A Coach’s Advice Leads To Medical Career
May 15, 2018Posted by james

Nicholas Testa was a professional baseball player but the name won’t be familiar to you. He played just one inning of one game on the major league level with the San Francisco Giants during 1958. He never came to bat. Nicholas then played one season in Japan.

Jeff Gilbert remembers Nick. Not as a player but as a college coach. The greatest game of Jeff’s baseball career occurred on April 1, 1969. He was the starting pitcher for the Lehman College freshman baseball team. The opposing team was from C.W. Post.

Jeff got through the first inning, giving up a hit and walk. In the second inning, Post knocked seven consecutive line drive hits off him. That’s when Lehman’s coach, Nick Testa, walked to the mound.

“Son,” said Nick, “what is your index? Jeff answered 3.9. Nick then asked another question. “What is your ERA?” Jeff answered about nine. Nick responded: “When your index is near four and your ERA is more than double your index, it is best that you go home and stick to your studies.”

Jeff never pitched again. Instead, he studied and became a doctor. Then, he reconnected with his coach 10 years later.

Jeff was 27 when he became friends with Mickey Rivers of the New York Yankees. Mickey invited Jeff into the clubhouse one day during the 1979 season. Despite all the noise in the crowded locker room, a familiar voice filtered through to Jeff’s ears. About 15 feet away was Nick Testa. He was working for the Yankees as a batting practice pitcher.

Jeff approached Nick as he was pulling on his socks and offered to shake his hand, calling him Mr. Testa and indicating they had not seen each other in years. Nick asked, “Do I know you?”

Jeff reminded him of the mound conversation a decade earlier. Nick quickly recalled the discussion and then wanted to know why he was in the Yankees clubhouse. At first, Jeff tweaked his old coach a bit by telling him that he had been called up from the minors to pitch that night’s game. Then, he quickly added that he was joking, that he was a physician and a friend of the team’s centerfielder.

For the next 34 years, Nick always claimed credit for Jeff’s career as a doctor. In a way, according to Jeff, Nick was right.

Striking Ahead Of The Competition
May 01, 2018Posted by james

He recently completed one of the best seasons in the history of New York State high school bowling. As a junior, Nick Perrone recorded the highest average, broke a tournament record and was named the top bowler at the state’s public high school tournament. Next on Nick’s checklist – establish dominance. He wants to be consistent and prove to everyone that the first three years were not a fluke.

Nick finished this past season with a 234.94 average. This topped all high school state bowlers for the second straight season. He also finished first at the state tournament among his section’s individual bowlers.

But, with three years of increasing success, Nick still hears the skeptics, because he is a two-handed bowler—a delivery shunned by many old-school bowlers. His numbers, though, repeatedly have dampened the naysayers.

Two-handed bowling is a style that has developed within the last few years, and it has become a common choice for young bowlers looking to gain more power in their stroke. Some of the top bowlers in the country, including Walter Ray Williams, Jr. (47 professional titles), and 2014 Professional Bowlers Association rookie of the year Marshall Kent, have experimented with the two-handed delivery.

As for Nick, he plans to build upon his success. Already, he has set loftier goals for his senior year. At the top of his list are a league title for his high school and an unprecedented 240 average for himself. Hard work, he feels, will get him there.

According to Nick, the key to the next level is honing the essential skills of high-level bowling. This includes regular practice, remaining informed about the latest ball technology, and closely monitoring lane oil patterns and breakdowns that affect the ball as it travels toward the pins.

Another key skill that Nick is seeking to improve is his understanding of the competition. Other solid players are chasing him. By studying them, Nick feels he will be pushed ahead to break the next boundary.

Hall Of Famer Cheers On Vets
Apr 15, 2018Posted by james

Entering a hall of fame is a wonderful achievement and honor. I have had the pleasure on several occasions. The honor—for sports, for business, for community service, or for other achievements—is the acknowledgement from peers that your preparation, your training, your work ethic and your commitment will remain in the spotlight for others to emulate.

The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame inducted a new class of athletes, coaches, officials and broadcasters late last year. One of the inductees was recognized for his sports career and also for his commitment to help others.

Paul Natale coached baseball, football and soccer at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose. His baseball teams won Section 1 titles during 1976 and 2000 and he recorded 500 wins. His soccer team reached the state final for the 1988 season. The football program’s success peaked during 1999 but lost to the eventual state champion that season. During a 42-year career as a coach and teacher at Hen Hud, Paul achieved a lot on the field. He accomplished a lot more for the many students who passed through his classroom.

Paul has been retired for several years. His sports and teaching assets presently cheer for handicapped veterans and former soldiers battling post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. Paul is a volunteer adaptive physical education coach at several Veterans Affairs hospitals. Coaching veterans in anything from softball to basketball to touch football has allowed Paul the opportunity to take a different view of his life.

Before Paul’s coaching and teaching days, he was a Vietnam War draftee. He served two years but was never in a fight. Paul often recalls his college fraternity brothers who never came home. He believes that his commitment to today’s soldiers is a proper salute to his college friends.

This is a life that others surely will want to emulate.

Guided To The NHL By Family And Faith
Apr 02, 2018Posted by james

Steven Santini feels that family and faith have guided him on his journey to fulfill his dream of becoming an NHL defenseman. He already has played more than 70 games with the New Jersey Devils.

Steven attended a Catholic high school in Westchester County for his freshman and sophomore years. He later attended the Jesuit Boston College. The religious education helped him grow spiritually. The hockey education helped him grow his game.

Steven’s road to the NHL did swerve a bit during high school. The final two years were spent in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He transferred to a local school to participate in the U.S. National Team Development Program and gain international hockey experience.

Just 23 now, Steven most recently was sent out for more seasoning with the Devils’ minor league team. He said the coaching staff communicated with him and told him the skills that required improvement. He felt that it was okay to take a step back to push the reset button. He is confident that he soon will return to the NHL. Since beginning his professional career, Steven also has returned to BC to earn his business degree.

Steven always has received the support of family. He first stepped on the ice at the age of two. He didn’t have a choice, because the family owned a local ice rink. His 86-year-old grandfather still competes on the ice. Bob coached at Mount St. Michael Academy in The Bronx and was a founder and first commissioner of the Catholic High School Hockey League. Steven’s father, also Steve, played at the Mount and the University of Maine before coaching at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School.

What began as a child’s fun time on the ice has turned into a passion for professional hockey. Steven owes it all to his family, his education, his coaches and his faith.

It’s 500 For Mount Vernon Coach
Mar 15, 2018Posted by james

Bob Cimmino is a high school basketball legend in Westchester County. Just a few weeks ago, his coaching legacy grew even larger when his Mount Vernon team defeated Scarsdale. That victory was his 500th win as Mount Vernon’s coach.

Bob has led the team for 24 seasons. He is just the fourth boys basketball coach in the county to reach the 500-win milestone, and he did it in the fewest games (593) than all the others. He is about 70 victories behind Section 1’s all-time coaching wins leader.

The total number of wins, however, is not important to Bob. The team win always is the achievement. Rather than add up his individual wins as a coach, Bob prefers, as a team, to win the section each season. Already, under his leadership, Mount Vernon has won 16 Section 1 titles and a record seven state championships. Team wins and coaching wins, though, kind of go hand-in-hand.

In anticipation of the milestone, Bob’s assistant coach organized a gathering of friends and former players. Though the game was played at Scarsdale High School, the rival made sure that the bleachers behind the Mount Vernon bench were pulled out fully so that everyone could sit and cheer for the team and Bob.

The game was a close one, with a harrowing fourth quarter. The final score was 72-68. The victory was considered a Bob Cimmino community win and that was exactly the way the coach wanted it.

Bob was in a bad mood for a while during the game but he finally smiled at the buzzer. He later joked that he and his coaches were heading to the best steakhouse in Manhattan to celebrate. Actually, though, he preferred to be surrounded by his players. No different than any other time during the last 24 years.

Setting Records At 15
Mar 01, 2018Posted by james

Few local athletes have separated themselves from the pack at such a young age as Katelyn Tuohy. She is a 15-year-old sophomore runner at North Rockland High School who performed incredibly at the Virginia Showcase during January.

A website that follows the country’s high school runners indicated that Katelyn “put the world on notice” with her performance. A video commentator at the event declared that people would remember where they were when they first heard Katelyn’s time.

Katelyn ran the indoor 5,000 meters (standard 5K) in 15 minutes 37.12 seconds. In a meet that attracted many of the country’s top prep runners, the second place runner finished more than two minutes later. Katelyn’s time broke the U.S. girls high school record and the U.S. record for girls under 20. She set a world record for 15-year-old girls.

This occurred indoors. During outdoor season last fall, Katelyn was ranked as the country’s top female cross country runner. That ranking appeared before she won the Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon with a record time for the course.

Katelyn has been running since third grade. She shrugged all of this off and indicated that her training hit sort of a speed bump this winter. She said that, with the constant snow, she frequently had to pick up a shovel.

Similar to snow, more records will fall at Katelyn’s feet in the months and years ahead. Remember that you first heard about her right here.

He’s Got Game…And This Is What He Did With It
Feb 15, 2018Posted by james

He doesn’t recall their names. But, he does remember the impact they had on his life.

David Simon attended Herricks High School in New Hyde Park during the 1980s. For 10th grade, though, he had to attend Robert Louis Stevenson High School in Manhattan. He was sent there after he became rebellious following the breakup of his family and when his father walked out of his life.

David had played several sports as a kid. But, after the family dissolved, he spent more time with other kids were who directionless. The consequences sometimes were catastrophic. One kid was stabbed to death. Another, who was drunk, was killed by a train. Another died from an overdose.

One day, as David explained it, two black kids invited him, a white dude, to play pickup basketball at the playground near Stevenson. Their praise made him think. After they saw him play, they told him “you’ve got game.” That’s when David realized that he had a choice – continue on the road he was traveling or apply the brakes.

Though just a kid, David thought about having his own family one day. He thought that he wanted to be a great father, but first he had to change a few things.

Back at Herricks for his junior year, David played JV basketball. He also worked on his game outside of school and refused to let the street control his life. He played varsity during his senior year, leading the division in rebounds.

Basketball became David’s sanctuary. He played a year in college before joining the family business. He enrolled in night classes to obtain a diploma. He continued to play basketball, earning a contract with a team in the International Basketball Association. He touched it and then moved on. He now has four children who have been successful in sports and have made many good friends along the way.

Looking back, David feels life is more than just sports. Life is all about community. It’s also about the will to succeed by creating a plan and developing a work ethic. He often wonders what would have been different in his life had those two guys not invited him to play basketball at the playground. David also wonders if their lives have turned out as well.

Ossining Is Proud Of Its Three Stars
Feb 01, 2018Posted by james

As she waited for the opposing team to arrive for the game, Ossining junior forward Aubrey Griffin passed the time by shooting three-pointers from various areas of the court. She hit each one until the 11th shot. The pregame activity foreshadowed her game performance.

Aubrey scored 30 points, including the 1,000th of her high school career. She drove to the rim on a breakaway layup for the milestone basket.

After missing last season with a torn ACL, Aubrey has returned and reached this goal in just 40 games. She is the second-fastest young lady to score 1,000 points in the program’s history. The only player who accomplished this quicker is Saniya Chong. She now plays for the WNBA Dallas Wings.

Ossining’s coach recalled that it took a while for Aubrey to play more aggressively and to take more shots. He had to convince her that it was okay to go to the basket, rather than pass, when the defense provided her with the opportunity to score.

Among Aubrey, Saniya and current UConn freshman Andra Espinoza-Hunter, the Ossining team has featured three of the best players seen in this section of girl’s high school basketball. All have played for Ossining within the last six years. According to the coach, Saniya is the best basketball player, Andra has the best work ethic and Aubrey has the best athletic ability.

Appropriately, the Ossining team name is Pride. The school certainly has a lot of it in these three stars.

Primary Care Assist For Amateur Hockey Community
Jan 15, 2018Posted by james

A wife of a college hockey coach is not only married to the man. She is married to the game.

Mary Gosek long ago embraced her role in upstate Oswego and throughout the larger hockey community. According to her husband, Mary knew everyone. Ed Gosek is in his 15th year as the head coach at the State University of New York Oswego.

Mary was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few years ago. The community she knew so well rallied to support her. Hockey Coaches Care is just one group that skated to center ice for Mary. The program provided a grant that helped her receive tests that were not covered by her health insurance.

Last year, a healthy Mary attended the Hockey Coaches Care banquet to thank everyone who had supported her and her family. She also championed the many others who have been helped over the past 15 years by the program.

Anyone who has played the game here on Long Island knows that the hockey world is a tight community. We see this regularly on the National Hockey League level as the league, teams and players frequently support a variety of causes. The same occurs in the game’s amateur and youth ranks, and many of us have seen the outpouring of love right here in the rinks of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Since its founding, Hockey Coaches Care has awarded more than $100,000 in grants for coaches, their family members and amateur players. The Goseks will ensure that the program continues to grow to help other families.

At the banquet, Mary stated that the amount of a grant is not the most important aspect of the program. The emotional connection to the hockey community, she said, is the key component that helps people in their time of need.

Leading By Example On And Off The Field
Jan 01, 2018Posted by james

Last year’s lacrosse season at Long Island’s Harborfields High School was a good one. The team had talent, but senior Falyn Dwyer said she wanted the team to work harder in practice to polish its skills. She personally was committed to the same goal.

The drive paid off when the team made it into the playoffs and to the Suffolk County Division II semi-finals. The ladies showcased that success could be achieved through dedication and commitment.

Falyn led by example. As a four-year varsity midfielder, she always delivered maximum effort on the field. Her coach referred to her as a fierce competitor who is self-motivated. Falyn contributed during key opportunities on both offense and defense. Opposing players often were baffled, because they could not prevent Falyn from getting the ball.

Falyn’s tenacity went beyond the lacrosse field. She also was a midfielder on the soccer team and a shooting guard and two-way player on the basketball team. Falyn played all three sports throughout her high school career, earning many accolades and several awards for her success. Her coaches agreed that Falyn was one of the most coachable high school athletes.

Record setting achievements and commitment for Falyn, however, were not solely reserved for the field or court. She achieved a 108 grade point average for her studies and ranked near the top of her class of 300 students. She also was active in a number of non-sports activities and clubs during her high school days.

Falyn received All-Conference and All-County Academic honors for both soccer and basketball, and she was named All-County for lacrosse. She now attends Fordham University. Her interests include sports but also environmental studies, teaching and law. I suspect that many more accolades and awards are in her future.