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Jul 23, 2019 12:58 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Rob Cafiero Has Been A Rock For Southampton Breakers

Rob Cafiero is the longest tenured manager in the HCBL. CATHY DANIELS
Jul 24, 2019 9:55 AM

Southampton Breakers manager Rob Cafiero has been the longest tenured manager in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, and no one has even come close to that long.

After joining the league in 2009 as an assistant coach with the Westhampton Aviators, Cafiero became the manager of the Breakers the very next season, and he hasn’t relinquished his post since. It’s an eye-opening feat considering the fact that most teams within the league have a bit of a revolving door when it comes to their manager positions.

Cafiero actually holds the second longest tenure in the league, right behind HCBL President Sandi Kruel, who broke into the league when it began in 2008 with the Hampton Whalers.

“You can’t beat the location,” Cafiero said. “And my true passion is coaching.”

When he’s not managing the Breakers, Cafiero, a Massapequa resident, is still involved in the game of baseball as a screen printing and embroidery rep for a few different companies. He also owns, with two other business partners, an indoor facility called The Hitter’s Club in Farmingdale, where he offers batting lessons.

After a successful college career at Villanova University, Cafiero was drafted in 2002 by the Philadelphia Phillies. A fractured shin the following spring cut his major league career short, and while he never made it back to the majors, he enjoyed successful stints in the Atlantic League, first with the Pennsylvania Road Warriors then with the Long Island Ducks from 2005 to 2008.

In 2009, Cafiero started coaching at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, where he was for four years before moving on to Hofstra University and then LIU Post just as recently as this past season. LIU recently merged both of its campuses’ athletics with Post and Brooklyn, making what used to be two solid Division II programs into one Division I program. LIU decided to retain its Brooklyn coaching staff, thus leaving Cafiero without a coaching position.

In terms of his HCBL coaching career, though, Cafiero came into the league on fire. After helping Westhampton win a league title in 2009, Cafiero won HCBL championships in both 2012 and 2014, bringing the Breakers into the league with a bang.

The past few seasons have been lean for Southampton, though, leaving Cafiero’s career record at 156-202 coming into this season. The start of this season wasn’t going as planned either, with the Breakers sitting in last place for much of the first half of the summer. But once July hit, the Breakers turned things around and finished the season on a 10-8 run to clinch a wild card berth into the playoffs.

Cafiero is a competitor at heart, so it’s hard to say he doesn’t care about winning. But with such a deep passion for coaching, he’s more intent on properly teaching his players—while winning summer league games is secondary.

“A lot of it turns out to be luck of the draw almost,” Cafiero said, in terms of having a successful season during the summer. “What’s nice about this league is that you can’t really recruit your team. [Director of Scouting Brett Mauser] tries his best to keep all the teams even, but he has a real tough job. He’s basically recruiting kids at the end of last season. He’ll call up a school like Hofstra, for instance, and ask, ‘Who do you have for me?’ This is in September.

“Part of what these college coaches have to do is get their kids to a summer league, so these coaches are recommending players who they may not have had a lot of time to really see,” he continued. “They could be injured, or maybe they don’t pan out the way they thought they would. Once Brett puts all of the teams together and gives everyone a roster, it’s the middle of March, and every year I’ll have 10 to 12 kids that don’t come to play by June 1.”

Filling the roster out then falls on the coaching staffs, Cafiero said, which leads to another issue: housing. Getting a bed for all players within the league has been a league-wide issue the past couple of years, but it becomes a spotlighted issue when players go down with injuries, or have to leave for other reasons, and the coaching staff needs to fill those spots. With not enough host families, coaches are left with picking up local players to fill the voids. And while they’re serviceable most of the time, they’re not the caliber of player that was originally supposed to be on the team.

Housing has had its perks for Cafiero though. For the past five years or so, he’s lived with the Brown family—Barry and Lara Brown, their two sons Mick and Seamus, and daughter Bailey—in Southampton. With games five to six days a week, living in Southampton part-time alleviates Cafiero having to make the 60-mile drive back and forth to Massapequa.

Part of the reason why Southampton was able to turn things around this season was because the housing issues were limited compared to years past, thanks, in large part, Cafiero said, to the team’s new general manager, Sara Mannino Kent. While Cafiero sang the praises of past GMs, he lauded Mannino Kent for her ability to get more local families to open their homes to players.

“That’s probably the toughest job out here, being the GM of the team,” Cafiero said. “You spend countless hours for no pay, and the same people you’re hitting up for money are the same people you’re hitting up for housing, or food, or drinks. So it takes the right person with the right personality to make it seem like you’re not begging people, and Sara has done a great job. With her being a part of the Little League, and she’s so close with her kids, she’s getting more out of the community. She’s got a great attitude and she’s done a lot for us as GM.”

Mannino Kent, who is the production manager for The Press, has worked with Cafiero the past two seasons, but obviously more closely this season since taking over for Ron Kelly as the GM. She and Cafiero work really well together and see eye to eye on almost every aspect, she noted.

“The purpose of our league is to get the players innings, to work on specific things that their coaches want them to work on, and Rob does that,” she said. “Other teams may put winning ahead of the learning and teaching, and then by the end of the season, their players are shot and it doesn’t work out. I like that about Rob, that he does it his way, and the guys really respect him. He has this serious, but calm, demeanor about him, and in that way we balance each other out pretty well—because I’m so anxious and wound up.”

At 39, Cafiero doesn’t have any plans on stopping coaching any time soon, and the only thing that would take him away would be if his business needed him, he said. For now, he plans to be in the dugout in Southampton for the foreseeable future.

“The biggest thing, year after year, I love coaching at the college level,” Cafiero said. “I love doing lessons with young kids, but I enjoy teaching the game to the older kids and helping them out with their swings and mental approach to the game. The players are coming out and playing 40 games in a short period of time, so they have take care of their bodies, go out the next day and play well. It’s great baseball out here and I enjoy coming out here. I have great people like [assistant coaches] John and Chris Clark. They make my job really easy where it’s almost like a vacation for me.”

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