While the highly-acclaimed Army-Navy football game generates national attention, the baseball series between the two service academies will create lots of excitement in Rhode Island during the 2017 season.
The main reason is that the series now has a unique Rhode Island connection on both benches.
That’s because Warwick native Jim Foster, who starred at Bishop Hendricken High School and Providence College before his star-studded stint in the Baltimore Orioles organization, is the new head coach at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Yet another Ocean State tie is Paul Kostacopoulos, the head Navy coach, who played and coached at Providence College and recruited Foster after his All-State days at Hendricken.
After Sen. Jack Reed learned about the uniqueness of the series, he offered his thoughts about both coaches saying: “I wish them both success, but I hope Coach Foster will beat Coach Kostacopoulos in every head-to-head matchup as he lifts Army’s baseball program to even greater heights.”
Reed also offered: “Rhode Island has a lot of great baseball talent and Jim Foster and Paul Kostacopoulos are two of the best at what they do. Army and Navy may not produce the most major leaguers, but both schools have proud traditions of excellence on the baseball field. To be a successful Division I coach you have to develop talent, but to succeed at the service academies you really have to excel at developing leaders.”
Although Reed realizes the 2017 series will be played at West Point’s Doubleday Field, he wanted it known: “If they are looking for a neutral field to play the game, they are always welcome to come home and play in Rhode Island!”
Meanwhile, Kostacopoulos said: “It’s kind of special for me to have a former player of mine in the opposing dugout, knowing how much you respect him and sharing a history that ultimately brought us to two of the best institutions in the country. Army and Navy will always compete hard against each other to win, but after the games are over – win or lose – I will be proud to shake Jimmy Foster’s hand.”
“Kosty”, as the Navy coach was known during his days at Providence College where he led the Friars, which featured Foster and Lou Merloni, to the Big East Championship, added: “I was fortunate to have my very first two commitments be Lou (Boston Red Sox) and Jim Foster. For a young coach at 25 at that time, I look back and feel incredibly blessed that those two young men came into my life. To this day I am not sure I could have made better choice than Jim Foster, he was talented, tough and loved to play baseball.”
Foster’s success comes as no surprise to Kostacopoulos.
“I always knew Jimmy would do something special in baseball,” he noted. “He just instinctively knew the game, as well as being a real student of the game and he also comes from a tremendously supportive family. I could not be more proud of Jimmy for all his accomplishments and the future impact he will have on all the young men at Army West Point. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that he is one of Rhode Island’s greats as it pertains to baseball.”
Raphael Cerrato, the current URI baseball coach, who assisted Foster during his tenure in Kingston, offered: “Jim Foster is possibly the best baseball mind I have been around in my 20 years of coaching college baseball. There is no doubt he will have Army competing for the Patriot League champions for years to come. I think West Point is a great fit for Coach Foster. Army now has one of the best coaches in Division I baseball.”
After he turned URI’s baseball fortunes completely around and into a consistent winner, Foster left to become the Associate Head Coach at Boston College under Mike Gambino, who also this week heaped words of praise upon the Warwick native.
“Jim Foster is going to be a great fit at Army,” Gambino noted. “He’s one of the best baseball minds and best baseball coaches in the country. On top of that he is a great family man and quality person whose values will fall right in line with West Point. Army baseball will be impacted immediately by having Jim at the helm. I’m so excited for Jim, Narelle, Madison, Courtney, Delany and Bo for the opportunity to experience West Point.”