Mr. Pine Plains baseball – also known as Rich Tamburrino – sat down with me last week to discuss all things Pine Plains, baseball, and what it’s like to be voted 2024 Top Nurse of the Year. 

Scrubbin’ up 

Rich went to college for pre-med at SUNY Cobleskill and later transferred to Cornell University. Initially planning on becoming a doctor, Rich had a change of heart after graduating and decided to come back home to Pine Plains. 

After returning home, he rekindled his friendship with Bruce Knickerbocker, who works in the nursing supervision department at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, NY. 

“Bruce made nursing look cool,” Rich said.

So Rich started working as a secretary at Vassar and went to nursing school. “Nursing school was just as hard as my upper level Cornell classes. It’s less about knowing the information, but figuring out how to incorporate it. It’s all about assessing the implications and your next actions based on the information at hand.”

He officially became a nurse at Vassar in 2012. Now, Rich is one of about ten nurses on the Vassar staff that is critical care nurse certified, and is one of two nurses in the hospital that is certified in cardiac surgery. 

Rich started his nursing career in the nephrology care unit and he credits his coworkers with being some of “the greatest nurses” he has ever worked with. 

“Every night we had awesome teamwork. It was like going into battle every night, but we all had each others’ backs,” he shared. “When you get a start like that, you have to credit that type of teamwork to a lot of your success. Those were the building blocks. When that’s how you start your career, that’s how you continue to carry on in your career, too.” 

From there, he moved to the cardiothoracic ICU, which is where he’s been working for a little under ten years. 

While his job is obviously incredibly rewarding, it can get challenging at times, particularly when Rich sees patients that remind him of himself. He got misty eyed as he explained: “You see people that you can relate to. You see a 40-year-old guy who has cancer in the spine and he has twin seven-year-old girls, a nine-year-old boy, and a wife. I see people that are me. That’s the hardest part, but seeing things that you can relate directly to in life makes you live more in the moment and appreciate it more.” 

Nurse of the Year 

How does it feel to be voted 2024 Top Nurse of the Year? “Humbling.” 

The award was presented by Hudson Valley Magazine in honor of National Nurses Week. Hudson Valley Magazine paid tribute to the area’s Top Nurses & Nursing Administrators at the 2024 Excellence in Nursing Awards Dinner. Nurses are nominated and then 20 are chosen from the nominations to be in the “2024 Top Nurses.” 

Rich reiterated how vital his fellow nurses and coworkers have been to him throughout his career. 

“It’s about giving back and paying it forward. There’s a saying in the science field that we stand on the shoulders of giants. I’m more a part of the puzzle and I want people to stand on my shoulders,” he explained. “There’s a lot of people who have poured energy into me and hopefully at some point, that equals some sort of good that you give back.” 

He extended his gratitude to Jen Osofsky, patient critical care manager at Vassar and Rich’s boss, for nominating him for the award. He also named Bruce, for inspiring him to become a nurse in the first place, his wife, Ashlea, for supporting him, and his mother, for always telling him that he could “do anything he put his mind to.” 

“I wish there were awards that could go out to all of these people. A ‘thank you’ is the bare minimum that I can do.”

From the ICU to the ball field 

In addition to working three 12-hour shifts per week, Rich is the president of the Pine Plains baseball and softball committee, coaches seven days a week, and parents his nine-year-old son and seven-year-old twin daughters with his wife, Ashlea. 

“I feel like I’m in a situation where I’ve been in a rich culture of baseball for my entire life,” he said. 

Rich played baseball in high school and throughout college, and always knew it would be an important part of his life. 

“I live for those coachable moments. It’s very rewarding to see the ‘a-ha’ moments that the kids have while they’re playing, and I have my own ‘a-ha’ moments as a coach, too. I’m learning just like they are and adapting my coaching style to each kid.” 

Much of his coaching revolves around his children, as sports are their main time together and where they bond the most. 

“Every single time I’m at work, I’m reminded that life is short. When people are looking up at hospital ceilings, they rarely say ‘I wish I worked another day,’ they reminisce with their families and have those ‘remember when’ moments,” he said. “Life is short. I want to spend as much time with my children, my family, and my community as I possibly can.” 

Coaching is certainly different than playing, but Rich seems to have it down pretty well. He notes that it’s very similar to nursing in that he has to constantly be assessing the situation and thinking about next moves. 

“Obviously in nursing if you don’t catch one little thing, the stakes are a little higher because it could result in someone getting seriously hurt. In baseball, you can lose a game or lose a kid because he gets frustrated that he wasn’t able to do something and he doesn’t understand it. You have to think about the moment more, there’s no time to check out for a few seconds.”

Rich’s mentality is likely what makes him such a good coach. 

“It might not be perfect, but we’re going to make it work. I have this mentality, and I teach it to my kids and my players, too, that if you see this giant in front of you and there’s no way you can defeat it, at the end of the day you should at least be able to say that you put your all in and tried your best,” he explained. “Sometimes in life, you don’t get another try, but in baseball you do.”