By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE June 17, 2005 After an absence of almost 20 years, Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) is gearing up for a baseball program and has hired a new coach, Mike Marra, who is busily preparing for the programs first season.
The last year anybody can remember we had a baseball program was in 1987, SCCC Athletic Director Chris DePew said. It failed because of [a lack of] interest, but the interest is back.
DePew said that while the colleges nationally ranked mens basketball team competes in National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XV Division III, the SCCC baseball team will take to the field in Division II, a step up the ladder for the local two-year institution.
In 2004, Sullivan tried to get a baseball program off the ground, but it fizzled after Jason Mitterwager, who was hired as Assistant AD/baseball coach, had to leave due to family-related issues.
As DePew breathed new life into the baseball program, he hired Marra, an award-winning high school baseball coach to lead the Generals baseball team and man the assistant athletic directors spot.
I feel hes going to be the one to take the program and run with it, DePew said. Were happy he accepted the position.
According to DePew, the colleges first official baseball season wont get underway until the Spring of 2006. But he noted that the team will be playing unofficial baseball this autumn.
Mike is recruiting all over New York State, and baseball at Sullivan isnt going to be a dream anymore its a reality, added DePew, who started his career at SCCC in 1997, and in September 2001 was promoted to the position of Athletic Director.
On Monday, July 11, the 37-year-old Marra will officially come on board as the colleges Assistant AD/Head Baseball Coach, but he has already started beating the bushes by hitting the recruitment trail.
Im thrilled to death to be able to accept the challenge of building a program pretty much from scratch, said Marra in a cell phone interview last week from, of all places, Yankee Stadium. The Generals new baseball coach was at the House That Ruth Built watching the final games of New York Citys Public School Athletic Association (PSAL) baseball championships, a season-ending series to determine the cream of the crop from the 32 high school teams around the city.
Marra graduated from Watertown High in 1986. His advanced degrees include: bachelor of science (physical education) from SUNY Brockport in 1990; graduate studies in physical education from San Diego State University in 1991; and a 1995 masters in education from SUNY Cortland.
In 1991, Marra was hired by Kingston City Schools as a phys. ed. instructor, and later went on to be tabbed the varsity baseball coach at John A. Coleman Catholic High School in Hurley, where he coached from 1993 until 1995. Marra then served as the assistant varsity baseball coach at Kingston High School for two seasons (1996 and 1997) before becoming the head coach at Kingston. He coached the Tigers from 2000 to 2004. His career high school varsity baseball record stands at 113-78 over eight seasons.
In recent years, Marra has won a slew of awards and honors. Among them are the New York State Physical Education Major of the Year (1989), Ulster County Big Brothers/Big Sisters Community Honoree of the Year (2003), NYS Good Sports Award (2002-2003) and in 2004, the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) High School Coach of the Year Award (Region I Northeast).
Marra has been associated with the game of baseball for most of his life. He started playing T-ball at the age of 4 or 5. In January of this year, he and his girlfriend Ann, whom he first met at a baseball coaches conference in Nashville, Tenn. in 2001, got married in Nashville. That ceremony was followed a few months later by a recent wedding reception at Shea Stadium in Queens at a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets. Fortunately for Mike Marra, a big Cardinals fan, the visitors defeated the Mets 7-6, much to the disappointment of Ann Marra, who cheers for the Mets.
To say that were passionate about baseball is an understatement, Mike said, adding that his wedding band features a line of stitches like a leather-bound baseball.
Since taking the baseball coaching job at SCCC back in April, Marra has been talking to a dugout full of local high school baseball coaches, including Kurt Scheibe of Sullivan West, Jim OConnor from Liberty and Jeremy Levner of Fallsburg, as well as Steve Pinto, proprietor of Pro Prospects Baseball Training Center in Monticello, to get a feel of whos out there.
The quickest way to gain respectability and credibility is to get kids from Sullivan County high schools to sign up, he said.
According to Marra, because he started the job only a couple of months ago, a lot of local seniors with a flair for the game have already signed on with other schools. But hes looking ahead to next year, as the area school teams have a lot of talented juniors.
Marra said the goal is to have a baseball facility on the SCCC campus by the Spring of 2007, but until then the Generals will be playing at Billy Resnicks Baxter Stadium in Mountaindale, the former home of the Mountaindale Lions, who later became the Catskill Cougars.
Its my understanding that we have a deal with Mr. Resnick that we can have everything we can move to Loch Sheldrake everything from the lights to the stadium seating, he said.
Marra said that the game of baseball is one of lifes greatest teachers.
You have to stay out there for nine innings no matter what the score, he said. You have to learn to deal with adversity
if youre a .300 hitter, it means youve failed seven [out of 10] times.
Sullivans new baseball coach has a positive outlook for the teams first year.
Im looking to make some waves, right from the getgo, and maybe win the whole thing, he said. Im looking forward to putting a product on the field that everyone can be proud of in this great game
something they can call their own.