Tom WhitakerHead Coach
Tom Whitaker enters his first season as Head Coach of the Saugerties Stallions. He spent the 2016 season as an assistant coach as well as playing an integral role in the Front Office of the organization.
Tom began his involvement in the Saugerties sports scene playing in the Saugerties Little League. In 1962, he played for the Senators in the Minor Leagues. He was promoted to the Major Leagues and played for the Giants for the period 1963-1966. During his Little League years, Tom was a two time All-Star. During this time period he also played basketball. He played for the Warriors in the SAA Biddy League from 1963 to 1965. After Little League, Tom played for Ferroxcube in the Saugerties Babe Ruth League (1967-1969). His team made a run at the championship in 1969 before losing in the finals. During his time in the Babe Ruth League, Tom made two All-Star appearances.
Tom began his SHS baseball career on the JV squad playing for Ron Kunst in the spring of 1969 and 1970. He played on the Varsity Baseball team for Tony Vizzie in the spring of 1971 and 1972. During Coach Tony Vizzie’s first year at the helm in 1971, the Sawyers went 17-2 and won the Dutchess County Scholastic League and Section 9 championships. In 1972, Tom was named to the 1st team DCSL and Daily Freeman All-Star Teams as the first baseman.
Tom spent his summers playing for the Saugerties American Legion Post 72 baseball team. He was a member of the 1972 team which advanced to the New York State Final. The team lost to Utica 11-1 and Tom was the losing pitcher. Tom credits this defeat as a valuable learning experience which he used as a springboard for future successes. Tom stated, “I took the loss and gained invaluable experience in pressure baseball for college and adult baseball.”
In 1972 Tom began his collegiate career at Suny New Paltz.
On the diamond Tom had a stellar career for the Hawks. He played Varsity baseball all four years, two years under Hall of Famer Pete Kramer and two years under George Valesente. He was named All Conference (SUNY Athletic Conference) for all four years. He was All-SUNYAC at first base in 1973 and 1974, pitcher in 1975 and utility player in 1976. In 1975, Tom had an outstanding season on the mound. He was 11-1 with a 1.54 Earned Run Average and 96 strikeouts. He was 9-0 in conference play and his only defeat came at the hands of Paterson (NJ) College by the score of 1-0 in non-conference action. He led his team to the SUNYAC finals by defeating Cortland 1-0 in the semi-finals. The game was won on a suicide squeeze by teammate and Hall of Famer Larry Panella in the 9th inning. During his 1975 and 1976 seasons, he went a combined 17-3 with a 1.74 ERA. Tom finished his college career with a lifetime batting average of .325. His excellence on the diamond earned him a spot in the SUNY New Paltz Athletic Hall of Fame in October 2007 as the 59th member of the Hall.
As an adult, Tom continued his stellar baseball career. From 1970-1979 Tom played for the Kingston Braves in the Hudson Valley Rookie League. He was a key member of the Brave championship teams. In 1975, Tom went 8-1 with a 1.90 ERA and won the HVRL Pitching and ERA titles which are two of the many pitching awards he won with the Braves. During his time with the Braves, Tom also played for Finkle’s Jewelers in the Albany Twilight League (1974-1975). In 1974, he was the league’s Rookie of the Year after hitting .430 as the team’s first baseman.
In 1977, Tom went to Florida and had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After his tryout he signed an extended spring training contract, but was released at the conclusion of the extended spring season due to an injury.
As a member of the Braves, Tom’s teammates included Rich Koegel, Karl Lezette, Nick and Jerry Malgieri and they formed a plan to bring adult baseball back to Saugerties. In 1980, their plan for a Saugerties team came to fruition and the Saugerties Dutchmen began play in the HVRL. Tom played for the Dutchmen from 1980 to 1986. During his seven seasons, the Dutchmen won four championships (1980, 1984, 1985 and1986). In 1980, on the mound he went 9-2 with a 2.02 ERA and 60 strikeouts during the regular season and 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA with 12 strikeouts in the playoffs. At the plate, he had a .453 batting average with 14 runs batted in the 19 game regular season. In the playoffs he had a .476 batting average and 7 RBI’s in 6 games. He followed that up in 1981 with a .456 batting average which was tops in the league. On the mound he was 7-2 with an ERA of 2.46. In his seven seasons Tom batted over .400 four times and won two league Most Valuable Player Awards (1980 HVRL and 1984 Mohawk-Hudson Baseball League), one pitching title, two ERA titles, two strikeout titles, two batting titles, a home run title and a runs batted in title. As of 1999, Tom’s name can be found in the career leaders in many offensive and defensive categories. Offensively he ranks 2nd in games (215), 2 nd in at bats (689), 2nd in plate appearances (780), 1 st in runs (163), 1st in hits (263), 1st in doubles (49), 2nd in triples (9), 2nd in Home runs (27), 1st in extra base hits (85), 4th in batting average (.382), 1st in total bases (411), 4th in slugging percentage (.597), 1st in runs batted in (171) and 6th in on base percentage (.440). In the pitching leaders he ranks 2nd in appearances (56), 2nd in innings pitched (239.2) 2nd in games started (32), tied for 4th in relief appearances (24), 1st in complete games (24), tied for 4th in shutouts (2), 3rd in wins (26) and 1st in saves (9).
Tom as a pitcher was well known for his control and knowing how to work a batter. If you have ever seen him pitch, one could never forget the crafty lefthanders pickoff move which was one of the best Saugerties players and fans had ever seen.
As a player he was known as a fierce competitor and relished the fact that his performance under pressure whether pitching, batting or shooting a clutch shot in basketball has been as good as anyone in Saugerties sports history.
In addition to his playing career, Tom has also served his community in the role of official/umpire, administrator and coach. Tom has officiated basketball in the Kingston Over-30 Men’s League, SAA Biddy League, SAA Junior League and the SAA Half-court Basketball League. He continues to help out with the Junior League and he also umpires for the Saugerties Little League as needed. He does this on a volunteer basis for the benefit of both leagues.
As a coach, Tom served two years as pitching coach for Larry Panella at Ulster County Community College. He has served and continues to serve as coach in the SAA Biddy League (14 Years), SAA Junior League (12 years),
League, 1972 Saugerties American Legion Post 72 team’s season (lost in state final), 1971 SHS Varsity baseball team’s season (17-2, DCSL and Section 9 Champs in Coach Vizzie’s first season), playing for Pete Kramer at SUNY New Paltz (great offensive season), 1975 SUNY New Paltz season (Coach Valesente, 11-1 on mound, hit over .300 with 4 HR and 30 RBI in 40 games) and of course the 1980 Dutchmen. Tom had this to say about the Dutchmen season, “Winning pennant and playoff championships with the Saugerties Dutchmen in 1980, the first year of the club. The crowds at the games, the buzz around town, the great sponsorship of the Helsmoortel family, the games, parties after the games, just the most fun I have ever had or will have in athletics. It was a special team, a special thing to come home and play after so many years in Kingston. To have the chance to do it at Cantine Field, in front of the home fans and to have it end in a championship, you could write a book about everything that happened that season.”
Tom currently resides in Saugerties with his wife Sue (Gunderud) Whitaker and his four boys; Chris, Marc, Ryan, and Sean.