My Longtime Baseball Friend Is Signing Off
Aug 16, 2016Posted by james

For many years, I have been watching baseball with a friend. He’s become a close friend. He does most of the talking and I only see him occasionally. He doesn’t know me but I enjoy listening to him talk about baseball and life.

When this baseball season ends, Vin Scully will turn off his microphone. He has called the game for 65-plus years, first in Brooklyn and then with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I will miss him.

While never missing a play, Vin effortlessly worked into the conversations all those statistics for which baseball is known. He also shared with me the stories about the game of long ago and vignettes about the players of today that I did not hear anywhere else. He even shared with me his assumptions about the random thoughts running through the minds of managers. All this baseball was just for me – because I felt he was talking just to me — plus a little bit of history, philosophy, theology and commentary about life to put it all in perspective.

Vin is a New Yorker, though he has been in California since the Dodgers moved there for the 1958 season. He was born in The Bronx and raised in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan. Vin is a religious man. Brought up in an Irish Catholic family, he attended Fordham Prep and Fordham University with its Jesuit influences.

While at college, he was a student broadcaster on WFUV-FM, the school’s radio station that up until about 30 years ago predominantly was student-run. The roll call from its studios include names of entertainers, broadcasters and journalists you easily will recognize. The names span the pre-Vin years to his contemporaries to those who have followed. Hundreds of others have walked the same halls at Fordham and sat behind its radio microphone but those names will not be known to you. Be assured that they, too, have gone onto highly successful careers.

Vin learned valuable lessons at that station and when he worked with Red Barber on Brooklyn Dodgers broadcasts. Be yourself, Barber told him, because there is no one else like you. He also learned to allow the roar of the crowd to help him tell a story.

As he comes to his ninth inning and eventual postgame, I wonder how Vin plans to close out the game. Will he be philosophical? Possibly poetic? Maybe historical? Or will it be a simple “See you around the ballpark!”

Whatever he decides, he has had a fantastic life in and out of baseball. He has touched—and called—them all!

Good Luck To Nick DiPietro
Aug 01, 2016Posted by james

The high school lacrosse awards continued to flow on Long Island during June and I did not want too much time to pass before I congratulate senior Half Hollow Hills High School East lacrosse defensemen Nick DiPietro.

That’s my alma mater, and Nick received the 2016 James C. Metzger Outstanding Player Award that is presented annually to the outstanding boys lacrosse player at the Suffolk County school. He also received the John Fernandez Courage Award presented by the Suffolk County Lacrosse Coaches Association. This award recognizes a player who has overcome difficult circumstances with the same spirit as U.S. Army Lieutenant John Fernandez. Nick was honored for his work ethic to overcome a major sports injury at such a young age to return to the game and to lead his team on an off the field.

Nick was a five-year varsity starter, a two-time Thunderbirds co-captain and a 2016 team co-most valuable player. His 2016 statistics were 71 ground balls, three goals, three assists and an average of three takeaways per game. His high school career statistics are 201 ground balls, 130 caused turnovers, six assists and seven goals.

Named to the Newsday Top 20 preseason players list for 2015 and 2016, Nick also was named to the 2015 and 2016 USA Today pre-season All-American team. He was a 2016 USA U19 (under age 19) invitee, 2016 Lacrosse Insider top two tristate defenseman and a Nike Lacrosse The Ride invitee (top 50 players in the country).

Nick also received 2016 first team All-American honors and was named to the 2016 Newsday All-Long Island boys lacrosse second team.

For a while, Nick’s lacrosse play was in jeopardy. His junior year season ended early when he tore an ACL and suffered additional knee damage. After surgery and during rehabilitation, Nick’s continued leadership, dedication and determination to recover helped guide the team to a league championship and playoff appearance that season and this past season.

Nick’s high school days now are behind him. He’s off to Syracuse University, where he had committed since his sophomore year. More awards should be on the horizon for Nick as long as he maintains his love and spirit for the game.

- Jim

A Little Business Talk With That Ballpark Frank
Jul 16, 2016Posted by james

Now that we are in the middle of summer, the prominent sports talk around here is about baseball. (Okay, golf, too). While listening to all the baseball talk, I came to realize that so many common baseball expressions have been adapted by those of us in business. This probably goes all the way back in time to when the first pitch was thrown during an organized ballgame.

Here are just a few of the popular terms we use every day that I quickly jotted on my notepad

  • That came out of left field.
  • Cover your bases.
  • Give me a ballpark figure.
  • Hit it out of the park!
  • You’re batting 1,000.
  • Step up to the plate.

I then wondered if the language of baseball — that lingo used by players and managers between the foul lines – had borrowed any words or terms from commerce. After a little digging, I quickly discovered that several expressions from America’s pastime can be traced to business.

  • A “can of corn” refers to an easy catch of a fly ball by an outfielder.

During the 19th century, clerks at general stores were looking for an easy way to reach canned goods such as corn that had been stacked high on shelves. They used long sticks with hooks, pulling the cans from the shelves. They easily caught the cans in their aprons, similar to a fly ball nestling into a glove.

  • When a player is in a difficult situation, such as a rundown between bases, he is caught in a “pickle.”

Shakespeare is thought to be the first to use the idiom “in a pickle” in The Tempest. But, in England, the meaning of the expression is different than our interpretation. “Pickle” refers to a food item similar to relish, and one who is “in a pickle” is “sauced” or “drunk.” On our side of the pond, to relate to our game of baseball, “in a pickle” did come from the food industry. It means “in a tough spot,” similar to a cucumber stuck sitting in vinegary brine for days.

  • The term “butcher boy” refers to the strategy of a batter who draws in the infielders when he squares to bunt but then pulls back the bat to deliver a downward swing.

This term, if not the actual play, is attributed to legendary player and manager Casey Stengel. He was inspired by the motion a boy used in a butcher shop to cleave meat. Stengel ordered it whenever he wanted a player to hit a ground ball, especially when a runner was on third base during a close game and the team needed the run.

So, now that we have come to the end of this little “game,” I guess it is “safe” to say that baseball and business have “covered all the bases” for more than 150 years!

Celebrating Nassau County Lacrosse
Jul 01, 2016Posted by james

The end of May was an exciting time for me and for Nassau County lacrosse.

The Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championships were held at Hofstra University, and after each of the three matches I presented my Leadership Award for the third consecutive year to six young men who have been identified as leaders on and off the field.

Each award recipient reflects the tenacity, honesty, commitment and positive attitude required in Nassau lacrosse. Each player also possesses the ability to inspire teammates and others in the classroom and their communities.

I was proud to present the 2016 James C. Metzger Leadership Award to the following student-athletes:

  • Cold Spring Harbor High School senior goalie Devin Burdo, who also played football for his school;
  • Garden City High School senior goalie Sam Lucchesi, who held the opposing team scoreless in the fourth quarter to allow his Trojans to rally from a four goal deficit to win;
  • Locust Valley High School senior defender Reed Tansill, whose on-field strengths include speed, hustle, aggressive ground ball play and good open field vision;
  • Manhasset High School senior midfielder Jack Miller, who has verbally committed to the University of Richmond and will major in business.
  • Massaspequa High School senior attacker/midfielder Ryan Tierney, who scored 53 goals in 18 games this season and will play for his father, Seth Tierney, at Hofstra University.
  • Syosset High School senior defender James Goldrick, who also played basketball for his school.

These young men are on their way to bigger and better successes in lacrosse, in school and in life. I am glad I had the opportunity to help them on their way.

Commitment And Desire Lead To Success
Jun 16, 2016Posted by james

I’m in insurance, but I came from sports. Many of the men and women who work with me experienced their first competition, their first challenges, and their first successes and failures in life through sports.

While many of us decided to turn our team uniforms into business suits, times have changed. Now, more than at any other time, many more opportunities are available for former high school and college athletes who want to remain in the game. Here are just a few examples.

  • Athletic trainers – For teams and individual athletes, this profession includes preventing, diagnosing and treating muscle, bone and other injuries. Some trainers choose to go the route of building stamina and maintaining a healthy diet. Others focus on body massage and yoga.
  • Coaches, scouts and front office positions – These opportunities don’t need to be on the professional level or even at the top college level to provide rewards. There are plenty of levels in athletics on which to participate if you have the knowledge, talent and desire. These include youth leagues, senior leagues, various divisions in the college ranks and semi-pro leagues. Remember, too, that there are many other sports besides baseball, basketball, hockey and football. Don’t forget lacrosse!
  • Media outlets – Not everyone can handle play-by-play in New York, deliver the sports highlights on the evening newscast or talk about sports on WFAN. But, teams and sports stations and networks do rely on websites and social media that demand constant updates to remain competitive. If you are handy with cameras and have a good eye, sports photography is required by just about every team and media outlet. Shooting and editing skills for video also are in high demand. Every coach wants his team to view “the films” from last week’s game or to analyze an upcoming opponent. Video talent also is needed for the growing online marketing and public relations work that engages fans.
  • Umpires, referees and other sports officials – While a few at every game are visible (many wear the striped shirts), games at many levels also require secondary officials who manage the clocks, keep tabs on scoring plays, record the playing time for each player and maintain the statistics.

As you can see, there are many ways to remain in the game if you still retain a high level of passion for your sport. But, if you feel the time has come to shed the uniform for the business suit, the transition will not be difficult. So many of us have done it and we can guide you along the way. All you need to do is maintain that same commitment and desire to succeed that helped you through those tough games as a player.

She Hated Sports, But Look At Her Now
Jun 01, 2016Posted by james

Monae Cooper hated sports – with a capital “H.” She was the most un-athletic kid (her words) but then she ventured into modified volleyball on a whim during seventh grade.

The experience opened her eyes. Not just to volleyball but to all sports. That first season of volleyball also was her last season of volleyball. A senior at New Rochelle High School, she now is the proud owner of pounds of track and field medals.

Monae is a thrower of the shot and hammer. She is the most dominant high school girl thrower in Section 1 and one of the best in New York State. Hard work was required to reach the top. She made the commitment. She didn’t want any regrets or leave anything undone.

A significant portion of Monae’s success comes from her family. Her mother and father have instilled values and discipline, showing her how to remain dedicated and committed to her sports activities and her classwork. Monae’s achievements in both has led to a scholarship at Northeastern University, where she will study health sciences. Northeastern was just one of several schools that pursued her.

Cooper is leaving New Rochelle with more than medals. The positives are too many to mention. She does believe that the most important take-away is to maintain the determination to be successful.

Track has taught Monae to keep an open mind for all possibilities that come her way. She said that she is ready to face anything that life throws at her.

Jim

Come Right Up And Meet The Matz
May 16, 2016Posted by james

You can learn a lot from a high school coach. The coach will tell you about a player’s work ethic, dedication and outlook on life.

Lou Petrucci has coached baseball at Long Island’s Ward Melville High School in East Setauket for 10 years. He’s been around baseball for more than 25 years. Besides coaching, he has been an umpire and a sports writer.

When a corporate buyout released Lou from Newsday, he returned to college and earned a master’s in education from Hofstra University. He became a sixth-grade teacher and then he was offered the coaching position.

Lou knows a lot about a former player for Ward Melville — New York Mets pitcher Steven Matz. Here are just a few of Lou’s insights about the young man:

When he tore a pitching arm ligament that resulted in surgery, Steven was very young and he faced some difficult decisions. According to Lou, he worked through the disappointment and became more determined to pitch in the big leagues. Future success, said Lou, now is all up to him.

Steven also has a commitment to community. According to his former coach, Steven always gives back to his community and his team. Every winter and fall, Steven works with the current kids on his old high school team. He also has traveled to Honduras to help distribute supplies and to interact with children. At the year-end holidays, he visits the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital just to talk with the kids and sign autographs.

Lou indicated that Steven’s ability to give of himself to others at this young age while he still is reaching for his professional success can be attributed to many personal traits and the support of family. Mostly, though, the coach believes he is reciprocating for all the times he was on the receiving end of other people’s generosity — high school teammates who turned into his role models, former major leaguers who provided countless pitching lessons and an entire town that adorned street signs and lampposts with blue and orange ribbons when he pitched during the World Series. Steven has taken to heart the generosity of others. Now, he wants to do the same for others.

Lou said that the many people in Steven’s camp always have had his back. His high school coach attributes this to one thing – Steven is a fabulous person.

A strong arm and a good upbringing will take you far in major league baseball and in life.

Helping Our Students Strive For Success
May 02, 2016Posted by james

April was a very rewarding sports month for me.

It began with a ribbon cutting along with the dedication and blessing of the new stadium sports complex at Saint Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. The scoreboard now bears my name, and when you see it your eyes also capture the prestigious name of Saint Anthony’s.

If you are in the area of the intersection of Pigeon Hill, Wolf Hill and Old Country roads, take a moment to see what we have been able to accomplish together for youth athletics. The field will be used for practices by school teams along with day games by both Saint Anthony’s teams and community teams.

I did not attend Saint Anthony’s, but I was raised nearby and frequently played various sports in the parks and fields located in the shadows of the school. I’ve always admired the education and athletic tradition that Saint Anthony’s offered to its students. It is the Notre Dame of high schools on Long Island.

Everything at Saint Anthony’s is based on the desire to be the best – academically, religiously, socially and athletically. They just do things the right way and that’s exactly how I run my company. The school and my philosophy are a perfect match.

Soon after the first game was played on that new field, I had the privilege, through Marc Hudak, to meet 11 all-star high school football players from New York City. Marc is a managing director at my company and he dedicates his personal time to the New York City chapter of the National Football Foundation.

Marc and the chapter provided me with the opportunity to serve as the lead-sponsor for this year’s “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Banquet. Young athletes who also excel in academics at the city’s public and private schools were recognized for their performances on the field, in the classroom and as leaders in the community.

So, as you can see, all we need to do is to provide our young men and women with the resources that will allow them to step up and excel in academics, in sports and in life. With supportive parenting, academic mentoring and motivational coaching, they will accept the challenges, they will learn from the setbacks and, as I see every day at my company, they will become leaders on and off the field.

- Jim

PR Lessons From A Tennis Star
Apr 15, 2016Posted by james

The sports world was shocked and saddened when popular tennis star Maria Sharapova announced that she had been suspended following a positive drug test. The public fallout easily could have vilified her as a drug cheat similar to Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and many other disgraced athletes. However, unlike the others, Maria immediately owned and faced the challenge to her reputation, her tennis career and her public legacy.

No denials came from Maria. She didn’t blame the sport’s federation, or her doctors, or the tests, or her coaches and staff. She handled the news of the failed test with skill and grace.

We all know the story. A drug she had taken for 10 years suddenly was unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration. The tennis governing board placed this drug on the list of banned substances as of January 1. Maria failed to reacquaint herself with the list.

Maria’s response should be viewed as a public relations lesson for other athletes and for any of us who might need to manage an internal or public crises for our business. Rather than deny or stonewall, we should seriously consider the identical pro-active steps taken by Maria–she got out in front of the story, she blamed only herself for the mistake and she openly addressed questions.

Maria’s reputation was bruised but not permanently damaged. The outcome was far less harmful than if she had waited for the news to leak and then responded with a terse statement issued through her representatives.

At her news conference, Maria took full responsibility for the mistake and for her choice of the medications that enter her body. She apologized for disappointing her fans and the sport.

Coming out of this possible career-ending circumstance, Maria’s return to the court remains in jeopardy. She did loose several major sponsorships. But, her personal reputation, based on her immediate action, remained solid. She stated that she felt her decision to speak publically and quickly was the correct response, “because throughout my long career I’ve been honest about many things.”

Maria handled this crises moment perfectly, really as best as it could be handled considering the circumstances. We all need to learn a lesson from Maria—get out in front of any crisis and handle each one with integrity.

-Jim

Good Education Leads To Super Bowl Ring
Apr 02, 2016Posted by james

Two days. That’s how long it took for Samson Brown to fully comprehend that he was part of the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. He realized the accomplishment during the celebratory parade.

Samson just completed his first season with the Broncos. As the assistant defensive backs coach, it was his defense that held the NFL’s top scoring offense and league Most Valuable Player Cam Newton to just one touchdown.

The coach, now 36, got his start as a player in The Bronx. He played football all four years at Cardinal Spellman High School. He then led UAlbany, where he was a four-time All-Northeast Conference free safety, to the 2002 conference championship.

When his playing days were done, Samson became a coach. He began as a defensive backs coach at Siena College. He then coached defensive backs and wide receivers for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He spent the 2006 season working with tight ends at Hofstra University before returning to UAlbany for three seasons to coach outside linebackers, tight ends and corners.

The next Xs and Os move for Samson was to the NFL. He interned with the Green Bay Packers. Before joining Denver, he coached a couple of seasons with the New York Jets and a couple more with the Buffalo Bills.

Samson is not just about football. He was an honor student in high school. The importance of academics was instilled in him at an early age by his mother, who is a retired professor. She taught him that education is the first key to success, that it opened doors and provide him with the opportunity to attend a good college.

Since his teenage days, that education foundation has opened many doors for Samson. Besides his football success, he also has married well. His wife is a doctor.

His wife and mom experienced the Super Bowl with Samson. When it was done, mom made sure that everyone knew that her son truly earned everything that he has received on and off the field. He soon will have a Super Bowl ring to show to everyone.

- Jim