 35-22 overall and 16-4 in conference play, where they were crowned the MAAC Regular Season Champions.
The success of the team can be attributed to Ausanio’s coaching style, which is centered around the motto of “treat the players the way you want to be treated.” Ausanio’s Major League Baseball experience, where he played for teams including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, and even the New York Yankees and New York Mets, also influences his approach to operating the helm of the team.
“I think just being around baseball for the last 32 years of my life I was able to pick up things along the way that I like and pick up things that I dislike,” Ausanio said. “I treat the kids the way I wanted to be treated. I always played better for managers who coached in these ways.”
His tactics have been proven effective as Ausanio has been named MAAC Coach of the Year three times in 2011, 2016, and 2019. In 2016, Ausanio and the Red Foxes set a program record tallying 45 wins and have had seven straight winning seasons from 2011-2017. Under Ausanio’s leadership, the Red Foxes have also won three MAAC Regular-Season Championships in 2014, 2016, and 2019.
Transitioning from the Renegades to the Red Foxes was seamless for Ausanio. Even with his increased workload due to his promotion to director of baseball operations for the Renegades, he still finds a balance between his double duty lifestyle coaching and managing two separate teams.
“My duties for the Renegades include a wide variety of things from travel, to taking care of umpires, being involved with the official score, and making sure managers get post-game scores after the games,” Ausanio explained.
Anything baseball-related, Ausanio is your guy. He also takes care of managing the field, the batting cages, and the dugout while also communicating and coordinating with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Just like many people with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ausanio’s role underwent many difficulties this summer. Typically, a Hudson Valley Renegades season runs from mid-June to early September, however this summer, the season was canceled.
“It has definitely been challenging to say the least,” Ausanio said. “We had a lot of things going that were in preparation for the season in 2020. When you lose a season you’re just not prepared for it.”
As director of baseball operations, Ausanio was able to scramble to put together some “non-traditional revenue” projects. Some of these projects included baseball camps, tournaments, clinics, and field rentals which generated some revenue for the Renegades during a time where the stadium was closed for minor league games.
With much uncertainty still surrounding the Renegades upcoming 2021 season, answers will not come until the conclusion of the MLB season. Right now, all eyes for the Renegades are turned to their affiliate, the Tampa Bay Rays, who are in the heart of an incredible postseason run. The Rays are in the midst of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
It was not an ideal summer, but the only solution was to make the best of a bad situation. Ausanio was successfully able to do just that. The only way to go about the current situation is to take it day by day as Ausanio explained, and the same holds with his Red Foxes.
“It was challenging because we lost the last two thirds of our season. We were 10-9 going into spring break and looking forward to having a good year last year,” Ausanio said.
Ausanio credits his girls for having positive and optimistic attitudes thus far, as they just started introducing equipment into their off-season workouts. He smiles with confidence noting the team is “taking everything in stride.”
The questions surrounding the 2021 season for both the Renegades and Red Foxes may not be answered soon, but all Ausanio can do is take each day as it comes. As for Red Fox fans, Ausanio believes they should be extremely eager and excited for another successful 2021 Marist Softball campaign. The Red Foxes are on a mission to finish what they started last year, and if the opportunity is given, they will not let anyone get in their way on their road to redemption.
Edited by Nick Stanziale and Bridget Reilly