Softball Coach Buddy Caruso
When Buddy Caruso ended a career working in professional baseball in 2012, little did he know that two short years later he would be back on a diamond, teaching proper batting techniques, coaching on the baselines, and sitting in a dugout filling out a lineup card. The only thing different would be that this time he would be coaching a women’s softball program – not a baseball team.
“I was asked to take over the Westchester Community College softball program two years ago,” Caruso recalled. “I had left professional baseball and I was asked to come out to the baseball field and work with Billy’s (Bill McClure) Westchester Community College baseball team. I did that for a few years, and the highlight came in 2014 when the team reached the Junior College World Series in Oklahoma,” added Caruso.
Caruso’s past includes serving as a longtime coach, scout and instructor in the Houston Astros organization. Later, he would work in the independent professional baseball ranks. Caruso spent a chunk of the 1990’s working in the Northeast League, an independent professional baseball league. First, he was the league’s Director of Player Development. He then secured the job as Assistant General Manager of the Elmira Pioneers, a team in the league. “At Elmira, I handled everything from ordering equipment, organizing staff and overseeing budgets, to washing uniforms and taking out the trash,” joked Caruso.
In 2011, he began a two-year tenure as the General Manager of the Newark Bears in the Can-Am League. His staff included former major leaguers Tim Raines and Ken Oberkfell. “Newark was a challenge because I’d arrive everyday about 7:00 am and if we had a night game, I’d stay until it was over. Then I would drive home, get a couple of hours of sleep, and get right back at it the next day,” he explained. “It was rewarding, but after it was over I needed some rest. Soon I realized that I needed to spend more time now with my grandchildren. So I left baseball and was at home when I got the call from Westchester Community College,” Caruso said.
After a few years working with the college’s baseball team, the position of head women’s softball coach became vacant. Caruso evaluated the program and knew where he could have a positive impact. “When I went to the first practice, we only had nine women there,” Caruso said. “I could see that there was room for increased involvement by students, so I took the job and before you knew it we were playing games,” he added.
After struggling through his first campaign, Caruso, now thoroughly invested in the program, hit the recruiting trail hard. He passed out business cards to prospective high school players, spoke to high school and travel team coaches, attended open house events on the Westchester Community College campus, and went to clinics spreading the word about the team. Also helping his cause to further develop the program was the addition of a new, state-of-the-art field, and adjacent concession stand and rest rooms. “The new field really helps our program, and the outreach that we did really paid off,” Caruso said. The former professional General Manger was referring to his improvements to the softball locker room. “We had a locker room that was basically a storage closet. The maintenance staff and I gutted it, painted it, and shampooed the carpet. Then I hung the team’s uniforms in their lockers so it looked like what I was used to in the pros,” he stated. His vision was to give the team a place they could be proud of, and a place they could claim as their own.
It’s these little things, like converting a locker room, passing out flyers at every game he attends, and communicating with local high school players and coaches that has helped Buddy Caruso build the softball program. His long term goals include maintaining the connection with the local high schools, establishing a showcase for prospects, drawing more interest on campus, and making the playoffs. He understands that it’s a process and certain accomplishments will not happen overnight.
However, in just his second year, the team has showed some promise. The pitching and defense are improving with every game and Caruso, even though he is looking at the future, is now starting to believe that his team can compete for a playoff spot this year. He has increased the roster to fifteen players and is already getting commitments from a few high school players who would like to join the team in the future. Thus, he feels the “word is getting out there” and the current players are having fun, which is important to Caruso.
“I just want the student athletes to have fun and be proud when they put on the Westchester Community College Vikings uniform,” he concluded.