Sports Opened His Door To The World Of Art
Jul 15, 2018Posted by james

Mort Kunstler lives on Long Island’s north shore. He’s made his professional mark in life as an artist of American history.

Mort began drawing before the age of three. He has sketched cowboys and other characters of the Wild West. He then painted book jackets and cover art for men’s adventure magazines before moving into an advertising career to create movie posters that included The Hindenburg, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and The Poseidon Adventure. Mort also painted historical scenes for National Geographic and other magazines before he emerged as one of the most prominent painters of American history.

A few years ago, Mort decided to retire. He was 89 at that time. But, one more project required his touch. It was a Civil War scene. The image combined the war with sports, specifically baseball, which has been a significant part of Mort’s life since childhood.

Mort grew up in Brooklyn and his uncle often brought him to Ebbets Field. He painted images of the players from the 1940-1942 teams, and the players signed his creations. At about this same time, sports began to open the doors of opportunity for this artist.

Mort first attended Brooklyn College, playing football in the fall, basketball in the winter and running track in the spring. He also was a regional star in the hurdles and javelin while also a diver on the swim team. He was the first four-letter man in the school’s history. Mort then attended UCLA on a basketball scholarship but he returned to New York before graduation after his father became ill. When he could not enter Pratt Institute due to poor high school grades, Mort’s Brooklyn College basketball coach spoke with the Pratt coach. Mort was admitted to study art.

While Mort played many different sports, he always truly loved baseball. He always wished that he had played it more often than just in pickup games during his younger days in Brooklyn. He did find a way, though, to memorialize his affection for the game in his final work of art.

Mort completed The National Game: White House, November 1862 more than a year ago. He initially thought that the setting for the Civil War-era baseball game should be a Union prison camp with Confederate prisoners playing against their Yankee guards. But, as he began the extensive research that he has incorporated into each of his historical paintings, Mort discovered a book that described soldiers who were bivouacked in Washington and played the game on the White House lawn. In his painting, with the White House in the distance, Mort features pretty women in beautiful gowns and kids who are enjoying the game. The scene suggests a life of normalcy during a hectic and cruel time in our country’s history.

No doubt that Mort probably placed himself within the historical context of the painting. Maybe he is one of the players, or maybe he is the young boy enjoying the game he has always loved.

Lacrosse Awards All Around Long Island
Jul 01, 2018Posted by james

May and June are the months of final exams as students (and teachers) count the days until school is out for the summer. It is also the time for spring sports championship games, athletic and academic award celebrations and that step toward the next challenge.

The Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championships again were held at Hofstra University. Following each of the three matches, I presented my Leadership Award to six young men who are definitive leaders on and off the field.

I was proud to present the awards to the following scholar-athletes:

·         Cold Spring Harbor High School senior defender Nolan Hinphy.

· Garden City High School senior midfielder Matt Granville.

· Manhasset High School senior defender James Amorosana.

· Massapequa High School senior defender Brian Lenaghan.

· Syosset High School senior defender Thomas Markou.

· Wantagh High School senior attacker Thomas Rohan.

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. These young men are on their way to bigger and better successes in lacrosse, in school and in life.

Soon after these games concluded, my alma mater, Half Hollows High School East, announced that senior defender Mike Gomez was honored with the school’s annual Outstanding Player Award named in my honor for a boys’ lacrosse player. Mike played varsity lacrosse for five years. His defensive efforts set the tone for the team. He rarely made a mistake and always covered the leading players on opposing teams. During his senior season, Mike scored 11 goals and nine assists and recovered 80 ground balls. He was an Under-Armour Top 44 Senior Game Selection and a Suffolk County Honorable Mention All-American. Mike will play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins University.

Finally, at the end of June, awards were presented to the Hempstead PAL team that I have supported as a leading benefactor for a number of years. Congratulations for a fun season for these fourth, fifth and sixth grade players who recorded a 7-1 record. Until March, more than half the players never had picked up a lacrosse stick. Congratulations also go out to Coach Alan Hodish, his assistant coaches and the PAL personnel and the police department. My special congratulations salute Josh Garrett, who received the team award named in my honor for “his strong work ethic and improvement made throughout the lacrosse season.”

Another great lacrosse season has been recorded on Long Island!

Double Trouble On Local Lacrosse Fields
Jun 16, 2018Posted by james

A defender was all over Jamison Embury. Quickly, Jamison scooped the loose ball near the crease and threaded a pass over two other opponents to Hunter Embury for a goal that made the highlight reel. It’s a reel that is filled with numerous outstanding plays by this twin brother combination for Yorktown High School in Westchester County.

The duo and their intuitive plays are not unique to Yorktown. Across the Lower Hudson Valley, at least 18 sets of twin brothers currently play on the same school lacrosse teams. Nearly a third of the twin teammates have signed or received offers to play Division I lacrosse.

In Westchester, Rye, Iona Prep, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, Hendrick Hudson and other schools have twins on the teams. Farther north, twins plays for Mahopac. Across the new Tappan Zee Bridge, twins play for Nyack and Nanuet. For anyone looking for more trouble, Harrison High School features two sets of twins as does John Jay High School. Then, there could have been a triple threat at Clarkstown South in Rockland. While the brothers play lacrosse, their sister decided to run track.

We’ve often heard the stories about twins who think alike, sound alike and finish each other’s sentences. Now, imagine all the trouble all these twins have been creating for opponents on the lacrosse field!

Among the many advantages of having a twin play the same sport is that a player always is around a teammate who is willing to share the enjoyment and strategy of the game. Plus, when there isn’t anything to do, twins who play lacrosse usually agree to just go outside and have a catch.

As each of these high school twin teammates develops, several sets will continue to play together in college. Others will pursue separate game plans. Whether together or apart, these sets of twins have connections that will guide them for life on and off the field.

Congratulations To NYC’s 2017 High School Football Standouts
Jun 02, 2018Posted by james

The New York City high school football player of the year is….Matt Valecce!

Matt played for Fordham Preparatory High School in The Bronx. At six-feet, five-inches and 205 pounds, Fordham’s quarterback led New York State in passing this past season, collecting 3,333 yards on 226 completions and a 64 percent completion percentage. Matt recorded 41 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. A year earlier, Matt threw for 2,416 yards and 27 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He finished his high school career ranked second all-time in the state for passing yards (10,027) and third all-time in touchdown passes (112).

The Whitmore Group sponsors the New York City Player of the Year Award presented by the local chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. I was honored to present this year’s award to a fine young man. Matt is more than just a football all-star. He finished high school with a 4.28 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) and he accepted a full athletic scholarship to play for Boston College. He is going places on and off the field.

Along with Matt, 10 other outstanding New York City high school football players were honored at the sixth annual “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Dinner hosted by the foundation. Each year, the event is managed by Marc T. Hudak, who is chairman of the local NFF chapter and a partner and member of Whitmore’s management committee. The awards recognize the players for their performance on the field, in the classroom and as leaders in their communities. The award criteria is 40 percent based on GPA and academic achievement, 40 percent based on football ability and achievement, and 20 percent based on leadership, school and community involvement.

I extend my congratulations to each of the “Elite Eleven” 2017 scholar-athletes:

BROOKLYN

Christian Minaya (committed to Southern Connecticut State) – New Utrecht High School, Coach Alan Balkan

QUEENS

Joseph Alvarado (school intentions undecided) – John Adams High School, Coach Seth Zuckerman

Michael Taylor (committed to Villanova University) – Holy Cross High School, Coach Tim Smith

STATEN ISLAND

Quincey Barnes (committed to Western Connecticut State) – Curtis High School, Coach Peter Gambardella

John Buscini (committed to College of Staten Island) – St. Joseph’s by the Sea High School, Coach Michael Corona

Shakim Douglas (committed to U.S. Naval Academy) – St. Peter’s Boys High School, Coach Mark DeCristoforo

Nicolas Macri (committed to Binghamton University) – McKee Staten Island Tech High School, Coach Anthony Ciadella

THE BRONX

Elijah Jones (committed to Boston College) – Cardinal Hayes High School, Coach CJ O’Neil

Danny Sanchez (committed to Stony Brook University) – Lehman Campus High School, Coach Chris DiTullio

Joseph Petti (committed to U.S. Naval Academy) – Fordham Preparatory High School, Coach Peter Gorynski

Matt Valecce (committed to Boston College) – Fordham Preparatory High School, Coach Peter Gorynski

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.