From Catcher to Coach

By KEVIN BRADY

It was a cool, breezy night in late August.  The Rockland Boulders were taking on the New Jersey Jackals at Boulder Stadium. On any other night, this would be just a normal game, but tonight, for Billy Alvino, it was a special moment.  This was going to be Alvino’s final game of his baseball career. 

In his final at bat of the evening, Alvino stepped up to the plate, dug into the box with his back foot, and rested the bat on his shoulder.  The first pitch of the at bat was thrown, and Alvino crushed the pitch into the left center field gap for a double.  It was a great ending to a magnificent baseball career.

Since then, Alvino has been a graduate assistant for the Manhattanville College baseball team.  Not only is he taking graduate classes in order to receive his Master’s Degree in Sports Management, but he is also trying to help the baseball team win their first conference championship since 2010. Alvino plays a major role as a graduate assistant, as he does both the on and off campus recruiting, controls all of the practices, fundraising, and even monitors the academics of the players on the team.  The toughest part of becoming a coach of the baseball team was the transition itself. Alvino had to learn the differences of what it was to be a coach rather than a player. 

Billy Alvino was born and raised in Stony Brook, New York.  Ever since he was a little kid, baseball was in his blood.  “My stepfather was the first one to give me a ball and a whiffle ball bat, and we just started playing,” Alvino said.  He used to have a small baseball field in his backyard with a home plate and a pitcher’s mound.  His stepfather taught him everything he knows about the game. 

Alvino attended Sachem High School East, where he was a star catcher on the team.  He helped lead Sachem East to a Long Island title, and an appearance in the New York State championship.  After a stellar senior season, Alvino had the opportunity to go right into the minor leagues, but he instead chose to get an education at High Point University in North Carolina. 

In his senior year at High Point, Alvino posted a .400 batting average.  Scouts took notice of his baseball ability, as he was a semi finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, which is given to the nation’s best catcher. 

Unfortunately for Alvino, even while declaring for the MLB draft in 2009, he went undrafted, but this did not stop him from becoming a professional baseball player.  He decided to reach out to nearly all of the teams in the MLB.  He wanted to see if there was a team that would be willing to sign him and give him a chance to play.  The Detroit Tigers were the first to contact him back and offer him a contract, so he decided to sign with them.

Alvino played on three separate teams at the professional level.  In all of 2009 and part of the 2010 season he played in the minor league organization of the Detroit Tigers.  In 2010, he also played for the Newark Bears of the Can Am league in New Jersey, and from 2011-2014 he played for the Rockland Boulders. 

While playing for the Boulders, Alvino started to realize that it was time to take another path.  “The excitement and the drive to play wasn’t there anymore,” Alvino said. “I always said that if I wasn’t excited to get up everyday and go to the ballpark, I knew it would be time to hang it up.”

He decided to go back to graduate school, but also wanted to coach a team as well. Manhattanville College had an opening at graduate assistant for the baseball team, so Alvino applied for the position.

Julene Fisher, the Assistant Athletic Director at Manhattanville, reviewed his application.  She was able to meet him through a former graduate assistant, and what she saw in Alvino was “outstanding baseball credentials, including Division I playing experience at High Point, as well as playing professionally.”

Besides Alvino having an extremely impressive baseball resume, Fisher also believed that he shows a strong desire to work with college athletes.  She knew that she had found exactly what the program was looking for in an assistant coach, and he was the perfect fit.

Alvino was very excited to get the job, but transitioning from being a player to a coach was not an easy task at all.  It is a difficult job to teach a team of players who do not know who you are how to play the game.  At first, Alvino was quiet, trying to learn what it was to be a coach.  After he got comfortable with all of the players, he broke out of his shell, and the Manhattanville players loved his coaching style.  Alvino knew how to connect with each one of the players on the team, because of his background.  Being that he recently retired from playing the game, he still had some of that player’s mentality that everyone on the team could relate too.

“Playing at such a high level helped me understand what it takes to be a successful baseball player and a quality person,” Alvino said. “I can relate to the day to day grind young student-athletes have to go through in order to be successful on and off the field.”

“His knowledge of the game, from seeing and playing it at different such as the MLB, the independent league, and college, has benefitted him to express that knowledge through the minds of his players at Manhattanville,” said Nick Euvino.

Euvino is the starting centerfielder for the Manhattanville baseball team, and he loves Alvino as a coach.  He could immediately see Alvino’s love and respect for the game, and his respect for the team, as both players and adults.  He believed that Alvino made his transition look easy.

Alvino immediately impacted the team after one season.  The two years prior to him becoming a coach, the baseball team posted records of 16-22 in 2012 and 14-29 in 2013.  He brought a lot of new ideas to the table that helped the baseball team have its best season since 2010, posting a record of 24-16 and finishing one game short of a conference championship.

Even with a loss in the conference championship game, the team realized what they had in Alvino as a coach.  “He is the best coach I have ever had,” sophomore third baseman Robbie Lynch said. “You want to play for him because you know that he will always have your back.”

As a graduate assistant, Alvino can only work for two years for the baseball team.  The Manhattanville baseball team has not had a full time assistant coach in four years, and Alvino is looking to take over that role.  He wants to be the next permanent assistant coach for the baseball team.

“If it was easy, everyone would do it,” Alvino said on his transition from player to coach, “It’s the hard that makes it fun.”

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