The College of Staten Island is mourning the loss of Bob Steele, who had spent the last 14 years as a volunteer assistant with the College’s Baseball team. A part of the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame, Steele is celebrated as a sports icon on Staten Island, spending nearly six decades of his life coaching both basketball and baseball, and serving in athletics administration. He was 86.
“Coach Steele’s loss is not just felt here but in the entire baseball community on Staten Island,” said CSI Head Coach Michael Mauro. “There just aren’t many men like him, who have been involved with the game that long and have all of that knowledge. He was a tremendous person.”
Steele began his CSI career already well into his retirement, joining Mauro’s staff shortly after Mauro accepted head coaching duties at CSI in 2009. Steele served as Mauro’s high school baseball coach from 1983-1987 while at McKee High School.
Prior to donning Dolphins blue and gray, Steele spent a total of 42 years coaching baseball at McKee and later McKee/Staten Island Tech, beginning in 1960. In 1970, while also teaching at the school, he was promoted to Athletic Director and held the position until his retirement in 2002. Steele also coached boys’ basketball from 1960-1975, winning three Staten Island High School League championships. He was named a three-time Daily News Coach of the Year, twice for basketball and once for baseball, one of the only honorees to win the prestigious award in multiple sports.
Steele was given the Sportsmanship Award by the Warren Jacques Committee in 1975, the Staten Island Advance Service Award in 1979, and took home Sportsman of the Year honors from the Advance in 2002.
In 2018, Steele was inducted into the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame, and in June of last year, McKee/Staten Island Tech named their baseball field after him.
“I’ve known Coach Steele since I am 15 years old,” Mauro said. “Our relationship has been strong since and watching him win the accolades over the years has been so personally special to me, and I know it meant a great deal to him.”
Despite his overwhelming achievements, Steele returned to the diamond well into his retirement to join the CSI ranks in 2009. Rain or shine, Steele was known to set up in a quiet corner to observe and offer pearls of wisdom to both coaches and players, expertise that has proved invaluable to Mauro through the years.
“I think he was just as important of a coach to me than he was to the kids,” he said with a laugh. “It was he who taught me that what you do as a coach is something that lasts forever for the kids you teach. You have to pick and choose how you want to teach and talk to them because they remember everything you teach them. It makes you accountable for the impression you leave on them. He taught us all that you have to embrace every moment of it, because you have such a great impact.”
Still, Mauro contends that baseball had a similar effect on Coach Steele than he had on it. He recalls how Steele would anxiously await the NCAA baseball season, meticulously analyzing opponent player rosters and statistics leading up to opening day. He would count the minutes until the next practice opportunity, where he had a chance to mentor hundreds of CSI athletes, whether it was perfecting a batting stance or swing, or how student-athletes approached their studies and time-management, or simply the way they carried their equipment or their interactions with parents and fans.
“I firmly believe baseball kept him going, and that, in turn, kept us going,” he said. “Coach Steele made sure you were always paying attention to the next teachable moment, whether it was to make a kid a better player, or a better man. We are all that much better because of him and we are going to miss him terribly.”
A wake will be held Monday, February 7, 2022, from 2:00pm to 4:00pm, and 7:00pm to 9:00pm at Hanley Funeral Home located at 60 New Dorp Lane, Staten Island, NY 10306.
A funeral service will be held Tuesday, February 8, 2022, at 9:30am at Our Lady Queen of Peace, located at 90 Third Street, Staten Island, NY 10306.