On most days during the past two months, James Lally has divided his time and energy between a job at Hofstra University and being the youngest head coach in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball league.
Making a 125-mile roundtrip between his Floral Park home and the East End, leaves him plenty of time for his mind to ponder certain questions: how to train so he can continue to run half-marathons, planning his May 2013 wedding to his fiancé Danielle, a high school teacher in Port Washington, and, of course, the subject of baseball, asking himself how he’s grown as a coach.
“I already knew it, but I still have a lot to learn about this game.”
Lally spends mornings as the director of student-athlete services at Hofstra. In the afternoon, he switches his business attire for a baseball uniform and hard plastic helmet, traveling east to lead the Westhampton Aviators.
“Being in sports my whole life, and I am an extremely competitive with myself and other people, it’s how you go about your business every day is how you set yourself up for the next day.”
Every single day, he remembers a quote from his mother, Kathleen: “Life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent is how you react to it,” said Lally. “That was my mother’s go-to quote.”
Lally, a former pitcher for Molloy High School in Queens and also St. John's University, is also influenced by his study of George Washington.
“I admire his vision and his leadership,” said the 26-year-old Lally. “He knew what needed to be done in the long run.”
Lally often played with his three older brothers and pals at the Our Lady of Victory schoolyard; now he sees himself having a long run coaching.
“I think it helps me as a young professional right now in college athletics,” he said. “Helps me mature to deal with so many split-second decisions and so many personalities and it, definitely, helps me deal with adversity; going through the ups and downs of the (2012 summer season). In order for (my players) to remain confident in themselves and their ability, I have to remain confident.”
Lally, who graduated from St. John’s in 2007, spent two years as the Hofstra pitching coach before taking a job in athletic administration where he focuses on career development. He advises Hofstra athletes on their off-the-field lifestyles and plans after graduation.
But last year Lally discovered he still yearned for a deeper link to his favorite sport.
“When I stopped coaching at Hofstra, people said I was way too young to stay away from the game," he said, “(A baseball) is something so small, but powerful, It is such a life tool. . . . All the benefits of what (the sport) can do for somebody. One advantage is it helps me deal with difficult people at work.”
For the Aviators, Lally works with three assistant coaches and a roster of 20 to 25 players whose ages range between 19-20 and are from different college all around the country).
The Aviators have suffered through a nine-game losing streak and as one of 7 teams competing in the HCB, will miss the four-team playoffs early in August.
Henry Bramwell, the long-time Westhampton general manager, said Lally was one of a dozen candidates when the Aviators searched for a new head coach for 2012.
“When you speak to him, he is so articulate, smart,” he said. “He is measured, calm, with a quiet intensity. He thinks about what he is going to say; always teaching. He treats (the players) as men; talks to them as men.”
Joe Candela, in his third season playing for the Aviators, said Lally's personality is vastly different then their 2011 head coach, who was known for being very vocal and aggressive.
“It is a total flip around, a complete 360 from last year,” Candela said. “(Lally) is calm and controlled. He knows what he is doing. He doesn't get heated every often.”
With the Aviators assembled early in June, Lally was straight forward with his players.
“From day one, we laid the ground work,” he said. “We told them what we expected from them and what they could expect. If we all act like men, we don't have any problems. I told them to ask three questions (after every game): Were you successful as an individual player? Were you successful as a teammate today? Did you act like a man today? If you can answer yes to at least two of the questions, you had a good day.”