Former Herricks High School pitching star Lou Bernardi has been named pitching coach at SUNY College at Old Westbury.
Bernardi, who spent last season as assistant coach and third base coach at his other alma mater, New York Institute of Technology, was appointed to the position at Old Westbury by head baseball coach Rod Stephen last week.
He joins an Old Westbury squad that won 30 games last season and fell one game short of taking home a pennant as Skyline Conference champions.
“Our goal and motivation this year is to capture a Skyline Conference championship,” Bernardi said.
Bernardi helped lead the Herricks varsity baseball team to a conference title in his junior year in 2005. He lettered four years in baseball, graduating from Herricks in 2006. As a senior, he was recognized with Herricks’ Male Athlete of the Year and earned All-New York State, All-Nassau County and league MVP honors.
In 2010, Bernardi was inducted into the Herricks High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I was the athlete at Herricks High School for four years. I had a lot of fun in high school representing Herricks on the baseball team,” Bernardi said.
The lifelong New Hyde Park resident won a lot of games as a starting pitcher too, finishing with a 16-1 record in conference play and winning two playoff games. He had a 6-0 record in both his junior and senior years during the regular season as team captain and went 4-1 as a sophomore. He also played first base for the Herricks nine.
“I always was ready to play,” he recalled. “But it was the arm that carried me through in baseball, not so much my bat.”
In the summer of 2005, he competed in the Empire State Games representing Team Long Island and won a bronze medal.
“That was a tremendous experience for me,” Bernardi said.
After high school, his success on the mound continued at NYIT, where he pitched in 67 games, leaving him in third place all-time among the school’s pitchers. As a sophomore, he led the team with three saves. As a senior in 2010, he earned the Harold J. Hirschfield Memorial Leadership Award, which is annually awarded to the team member who exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the field.
Although he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Bernardi knew he really wanted to keep pitching or coaching.
“Out of college, I kind of knew I wanted to stay in the game. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to stay in the game as long as I could,” he said.
So in 2011, Bernardi started pitching in the independent New York State League with New York Federals. During that season, the St. George Roadrunners of the Golden League, another indie league, purchased his contract from New York. He met the team in Victoria, British Columbia and played the remainder of the season in Canada, California and Arizona.
“Because of this thing called baseball, I’ve been able to visit pretty much every single state in the country,” he said
But pitching in independent leagues isn’t a secure occupation for ballplayer and Bernardi knew he had to move outside the foul lines to extend his innings.
“Playing only got me so far. But because of the connections I made over the year, coaching would enable me to continue the journey in baseball,” he said.
So he returned to NYIT as a coach during the 2012 season. In the summer of 2012, Bernardi served as head coach for the New York Atlantics of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, a league sanctioned by the NCAA and funded by Major League Baseball, where he guided his team to the Kaiser Division Championship.
Bernardi takes a long view of his baseball experiences and appreciates that fact that playing on middle school and high school teams at Herricks, and in the Albertson-Herricks Little League before that, gave him a fundamental grounding in the game.
“Baseball comes in stages. What you learn early on definitely helps you down the line,” he said. “The support I had early on definitely helped me to achieve this level of pitching coach and all the other accolades.”
He said he is conscious of wanting to give back to the game that has taken him this far.
Last weekend, he said he thoroughly enjoyed being with the Old Westbury team as its players gave an assist to a Special Olympics tournament at Cantiaque Park.
Next, he said, he plans to get involved as a coach in his hometown Little League in New Hyde Park, looking to pass on the lessons that launched his own baseball career.