Beyond the Lines is a weekly profile story on a coach or athlete that goes beyond the fields and courts. The goal of these profiles is to discuss what makes them who they are– the core values they live by, their relationships with others, what is meaningful to them, and more. Beyond the coaching and student-athlete roles these individuals play, at the end of the day, we are all human.
Funny, intelligent, and determined: three words Marist women’s softball head coach Joe Ausanio used to describe himself.
Former player and new assistant coach Caroline Baratta used almost identical words: witty, smart, and determined. It’s telling that they both used the last word to describe him considering where he came from and where he is now.
Growing up, Ausanio and his family grew up in Kingston, NY with very little money. His mother worked for New York Telephone while his father was a union laborer. Both had children from previous marriages, so in total, Ausanio’s brother Paul and his mother inherited five half-brothers. Despite the inheritance of other siblings and his frugal childhood, the one thing he learned from the rough was to always be the hardest working person, which goes hand in hand with determination and how he got to Major League Baseball.
“I was never outworked, I was never the best player, but I always worked harder and I always knew that,” said Ausanio. “I was a good athlete, but I always wanted to perfect my craft, no matter what it was, whether it was ping pong, whether it was basketball, it didn’t matter what it was, I was trying to be my best at it.
“It propelled me to where I got in the major leagues because I wasn’t a high pick. I didn’t get a big bonus out of college. I signed for $2,500. And but you know what, nobody outworked me. My hard work paid off.”
In case you didn’t know, Ausanio played in the MLB and minor leagues for nine years. He was drafted by the New York Yankees through the Rule 5 Draft, and made his debut at 28 years old (more can be read about his baseball career in this story: From Pinstripes to Poughkeepsie: Ausanio’s Path to Marist).
The former reliever’s drive pushed him to pitch just over 53 innings over the next two seasons with the Yankees. He learned a tremendous amount about life in the MLB, but his biggest takeaway was unrelated to the mound.
“The best piece of advice I got when I signed my professional contract, I remember it was Bruce Kison. He was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates for two years, he was one of our pitching coaches. And he said it and I always remembered it. He said, ‘Gentlemen, be nice to the people on your way up because they’re going to be the exact same people you see on your way back down,’” said Ausanio.
The softball coach has nothing but respect and appreciation for every person who has been influential in his life, but he also understands that there are kids who may be going through what he experienced growing up. He always thinks about where he came from, and one way he shows this is through donating to charities.
He believes in paying it forward and giving back to those who need it. He primarily donates to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital to help families who may not have the necessary resources for their child’s cancer treatments.
It’s not just giving back through charities, there are little things he does that may impact others’ lives.
“There are times when I’ll see a kid playing catch in a park with a dad, I’ll pull over and I’ll just go up and say, ‘Hey, let me show you something real quick.’ With my favorite baseball card in the car, I’ll give it to the kid and say, ‘Hey, this is what I did, just in case you were wondering who I am.’ Then it’s like, wow, that’s kind of shocking, a wow factor. I love being able to do that,” said Ausanio.
Respect, appreciation, and giving back are some of Ausanio’s core values, but perhaps the biggest one to him is relationships with players, family, friends, and peers.
“Material things can come and go. The family bonds and the friendships that you make; those are the things that last and those are the things that you want to remember. If you make a difference in people’s lives, that’s what’s important,” said Ausanio.
His relationship with Marist athletic director Tim Murray is the reason he is here now. They met back when Ausanio was working with the Hudson Valley Renegades because the MAAC baseball tournament was held at Dutchess Stadium. One day Murray told him he had hired a new softball head coach and that he was looking for an assistant. Ausanio accepted but left after only a year with the program.
In August 2008, the softball head coach resigned, so Murray called him and asked if he could lead the softball team as interim head coach through the fall season while he looked for a replacement. But there was no replacement, and Ausanio has coached the softball team since then.
He’s coached many student-athletes over the years, and one thing he has strongly emphasized is that he is there not only to prepare them for the next four years, but for the next 40.
There are two things he wants his players to remember following graduation: he wants to be the first reference on their resumes and wants to be invited to their weddings. Though he may not necessarily attend the wedding, to him that shows that he left his mark on the player. Equally as important, 100 percent of his student-athletes have graduated in 16 years with the program, further emphasizing how much he values his players’ success off the mound.
Then there’s his relationship with his assistant coaches, Caroline Baratta and Kristin Erb. Baratta joined Ausanio’s staff this past year after five seasons with the Red Foxes. Erb has been on the staff since September 2021, and both have been tremendous since joining the program.
“I absolutely adore them,” said Ausanio. “I think that they’re both very hard-working. This is the first year that we’ve actually had a third assistant coach. Caroline actually played for me for five years, so that’s why she knows me probably better than anybody. I treat them very well, they’re an extension of my family. And that’s how I treat them, like family.”
And finally, there’s his own family. His wife is Caroline, and they have two boys, Joey and Kevin.
Joey, 31, is a teacher of the deaf in Rochester while Kevin is a mechanical and aerospace engineer. He also has two stepchildren, Michael and Christina. Similar to how he treats his student-athletes, he has harped on preparing them for the real world and instilling a strong work ethic.
Ausanio’s hard work has been evident in his MLB career and in his relationships with others, but it truly applies to everything. He used to work at a bowling alley growing up and would play close to 100 games a week to reach the point where he was an elite bowler. He also played basketball growing up and would shoot baskets for hours upon hours to improve and be consistent.
Then there’s chess. He used to take lessons from grandmasters Arthur Bisguier and Michael Rohde– he actually beat Rohde once. He also played against grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, one of the biggest names in chess history, but lost. Ausanio’s chess prowess falls under master level because he knows how to set others up in traps and thinks way ahead of your casual chess players.
Funny, intelligent, and determined. Those three words don’t do Ausanio justice, but they certainly sum him up well. Though he may seem serious, he knows how to get a laugh out of others with jokes he cracks on a regular basis. His intelligence shows up in more than just softball or in his playing days with the way he approaches relationships and life as a whole. Determination has been the primary driving force in his life.
If there’s one thing you should remember about Ausanio it’s that he wants to leave his mark on others. He does it in more ways than one, but he needs no accolades for his acts of kindness.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Joe Ausanio