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Top Sports Stories 2019: Changing of the guard at Mattituck baseball

The Mattituck High School baseball team underwent a changing of the guard in 2019.

Steve DeCaro, who had coached the Tuckers for 16 years, compiling a 238-139-1 record, with a state championship in 2015, saw his time with the team come to an end.

DeCaro was placed on administrative leave in October of 2018 for unspecified reasons. His replacement in the Mattituck dugout was hardly a stranger. Gene Rochler had been an assistant coach in the program for 13 years as DeCaro’s right-hand man.

“I think that’s why it was a logical choice for me to end up being the coach here because I know all the players,” Rochler said during a preseason practice. “I coached a lot of them on JV. I’ve coached them on varsity, and I’m not coming into this brand new. I also know the assistants. I know what was established here for years. I was part of it.”

Rochler played for Hewlett High School before becoming a third baseman and pitcher for St. John’s University. He has coached Garden City and Harborfields. In 2004 he joined Mattituck’s coaching staff, leaving in 2006 to coach Harborfields and returning to Mattituck in 2009.

DeCaro and Rochler have similarities.

Rochler said: “I would say we do a lot of things the same. Him and I always kid about this, but he bunts a lot more than I do. I like to let kids hit. In looking back at it, I think I’m somewhat more aggressive on the bases than him.” Regardless, Rochler said he felt comfortable as De Caro’s assistant coach “because we just approach the game and we teach the game the same way.”

Mattituck turned in a 17-8 season to feel good about. After the Tuckers were swept in two games in the Suffolk County Class B finals, Rochler said it was the end of his 40-year coaching career.

“I was 25 when I first coached and I was only a little bit older than the kids on the team, and now I’m the old man, so it’s gone by pretty quickly,” said Rochler, who plans to move to Florida where he can enjoy some sun and golf.

Rochler praised his players for their efforts throughout the season.

“Every game they hustled out to their positions,” he said. “They gave me good at-bats. They gave me great pitching efforts. It was a great experience for me … and my last year coaching, I was proud to have these guys. It was fantastic.”