Written by Chris Boyle Friday, 03 May 2013 00:00
To a baseball fan, hitting your 300th career win is a milestone worthy of celebration; but to Clarke High School coach Tom Abruscato, it’s just a number.
“It’s nice in what it represents, but I’m not really big with the number. That really doesn’t mean much to me,” he said. “But in what that number represents, it represents the hard work and dedication.”
Despite his modesty, Abruscato has little to be modest about- in his 15 year-long career at Clarke he has guided the Rams varsity baseball team into winning 13 league championships, five Nassau championships, three Long Island championships, and two state championships.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Abruscato, 42, who lives in Smithtown with his wife and three daughters, recently chalked up his 300th win while leading the Rams, thanks to an April 8 victory against Manhasset.
Born and raised in Astoria, Queens, Abruscato later attended Sewanhaka high school in Floral Park and then went on to Adelphi University, where he played baseball before graduating.
“After college, I got a job coaching baseball at Clarke,” he said. “I spent five years as the Junior Varsity (JV) coach, and in 1999 I became the head varsity coach.”
Clarke High School has a long and proud history when it comes to baseball, but by the time Abruscato joined the team, its glory days were well behind it. He was immediately determined to help turn that around and restore the Rams to greatness.
“In the 70’s and part of the 80’s, Clarke had a pretty good run, but when I got there in 1994, they hadn’t won a league championship in about 12 years,” he said. “We changed things, and we won our first league championship in ’97 after a 13-year drought. We definitely changed the attitude about how the kids went about their business.”
The facts speak for themselves- since taking over as baseball’s head honcho at Clarke in 1999, Abruscato and the Rams have gone on to win 13 out of the 14 league championships they have competed in. However, such accomplishments don’t come without hard work or high expectations.
In order to bring out the best of the kids on his team, Abruscato admits he can be strict- for example, if a player is late to practice by even one minute, he’ll find himself suspended for the next scrimmage or game. However, Abruscato says discipline such as this helps the students under his tutelage prepare for the real word.
“This is stuff that will set them up for life,” he said. “I tell the kids that I want them to be successful in whatever they choose to do down life’s road, and this is the way- 100 percent effort, no shortcuts. Success is not about the winning, it’s about the road we take. If you take the difficult road without cutting any corners, in the end you’re going to be a winner.”
To Abruscato, baseball is clearly more than just a job; it’s a passion, and he hopes to continue to impart the lessons that he has learned in life upon each new generation of Rams for many years to come.
“It’s a lot of fun, and the dedication of the coaches and the kids, plus the community involvement, makes it easy,” he said. “I really have to give credit to the kids and their hard work, and well as the coaches I’ve had working with me these 15 years. We’re very demanding, we expect a lot, but these kids have stepped it up every year and done what the team before them did.”