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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interview Part 3: Joe Ausanio, Most Incredible

Marist head softball coach Joe Ausanio talks to his team after a tough 3-0 loss to Iona in April 2015. (Greatest 21 Days)
Part 1: Hard Work | Part 2: The View
Part 3: Most Incredible

The early major league outing Joe Ausanio really remembers is his second.

Ausanio's Yankees were in Seattle playing the Mariners at the Kingdome and Ausanio was brought on in extras to hold the home team. Two innings later he had his first major league win.

"It was just incredible," Ausanio recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days. "The most incredible thing was the last out was a ground ball back to me."

Ausanio caught it, ran it over to first and flipped it to Don Mattingly to seal the win. Mattingly gave Ausanio the ball back and a congratulatory hug.

After the game, he recalled other teammates trying to give him their own form of congratulations as Ausanio did a post-game interview: A pie in the face.

"I didn't care," Ausanio said of the pie effort. "I was so happy. And at that point, you're in kind of a euphoric state. That's the only way I can describe it."

Ausanio went on to play in the majors in parts of two seasons, both with the Yankees. He got into 41 games in all, picking up three other wins and a save.
Marist head softball coach Joe Ausanio coaches third during an April 2015 game. (Greatest 21 Days)
He's gone on to stay return to baseball in the front office of the Hudson Valley Renegades near his hometown of Kingston, NY. He's also gone into coaching, heading up the Marist College softball team. He spoke with The Greatest 21 Days in April 2015 before a Marist game.

Ausanio's major league debut came with the Yankees July 14, 1994. He recorded two outs and gave up one earned. It was a debut that came in his seventh year as a pro, having started in the Pittsburgh organization.

When he got there, though, he had an idea of what to expect. His older brother Paul Runge had his own major league career, playing in 183 games over eight seasons with the Braves in the 1980s.

Ausanio recalled his brother as being instrumental in his career. Ausanio recalled going to his first big league camp with the Pirates with some important advice: Ausanio was a rookie. He was to be seen and not heard.

"I would always go up to the veterans and say 'hey, you guys need anything?'" Ausanio said. "I  was just that rookie that tried to do a god job with that."

Ausanio got his call up to the Yankees during the All-Star break. He went on to get into 13 games for the Bombers, giving up six earned in 15.2 innings. His debut at Yankee Stadium came July 26 against the Red Sox. He struck out both Otis Nixon and John Valentin.

His first and only loss came Aug. 11, giving up a run to the Blue Jays in the 13th inning. He also turned out to be the Yankees' final pitcher of the season. That was the final game before the strike.
A Marist pitcher Melanie White delivers to the plate in a April 2015 game at Marist. (Greatest 21 Days)
Ausanio recalled how sudden the majors was gone. If he never got back, he recalled thinking, he'd enjoyed the ride.

"Even if it was the only month I ever got to spend in the big leagues, to me it was worth all those seven years of hard work," Ausanio recalled thinking, "having that time where I could just enjoy and cherish that particular moment."

Ausanio did return to the majors. He returned in 1995 with the Yankees. He got into another 28 outings, picking up two wins, no losses and his save.

His save came June 27 at home against Detroit. It was a three-inning effort, one where he recalled striking out - and impressing - the Tigers' Lou Whitaker twice. Ausanio struck him out in a diet of split-finger fastballs.

Ausanio recalled Whitaker going up to him the next day: "He goes, 'Man, that stuff's nasty."

Ausanio stayed up with the big club most of the season. He played his first game of the year in late April and his last in September. He was hoping it would translate into a longer career. But changes wit the Yankees left him on the outside looking in.

He had two choices for 1996, Oakland or the Mets. He chose the Mets, but later realized his best opportunity would likely have been with Oakland.
Marist College at bat
He played most of that year at AAA Norfolk, moving mid-season to Rockies and AAA Colorado Springs. He got three final outings at Colorado Springs in 1997, ending his career.

Ausanio recalled the Rockies asking him if he wanted to coach. Ausanio didn't feel like he was ready.

"I ended up going home after they released me in May and just kind of had a heart to heart myself and I ended up just not playing again after that," Ausanio said.

Ausanio then returned home to New York's Hudson Valley. Soon he had a job selling cell phones. He also got a job doing TV broadcasts for the New York-Penn League's Renegades.

"I just remember watching the games from the broadcast booth and saying 'oh my God, this is a great place to work," Ausanio said.

He wanted to get back into the game in a more formal role, but he also didn't want to travel. He asked the Renegades. The team called the next February. Did he know anything about food service?

"I said 'I'll take it,'" Ausanio recalled. "I didn't know anything about it, but I said 'I'll take it.' That's kind of how it started and I've been there 17 years now."
Marist head coach Joe Ausanio coaching third in April 2015. (Greatest 21 Days)
He's since left food service behind and he continues to serve in 2015 as the team's director of baseball operations. He handles media requests, serve as the liaison between the Rays and the Renegades, as well as other duties.

Ausanio's connection to Marist came through the Renegades. The team used to host the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference baseball tournament and Ausanio got to know the school's athletic director Tim Murray.

Ausanio had umpired softball and Murray invited Ausanio to be an assistant softball coach and help out the new head coach. He did that for a year and left.

He returned in 2009 after that coach moved on. It was supposed to be on an interim basis until somebody else was hired. Ausanio was the one who was hired. He's continuing as head coach in 2015.

He's since had success. Ausanio's Marist team won the 2013 conference tournament title. The Red Foxes won the regular season conference title in 2014.

Ausanio said his baseball experience transfers well to the softball field.

"We steal, we hit and run, we do everything baseball," Ausanio added. "We put a lot of pressure on teams."

"We do everything baseball here and the girls, once they buy in," Ausanio said, "they get it."

Part 1: Hard Work | Part 2: The View
Part 3: Most Incredible

Be sure and read Part 1: Joe Ausanio, Hard Work

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