Two decades after graduating from NYIT and heading to professional baseball, Jimmy Goelz and Chris Rojas are returning home.
The former NYIT standouts have joined recently hired Frank Catalanotto’s staff as assistant coaches with the baseball program.
Rojas will serve as pitching coach, while Goelz will oversee the position players.
“I am thrilled to have Jimmy and Chris on the staff,” Catalanotto said. “They are both very passionate about the game and are two of the hardest-working coaches I know. I can’t wait to watch the impact they have on the NYIT baseball program.”
Frank Battaglia, who joined NYIT in October, also remains with the baseball program as an assistant coach.
Goelz and Rojas were teammates with the Bears two decades ago. They both graduated from NYIT with bachelor’s degrees in 1998 — Goelz in business management, Rojas in criminal justice.
“We’re all proud of this program, so I’m thrilled to be back,” Goelz said. “I think when we were here as players the tradition was so strong. We always wanted to get it back to where it was before we got here. I think we had some moments where we did, but we never sustained it. I think that’s the challenge from the alumni and what Chris and I are trying to put together.”
Said Rojas: “Being able to do it with this coaching staff, it makes it a perfect storm. I’m looking forward to the challenge, and really trying to help invigorate the alumni and create a consistent winner here.”
Goelz, a 16th-round draft pick as a senior, appeared in 463 games over seven seasons as a utility player in the minors with the Dodgers, Indians, Red Sox and Marlins organizations.
Rojas, undrafted, compiled a 59-53 record and 4.12 ERA in 187 appearances (164 starts) over nine minor league seasons with the Pirates, Padres and Phillies organizations. He also represented Puerto Rico in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, on a squad that included Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina.
Both also played in the independent Atlantic League — Goelz for the Long Island Ducks and Rojas for the Somerset Patriots.
The duo most recently had been at St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay, with Goelz serving as the head coach and Rojas as the associate head coach. They took the baseball program to two CHSAA finals in four seasons.
Goelz also has worked for the past dozen years as an FDNY captain in Manhattan. Rojas is vice president of sales at MPX, a major credit-card processing firm owned by fellow baseball alum Chris Briller, a 2017 inductee into the NYIT Athletics Hall of Fame.
Goelz’s relationship with Catalanotto, a former 14-year major leaguer, predates knowing Rojas. They grew up together and both played baseball at Smithtown East High School.
“Frank was the guy I looked up to,” Goelz said. “I was the JV second baseman and he was the varsity second baseman. I always wanted to be like him. And when I was drafted, he called and took me under his wing and mentored me through pro ball. He’s like a big brother to me.”
Rojas also served as pitching coach for the Bears during the 2012 and ’13 seasons.
The highlight of his undergraduate career, Rojas recalled, was pitching five scoreless innings against a ranked Georgia Southern team in a road victory as a sophomore.
Goelz easily recalled his favorite memory. On the first pitch to NYIT of the 1998 season, he homered at Wake Forest en route to an 11-6 victory. The Demon Deacons reached the finals of the NCAA South Regional later that season. Goelz was named NYIT MVP that year.
Goelz now resides in St. James with his wife Victoria and sons Chase and Carter.
Rojas lives in East Meadow with his wife Paola and sons CJ and Justin.