Rugby Player Honored For Off-Field Contributions
Oct 16, 2019Posted by james

Kraig Puccia was completing his junior year at Fordham University earlier this year when he was honored with the fifth annual Penn Mutual Life of Significance award. Presented at the conclusion of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, the award included a $5,000 contribution to a charity of Kraig’s choice—the Tundra Women’s Coalition of Alaska that helps protect women and their children from domestic violence related to drug and alcohol abuse.

Kraig is an Italian studies/history double major from Queens. As a member of the Fordham Men’s Rugby Club since he entered the school, Kraig impressed the award judges both as a scholar-athlete and for his dedication to multiple off-the-field causes.

Kraig had traveled to Bethel, Alaska, with other Fordham students to work with the Tundra Women’s Coalition. He also had volunteered with the Queens District Attorney’s domestic violence bureau. This past summer, Kraig volunteered at the Urban Justice Center’s Veterans Advocacy Project, providing pro-bono work for veterans throughout New York City. Kraig has been involved in service projects since his first year at Xavier High School in Manhattan.

“The work has just felt like the right thing to do,” said Kraig, “but to get recognized for it was a nice chance to be retrospective. It was a nice chance to sit down and recognize what I’ve done, and not necessarily celebrate it, but to be grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.”

The award was presented to Kraig by Penn Mutual CEO Eileen McDonnell and Fordham alum Joe Jordan. In fact, Joe, a football scholar-athlete member of the Fordham Ram’s Hall of Fame, created this rugby collegiate award to highlight the lessons of his book, Living a Life of Significance, that emphasizes a purpose-driven life in the service of others.

Following graduation, Joe found success in the insurance industry. He was a senior vice president at Met Life and played rugby recreationally for 30 years. He convinced Penn Mutual’s CEO to support the rugby tournament as a way for the company to connect with young people and to show them that a career in the financial services sector can be compatible with living a purpose-filled life.

Kraig, Joe, Eileen and Penn Mutual! Great job all around.

Where Young Patients Can “Just Be Kids Again”
Oct 01, 2019Posted by james

Tim Tebow made a splash on the college football field but he has not enjoyed the same success on the professional football and baseball levels. His good and open heart continues to beat strong, however, and this includes his work with ill children.

Earlier this year, the Tim Tebow Foundation opened its 10th Timmy’s Playroom. This new playroom is located at AdventHealth Daytona Beach, a children’s hospital in Florida. The space allows kids to escape from their medical conditions and enjoy life. Tim gives children in hospitals a chance to “just be kids again.”

“Hopefully, it can bring a brighter day for so many in their darkest hour of need,” Tim said in a video posted by AdventHealth. “That is our goal, to encourage and uplift people, especially when they’re going through such a tough time…”

The playrooms include a football field floor, specialized lockers for seating, tables for arts and crafts, flat-screen televisions, video games, toys, interactive games and other activities. The playrooms also display Tim’s favorite Bible verse: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

The foundation’s mission delivers faith, hope and love to pediatric patients and their families. The playrooms are “creating a space where children can heal in a very unique way,” according to the foundation. Timmy’s Playrooms can be found at other hospitals in Florida and at hospitals in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and the Philippines.

Each playroom has been recorded as a huge touchdown in all the scorebooks. Tim Tebow certainly is a star off the field!

Emily Andriello Pursues Her Special Passion
Sep 15, 2019Posted by james

Lacrosse players, according to Emily Andriello, require specific skillsets and mindsets to achieve success. The standout Pearl River (Rockland County) High School scholar-athlete, who now is beginning her studies at the University of South Carolina, immediately has applied her athletic skills and critical thinking from lacrosse (and soccer) to her new scholastic responsibilities. Emily also knows that she must acquire many new and diverse talents for her chosen career.

Emily ranked 14th in her high school class with a 96.4 weighted average. At college, she plans to study biology before attending medical school or physician’s assistant school. Emily hopes to pursue a career in neonatal intensive care. She found her passion when she first studied biology and anatomy a few years ago.

Emily’s world, however, is much more than science and sports. Last year, she helped a teacher with workshops held at Queens College and Hunter College, embracing the Italian language and poetry to demonstrate lesson plans for students who aspired to become teachers. Emily also is involved in her community. She has received many awards and citations for her commitments.

During her high school days, Emily learned a lot about herself. One lesson came about when she worked at the neighborhood ice cream store — with countless choices and combinations at her fingertips, Emily said that she just prefers good old chocolate with “no toppings, nothing special.”

It’s no frills for Emily as she pursues her goals. But, it’s no secret that she does leave room for a few “specials” in her life, including Gus, her bulldog.

I maintain a special interest in high school students who play lacrosse. Whether or not they continue with the game in college, lacrosse already has provided them with a solid foundation of teamwork, specific skillsets and separate mindsets that will become useful later in life. For Emily, the lessons learned on the lacrosse field will create many great opportunities for her in the health care field.

Sonia Citron Draws A Lot Of Attention
Sep 01, 2019Posted by james

Sonia Citron is drawing a lot of attention for her work on and off the basketball court.

Sonia is a junior at The Ursuline School in New Rochelle. She has received numerous college athletic scholarship offers since she significantly contributed to the United States win at the 2019 International Basketball Federation’s U16 Americas Championship in Chile.

Oregon and Stanford made scholarship offers, following others by Maryland, Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Clemson, Texas and Michigan. Harvard and Princeton did not offer scholarships but each has recruited Sonia. She is ranked 17th overall and six among guards in the high school class of 2021 by ESPN.

At the Chile tournament, Sonia averaged 13.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 3.2 steals while playing almost 20 minutes per game. Team USA finished with a perfect 6-0 record and defeated all opponents by wide margins. Back at high school, Sonia led Ursuline to the Section 1 final this year (loosing to Ossining High School). She has scored more than 1,300 points in her varsity career and earned all-state honors the past three seasons from the New York State Sportswriters Association. She was a second-team all-state honoree in Class AA for 2019.

Among Sonia’s other accomplishments are her role on Ursuline’s soccer team and her academic average of nearly 96 as a member of the National Junior Honor Society. Sonia also cherishes her participation in the school’s Warm Hands, Warm Hearts program that provides meals to 100 clients at a community soup kitchen. Sometimes she is the chef and at other times she is the shopper. Everything Sonia touches – academics, basketball, soccer, community service and more — is accompanied by her warm and captive smile.

Ursuline encourages, empowers and inspires young women, and the school certainly has been a magnificent influence for Sonia’s success that is drawing a lot of attention.

“One Goal…One Dream” For Half Hollow Hills Vs. Autism
Aug 16, 2019Posted by james

When he entered Half Hollow Hills High School East, Drew Quinto focused on his classes, new teachers, mingling with old friends, meeting new acquaintances and playing lacrosse. He also remained close to Corey, his older brother.

During April Autism Awareness Month of his freshman year, Drew started a nonprofit foundation – Hills Vs. Autism – to celebrate Corey. Drew looks up to Corey, who has exceeded every stereotype associated with autism, graduating SUNY Purchase with a 4.0 grade average, living on his own in Manhattan and taking care of his personal needs. Drew’s commitment to “One Goal…One Dream” to help make a difference for kids and young adults with autism immediately was embraced by his parents along with the Half Hollow Hills Central School District in Dix Hills.

One of the most successful fund-raising initiatives for the foundation is the annual Hills Vs. Autism lacrosse tournament. As many as 20 Long Island teams participate each July in the day-long event that is capped by the alumni game between the Half Hollow Hills East Thunderbirds and the Half Hollow Hills West Colts. The program has raised more than half a million dollars.

As a Hills East alumnus, I was invited to participate in this year’s program and present a new lacrosse award* that will be part of the event each year. I am honored to again acknowledge outstanding student-athletes who are successful on the lacrosse field, in the classroom and in the community. I’m even more honored to have this award associated with the cause to help our young people who face the challenges of autism. Drew Quinto, another outstanding student-athlete from Hills, and his family have moved mountains in only a few years. Learn more about the accomplishments of Hills Vs. Autism at http://www.hillsvsautism.org/

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*During halftime of this year’s game between Thunderbirds and Colts alumni, the Colts Christian Mulé received the first annual James C. Metzger Mark of Excellence Alumni Cup. The award was established to honor outstanding accomplishments on and off the lacrosse field by a Half Hollow Hills East or Half Hollow Hills West player. Future awards will be presented at the alumni game as part of the Hills Vs. Autism program.

Mulé scored 105 points as a junior, 103 points as a senior and 331 for his high school career. He set district records that included breaking Metzger’s scoring record for points in a season (102 in 1977) that had stood for more than 40 years. Mulé has committed to play lacrosse at Duke University.

The Seawolf Who Became a Met
Aug 01, 2019Posted by james

The New York Mets bullpen has been a huge problem, one of several, the last few seasons. No matter which pitcher is brought into a game, players, coaches, the manager and fans have held their collective breaths and crossed their fingers, hoping to salvage a win.

Daniel Zamora has spent some time in the Mets bullpen. He throws sliders. He continues to work to control his fastball. To start his major league career, he won several battles against the game’s premier players, including Bryce Harper.

Daniel grew up in California, but he didn’t have many opportunities to play for a top-tier college team. Drafted out of high school by Toronto in the 27th round of the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft, Daniel opted for college through a connection between his high school coach and then-Stony Brook University pitching coach Mike Marron.

While playing Division I ball at Stony Brook, Daniel was drafted by Pittsburgh in the 40th round of the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. The organization didn’t move him through the system, so he was traded to the Mets. Within less than a year, he got the call to the big club, becoming the first Stony Brook Seawolf to play in Flushing.

Daniel’s trip to the big club was a proud moment for Stony Brook. The university’s director of athletics, Shawn Heilborn, said Daniel’s journey proves that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

Over the last two seasons, Daniel has made a few round trips between the Syracuse Mets, the organization’s top minor league squad, and Queens. Right now, he is toeing the rubber in northern New York. Daniel hopes to receive another call-up soon, stating that the most exciting moment is when the phone rings and your name is called to join the big club.

Harry Carson — Superstar Who Prefers To Make A Difference
Jul 15, 2019Posted by james

Harry Carson is a Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants. He also is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet, Harry always states that his greatest accomplishments come from his off-the-field activities.

Harry recently received the John V. Mara Sportsman of the Year Award that recognized his many contributions beyond football. The award is presented by New York’s CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Club.

“You may not know it now,” Harry told the audience, “but five, 10, 20 years from now, many of these young people currently in the CYO programs will thank you for making a difference in their lives. I’ve been a world champion and have accomplished a lot, but to me there is nothing better than making a difference in the lives of others. That is really the greatest award.”

The recognition was presented by John K. Mara, co-owner of the Giants, in memory of his uncle. Harry played 13 seasons for the family-run Giants and he was selected to nine Pro Bowls. During the presentation, John said that Harry embodies all the qualities of a sportsman and a leader.

Harry has donated his time to many charities, including United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Boy Scouts of America and Habitat for Humanity. He founded Minority Athletes Networking with former Giants teammates George Martin and the late Ron Johnson. Members of the organization serve as positive role models for young people.

As he accepted the award, Harry credited the Giants for providing him with a unique platform that allowed him to connect with people of all ages and all backgrounds. Harry added that he is proud to represent an organization that always encouraged him to pursue his personal goal of making a difference in the lives of so many people.

Congratulations To The Hempstead PAL Tigers
Jul 01, 2019Posted by james

The Hempstead PAL lacrosse team of fifth and sixth grade players won the 2019 championship in the Nassau County PAL Lacrosse League. The Tigers’ 6-1 record included victories over Oyster Bay, Glen Cove, Hewlett, Hicksville, Freeport and New Hyde Park. The only loss was to Plainview and that was by a single goal. Hempstead outscored its opponents 45-21.

Congratulations to the players and Head Coach Alan Hodish, and to Coach John Tangel, Coach Bernard Williams, the families and Hempstead PAL.

Hempstead Tigers Championship Roster

Adrian Ayala

Roberto J. Barrera

Makai Bell

Amare Collins

Jonathan Davis

Kaeon Grier

Jhaheem Harvey

Jhalil Harvey

Jeremy Henderson

Xaviah Lewis

Jaden Locke

Jayden Polite

Derick Reynolds

Eric Rucker III

Aaden Sarduy

Adill Sesay-Conteh

Ramon Washington

Jalil Watts

All the players received awards for the championship season along with individual awards that recognized various skills and accomplishments. My award to a player for “his strong work ethic and improvement made throughout the lacrosse season” was presented to Adrian Ayala. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with him, all the players and their families about the fun of the game and the many opportunities lacrosse provides by opening doors in high school, college and later in life.

I have supported the Hempstead PAL lacrosse program since its inception eight years ago. Along with the coaches and other benefactors, I have enjoyed introducing this great game to children who may never have had the opportunity to pick up a lacrosse stick.

The chant for 2020 already has started — “Tigers Repeat!”

Long Island Lacrosse Is Getting Better All The Time
Jun 15, 2019Posted by james

Every high school student looks forward to the end of spring. Not the final exams part of it but the final few days that lead to summer vacation.

Lacrosse players look forward to the championship games, athletic and academic award celebrations, and the opportunity to take on the next challenge—summer practice to prepare for next season, or the leap into a college program.

At the Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championships at Hofstra University, I presented my annual Leadership Award to six young men who are definitive leaders on and off the field. Vincent Sombrotto, Nassau lacrosse star and my Hofstra teammate from the 1970s, joined me in the presentations to the following scholar-athletes:

· Cold Spring Harbor High School senior midfielder Danny Striano.

· Garden City High School senior midfielder Joe Scattareggia.

· Locust Valley High School senior goalie Colton Teilelbaum.

· Manhasset High School senior attackman Louis Perfetto.

· Massapequa High School senior faceoff specialist Angelo Petrakis.

· Syosset High School senior midfielder Christian Lyons.

· 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.

Immediately following the Nassau games, Vincent and I voted on and presented my inaugural MVP awards for the Suffolk-Nassau Championships. The recipients:

· Manhasset High School senior midfielder and faceoff specialist Marc Psyllos.

· Mattituck/Southold High School senior midfielder Max Kruszeski.

· Massapequa High School senior midfielder Thomas Greenblatt.

· Shoreham-Wading River High School junior midfielder Gavin Gregorek.

A few days after the presentations to these outstanding scholar-athletes, I had the honor to speak with the lacrosse team, their parents and coaches at my alma mater, Half Hollow Hills High School East. I was honored to meet senior Sal Pascarella and present to him my annual Hills East Outstanding Player Award. He was team captain this season, a fabulous team leader and now he is headed to St. Joseph’s University.

Following the excitement of presenting all these awards, there still was more great news for Long Island. I was pleased to learn that, with my support, the New York State High School Boys’ Lacrosse Championships will be coming to Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Go Long Island Lacrosse! It is getting better all the time.

Country Over Sports — Marines Before College Lacrosse
Jun 02, 2019Posted by james

Catrina Babnick is a Carmel (Putnam County) High School girls’ lacrosse goalie who has opted, temporarily, to forego college for a different opportunity.

Cat could have pursued a successful collegiate sports career. She set a school record with 25 saves in one game. Then, she set a school all-time girls’ lacrosse record when she recorded her 489th save. But, while the other local girls committed to play college lacrosse this fall or next year, Cat decided to follow a path that led her to the United States Marines. She was sworn in on February 8. Following graduation, she will attend boot camp on Paris Island in South Carolina.

It’s a rare choice among promising high school athletes, but Cat firmly and succinctly stated her preference — “I want to serve my country.”

A high score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Batter test allowed Cat to choose her Marine Corps career path. She considered joining the military police to follow her father’s footsteps. He is a retired New York City police detective. Her recruiter, though, reviewed her score and encouraged her to pursue a better opportunity.

Initially, Cat considered becoming a pilot, but this would require many more years of service than the four of active duty and four additional years of reserve service. So, she decided on diesel mechanics that will allow for maintenance assignments with planes and tanks. Cat will enroll in Marine-funded college classes, hoping to complete two years during her enlistment. She plans to secure her degree post-service and become a history teacher.

Cat has played lacrosse since fifth grade, becoming a full-time goalie as a high school freshman. She loves the game and will miss it. Playing college lacrosse after her service is possible, but not a guarantee.

For the moment, Cat has promised to commit herself 100 percent to the Marines. She summed up the challenge with just a few words — “It’s like the ultimate team.”