Check out the following feature in the upcoming edition of the Siena News magazine which is set to be released later this summer
January 1967. Lyndon Johnson was President. The Vietnam War raged on. The Packers defeated the Chiefs in the first-ever Super Bowl. The median household income was $8,000. The cost of a gallon of gas was 27 cents.
And in Loudonville, 23-year old Tony Rossi was named Siena College’s men’s lacrosse junior varsity coach. Just over two years later in the Summer of 1969, Siena Athletic Director Gene Culnan offered Rossi his dream job. For the annual sum of just $200, Rossi was hired to be Siena’s head baseball coach.
The rest has been history.
For five decades – more than 60% of Siena College’s existence – Rossi has built Siena Baseball from a 10-player Division II squad, to a championship-caliber Division I program with scholarship student athletes. The Schenectady native, who first stepped onto Siena’s baseball field to play in a youth game in 1958, has piloted the program to five MAAC Championships (1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2014) and a pair of NCAA Tournaments (1999, 2014). On April 9, 2016, he became the all-time winningest coach in any sport in MAAC history, and currently has 869 victories to his name.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Rossi said about his 50 years at Siena College. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have been here that long,” he quipped. “The enjoyment comes from the actual coaching and getting to work with kids, and developing relationships with the coaching staff. It’s been fun. I’m a believer that it shouldn’t be all serious. It should be about having fun too, and I’ve enjoyed the company.”
Despite all the personal and team successes Rossi has orchestrated, what he is most proud of is what his student athletes have gone on to achieve following their time at Siena. In baseball, 52 of his players have gone on to sign professional baseball contracts including 35 with Major League Baseball organizations, with four making it to “The Show.” Others, like Dave Smith and Paul Stec, have gone on to become vice presidents at the College.
“The most satisfying part for me has not only been the guys who’ve made it to the big leagues, but those who have found success in other professions as well,” Rossi reflected. “I enjoy picking up the phone when a potential employer calls to give a recommendation, and then seeing that person be able to get the job.”
While Rossi has been synonymous with Siena Baseball, he also simultaneously spent 34 years teaching math in the Guilderland school district. Following his retirement from teaching in 1999, he spent nearly a decade as Siena’s assistant athletic director in addition to his baseball duties, overseeing indoor and outdoor facilities, team scheduling and travel, and the department’s intramural efforts.
Although the 1985 Siena Athletics Hall of Fame inductee cemented his legacy long ago, the 73-year-old is showing no signs of “hanging them up” anytime soon. Despite being the longest active tenured Division I head coach in any sport in the nation, Rossi has his future sights focused on just one thing: the 2018 Siena Baseball season.
“I’m sure I’ll know when it’s time, but right now I’m not even thinking of it,” said Rossi on the topic of retirement. “It has never crossed my mind that it’s been 50 years. I’m just living in the moment. When you enjoy what you do, you never really think about time. My only thoughts are about next spring, putting a good product out on the field, and teaching these guys how to play baseball and get ready for the real world.”