John Russo, Hofstra Pride

Hofstra Pride

John Russo is in his 10th season on the Hofstra Pride Baseball staff in 2017-18 and his seventh as head coach. He is the 14th head coach in program history and was tabbed to lead the Hofstra Pride on May 6, 2012, after serving as interim head coach since January 2012.

In his six seasons at the helm of the Pride program, Russo has coached the team to a 128-176 record and has seen five players signed by Major League Baseball teams, including two that were drafted. Senior Danny Poma was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in the 10th-round of the 2012 MLB Draft, while junior Bryan Verbitsky was a third round selection of the San Diego Padres in the 2013 Draft. In addition, junior Matt Reistetter and 2012 graduate Kevin Flynn signed with the Washington Nationals organization as free agents in 2013, while Matt Ford signed with the Tampa Bay Rays after graduating in 2014.

The 2017 Hofstra Pride set the team record for strikeouts by the pitching staff with 412 in their second season under the tutelage of Assistant Coach John Habyan. First-team All-CAA selection Teddy Cillis established a new single season mark with 96 strikeouts and also set the single game record with 16 over seven innings against Elon.

In 2015 the Pride set a new team record for fielding percentage at .970, leading the Colonial Athletic Association for the first time in program history. Freshman Steven Foster earned a spot on the CAA All-Rookie team after ranking fifth in the league in batting.

The Hofstra Pride posted a 20-win season in 2014 and the team set a new benchmark for ERA in a season at 4.89 and tied the then-team record for fielding percentage at .968. Ford earned his second CAA Defensive Player of the Year Award and was one of five Pride players selected to All-CAA teams.

Hofstra won 26 games in 2013, tying for the third most victories in program history. The Pride pitching staff set a new team record for strikeouts with 365 and junior Brett Schreiber’s 2.48 ERA set a new single season record.

In 2012 Russo led the team to a school record 34 wins and the No. 2 seed in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship with a 20-10 conference mark. In addition to the team’s 34 wins, the Pride set seven other team records including runs (447), hits (669), doubles (145), stolen bases (157), ERA (5.37), strikeouts (349) and double plays (65).

Under Russo’s direction in 2012 the Hofstra Pride was one of the top offensive teams in the country. Hofstra ranked in the top 10 in 11 offensive categories, leading the nation in doubles (2.59) and stolen bases (2.80) per game while finishing second in batting (.334) and total steals (157). Poma led the nation in doubles (32) and ranked second in batting (.430) and runs (78). Poma, who was the CAA Player of the Year, would earn several All-America accolades for his play in 2012, and joined Jared Hammer and Ford on the All-East Region team as well.

Russo, who has served as recruiting coordinator and infield coach as well as the third base coach, joined the Pride in 2008 after spending the previous five summers as the manager of the Vermont Mountaineers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, leading the team to back-to-back NECBL championships in 2006 and 2007.

Russo returned to coach the Mountaineers during the summer of 2011 and led the team to a 26-16 mark and a spot in the NECBL Playoffs. His team set a league record for stolen bases in 2011 with 118 while outfielder Brian O’Grady stole a team-record 25 bags. He also managed the team to 18 wins and the NECBL playoffs in 2012. During his tenure with the Mountaineers, Russo posted a 181-138 record and was the 2005 NECBL Manager of the Year. He has coached more than 60 players who were selected in the MLB Draft, including Christian Friedrich (2008 first round pick by the Colorado Rockies) and A.J. Pollock (2009 first round selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks). Entering the 2013 Major League Baseball season, he has coached five players – David Carpenter (Houston), Darin Mastroianni (Toronto), Rob Delaney (Tampa Bay), Pollock and Friedrich – that have been on the 40-man rosters of their respective teams.

From 2001 to 2005, Russo served as assistant coach at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. In his role as infield coach, St. Joseph’s led its conference in fielding and ranked in the top 10 nationally three times during his four seasons. Russo also monitored the academic progress of his team, which compiled an overall GPA of 3.1 during his tenure.

Russo began his career in 1998 as hitting coach at the University of West Alabama, helping the team set nine individual and team batting records in his three seasons.

A 2000 graduate of West Alabama with a degree in secondary education and a concentration in physical education, Russo had been a teacher and athletic director in the Millburn School District in Wadsworth, Illinois, from 2005 to 2008.

About the author, Bill

Bill Ballew has been involved with collegiate and professional baseball since 1983. He has been the Atlanta correspondent for Baseball America since 1991 and has served as the editorial content manager for Baseball The Magazine for more than five years. He is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).