School committee officials approved Ralph Caruso as the team’s new skipper last Tuesday night, Nov. 20. Mr. Caruso is a retired English teacher who worked at the high school from 1971 through 2006. He has also served as coach of the high school’s JV baseball squad since 2001.
The head coach position has been vacant since the end of last season after Dennis Perry stepped down.
The baseball team has struggled in recent years after making the move from Division II to Division I in 2007. The team hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2010, the third consecutive year to end with a first-round playoff defeat.
Mr. Caruso cited three reasons for his interest in the job, including the game itself. Mr. Caruso said he doesn’t just like the nation’s pastime, he loves it and still plays today in a Rhode Island based men’s league. Mr. Caruso even recently traveled to Fort Myers, Fla. for an over-65 tournament.
Mr. Caruso’s primary position is pitcher. He said his best pitch is a slow, breaking throw that he describes as a gravity ball.
“I tell people Sir Isaac Newton was my pitching coach,” he said.
Mr. Caruso also said he is interested in coaching the team because this year’s squad looks to be a “particularly great group of young men” including a number of players who won a state freshman title in 2011.
Finally, the position represents a challenge.
Mr. Caruso said he has always wondered how he would fare at the varsity level. This season will be Mr. Caruso’s first as a head coach aside from a brief stint coaching basketball in the early 1970s.
Mr. Caruso spent the majority of his coaching career (1976-1999) as an assistant track and field coach working with jumpers under long-time head coach John Signore.
“Anybody who left the ground, I was responsible for bringing them down safely,” Mr. Caruso said.
“I was like an air traffic controller.”
Mr. Caruso spoke fondly of his time coaching track and Mr. Signore, who was installed in the Barrington High School Hall of Fame earlier this month. The two sat together at the ceremony and are so close that Mr. Signore changed the date of his daughter’s wedding so Mr. Caruso could attend.
Mr. Caruso said his loyalty to Mr. Signore was the primary reason he didn’t pursue the baseball team’s head coaching position when it opened up in 1989. Mr. Caruso also said it is why he didn’t pursue the track and field head coaching position when Mr. Signore stepped down.
“You don’t replace a legend,” Mr. Caruso said.
Today, however, nearly 40 years removed from his last head coaching stint, Mr. Caruso is at the helm of a Barrington High School athletic squad. He said the position’s challenges are in its responsibilities, such as decision making.
“I always considered my primary responsibility developing players,” Mr. Caruso said.
“Now, it’s more difficult because unfortunately I have to decide who’s going to play and who’s not going to play.”
The new season begins in March though Mr. Caruso didn’t waste any time getting the ball rolling. He held a meeting with players Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 21, less than 24 hours after his appointment was approved by the Barrington School Committee and at the start of this year’s winter sports season.
Mr. Caruso said he wanted to let players know what resources are out there to help them be ready for spring.