By Alex Hyman, Staff Writer
With just over a week until the start of the Hofstra University baseball season, the team and coaching staff is undergoing major changes.
For the past three seasons, former manager Patrick Anderson led the Pride to a 61-124-1 record, reaching the 20-win plateau once in 2010. On January 18, it was announced that Anderson would be resigning from his position for personal reasons.
"As I am looking forward to my future endeavors, I will miss my players, staff and the people I grew to know and work with at Hofstra," Anderson released in a statement. "The program is left in great hands and I am excited for Hofstra Baseball's future."
It was later discovered that Anderson was hired and accepted the role as manager of the Hagerstown Suns, a Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
His assistant, John Russo, will now takeover the Pride on a team that he helped put together.
"I think it is going to be a pretty easy transition because I have been with the team 3 years prior to this move," Russo said. "Recruiting this whole team was all apart of me and [Anderson's] recruiting process, I have been with some of them for four or five years".
One of his recruits, freshman outfielder Michael Ferranti, feels the same way.
"There hasn't been much of a change," said Ferranti. "Sure there are different beliefs and philosophies, but it was a smooth transition."
Russo, named head coach just three weeks ago, is entering his first season as manager of a Division I program. He has coached the Vermont Mountaineers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League each of the last seven summers and has won two league championships.
He has coached over 65 players who have been drafted by Major League Baseball teams and four players who have made the big leagues.
"Coach Russo has been an important part of our baseball program. As an assistant coach, he was directly involved in the recruiting, coaching, and game preparation," said Athletic Director Jack Hayes. "We are confident that his transition to the role of head coach will go very smoothly."
Russo and Anderson have been best friends for 15 years but Russo did admit Anderson's departure was "a bit surprising". Russo said, "I came here with [Anderson] I thought I would always be here with [Anderson]."
After breaking the single season stolen base record last summer, Russo says that he plans to bring an aggressive base-running mentality to the Pride.
"I think our team fits that style, it was a style we have worked on and I think we have the players for that style," Russo said.
Ferranti feels the new style being instituted and is ready to go for his new manager.
"All fall he's said that we're a special group so this might be one of our better seasons," said Ferranti. "Everything will go as planned but there is a different tempo, it's more upbeat and everyone is buying into the system."
The father of four has a lot on his plate balancing his time between a new head coaching jobs and newborn twins, but is more than ready to lead the Pride to victory this upcoming season.
"The top six teams make the conference tournament this season and I believe it has to be a goal every season to make the conference tournament," Russo said. "The one mindset of [Anderson] that is different from mine is that he was into offense and I am big into defense."
Russo is confident that he has one of the best defensive teams in the conference.
The Pride opens its 2012 campaign on February 17th, traveling to Tallahassee, Florida to take on the Seminoles of Florida State.