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Wally Hausdorf was a basketball coach who had stints at Stony Brook, Old Westbury and Queens College. At the time, softball was just something to do to fill time and make extra money before he became a Division I head coach.
In his first game in the dugout, Bryant was blasted by Cardozo 23-0 and Hausdorf wondered, “What am I doing here?”
“I had no idea how to approach this,” he said.
That was 31 years ago. Two seasons after Hausdorf started with the Owls, they were in the PSAL city semifinals. Since then, the Glen Oaks, native has had a legendary run at the Astoria school. He’s the winningest coach in New York State softball history (772) and last Thursday he coached his 1,000th career game, a 19-1 romp over Richmond Hill.
“How you can manage to have a thousand games is beyond me, but he did it,” shortstop and senior captain Gabrielle Faustino said.
About a dozen former players took in the game April 4. It’s days like that, the 59-year-old Hausdorf says, that keep him not only coming back year after year, but also enjoying every second.
“This is what keeps me young,” he said. “To do this every afternoon and be with these kids — I get paid to do this. Isn’t that ridiculous? People would love to do this for nothing.”
Added assistant Coach Alicia Sanchez, “I wouldn’t have a doubt in mind that he could do another thousand. He said he’d sit there in a wheelchair if he had to. He loves these kids, he loves this program, he loves this building.”
Sanchez played for Hausdorf and graduated in 1997. She’s been coaching with him since 2003 and says she wouldn’t be the person she is if not for her mentor.
“He’s like my dad,” Sanchez said. “I love him. He turned me into an all-city first baseman, something I never thought I could do.”
Faustino said the Bryant dugout is a revolving door of alumni — not just for games like April 4’s, where Hausdorf is reaching a milestone. She called the Owls a big family and plans on coming back when she graduates and helping out with the girls, too.
“He’s more like a second father,” Faustino said. “I can talk to him about anything and he’s there for us. He means a lot to us. We really love him a lot. That shows why he has coached 1,000 games and he’s still there.”
Hausdorf has no plans on retiring any time soon, but Bryant is slated to close after school finishes in June. Once that happens, there would be a personnel shake-up and no guarantee that he keeps his coaching job. He also works in the building as student affairs coordinator.
“I would like to stay here for awhile longer,” Hausdorf said. “I feel like I do the job and I enjoy it. I’m not just milking it. I’d do it for nothing.”
Hausdorf is an institution at Bryant and has been for more than three decades. He’s turned countless girls into scholarship-level softball players and also molded them into young women. Winning a city championship hasn’t been in the cards — and may never be — for the old coach, not with multiple travel players populating most teams across the city.
But he said long ago he realized that it didn’t matter.
“It’s more the kids enjoying it, getting better and having great experiences,” Hausdorf said. “It’s for days like today. That’s what I’m here for.”
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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