Meiss departs Oriskany baseball program to become Whitesboro AD

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Tom Meiss is stepping down as the head varsity baseball coach and physical education teacher at Oriskany to become the athletic director at Whitesboro. Meiss leaves after 16 seasons, having led the team to seven Center State Conference titles, six Section III championships, 261 wins and an impressive .750 win percentage.

His last game with Oriskany was a playoff game — apt considering the team’s post-season success under his leadership. The team lost to Morrisville-Eaton in the Section III Class D title game. The team was 16-4 this season. His final record was 261-87. The program went to the state semifinals three times, including one second place finish.

Meiss, age 40, spent 17 years in the district. He was an elementary school physical education teacher for five years before moving to the high school in the same role. He served as district athletic director from the start of the 2010-11 school year to the end of the 2018-19.

“Professionally you have goals as you go through your educational process. My father’s been a huge role model for me growing up. The world of athletics has been known to me since a young age,” Meiss said. “I thought it was a good time for me professionally.”

Dick Meiss, Tom’s father, was a coach and athletic director at Rome Free Academy. He was also his coach growing up. “Seeing his patience at home and at school, all the things that he was able to be successful at and juggle, it was all impressive to me and made me want that life for myself and follow in his footsteps.”

Meiss also credits Marcella Majka, who was the athletic director when he first started at the Oriskany school district. He said she “was a great mentor to me as I transitioned into the AD position.”

“Oriskany is a great place,” Meiss continued. “The students are outstanding. There’s some really great families and relationships throughout the community and the building that have turned into lifelong friendships.” A small community like Oriskany, he said, allows for “constant contact with the students and student-athletes. In a smaller school district, when you take on leadership you wear many hats.”

For Meiss, one of his hats was a literal one, the baseball cap he wore as head coach of the baseball team.

Meiss said he learned a number of things from Rome coaches Tony Abone and Stan Evans, “as they are coaches that I have always looked up to and tried to emulate their approach and strategy.”

But he also noted that Oriskany has a great baseball infrastructure in place for young players, which made his job easier. “There’s unbelievable structure in place in Oriskany for Little League, the building blocks in the community and district. From a young age, the players in Oriskany are coached at a high level, all the way into modified and varsity.”

He continued: “One thing that really impresses me about Oriskany student-athletes is that they adapt to everything.” The team’s defense may look one way at the start of a season then major adjustments “jump-start us,” and the players roll with it. “When I grew up you were a second baseman or a left fielder. These kids have the ability to adapt to change. That’s one of the things that has made our program successful. The team comes first and it’s not about any one individual. Winning is important to them, and they’re willing to put in the time and effort and grind to be successful.”

He said that rather than have a system players have to learn to play within, he’s always adapting to the types of players on the roster, to “highlight the strengths of your team each year.” This year, for example, he knew he’d have to be aggressive with baserunners to push the tempo, rather than wait for an outburst of hits to generate rallies. “As a coach you have to learn what drives and motivates your players to be the best your team can be.”

With so much success, there are plenty of good memories for Meiss, but one he pointed to came in his second year with the team. Oriskany beat Rome Catholic High at DeLutis Field in Rome. Steve Sliski hit a home run in the sixth inning to power the team to a 3-2 win. “Those games with RCH were unbelievable rivalries,” he said. “And the people that came there, as a coach to look out and see that support…” It was a catalyst for early program success, he said. “You need success to jump-start your program.” And that’s just what he had with Oriskany, winning Section III titles in his first two years.

“That’s the hardest part of transitioning to a new profession or career is giving up the coaching,” he said. “It’s been so important to me. I’m sure there’s going to be ample opportunities to help with my children’s athletic teams and activities. But I’ll miss coaching at the high school level for sure.” He won’t have to go far to see his three children play. The family lives in the Whitesboro district so that’s where 11-year-old Caden, 9-year-old Alyssa and 7-year-old Andrew go to school.

Meiss begins his new job July 1.

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