Oct 01 2019

Where Young Patients Can “Just Be Kids Again”

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!

Jun 02 2019

Country Over Sports — Marines Before College Lacrosse

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.”

Jan 15 2019

A Hockey Setback Takes Flight

Wilbur was a three-sport athlete. He enjoyed football, skating and gymnastics. He also was a very good student and had his sights on attending Yale.

One day, while playing hockey on a lake in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, the 18-year-old was struck in the mouth with a stick wielded by another boy several years younger but much larger. It may have been an accident, but the boy was known as a bully. Years later, that same boy was executed for the murders of his mother, father and brother.

The hockey injury caused weeks of excruciating mouth and jaw pain for Wilbur. Several front teeth were lost and replaced by the crude dentistry of the day. This led to digestive complications, heart palpitations and depression. Wilbur remained a recluse for three years, ending his pursuit of a Yale education. During that time, though, he initiated what became a passion for reading and learning. He read about everything and had a specific fascination for history.

Wilbur was close to his younger brother, who had started a print shop that issued a town newspaper and then began publishing a variety of reading material. They worked together in the printing business and then they became involved in the growing bicycle craze that had swept the nation. Since they both enjoyed mechanics, the brothers opened a shop that sold and repaired bicycles.

When the younger brother was diagnosed with typhoid, he spent more than a month in bed. As he recovered, Wilbur read to him. Together, they became fascinated about the discoveries of Otto Lilienthal, a German glider enthusiast who had studied the flight motions of birds.

The brothers were excited about Lilienthal’s experiments and they never stopped learning. After several years of planning, they decided to use their mechanics ingenuity and their interest in the flight of birds to build several flying machines. They tested their creations at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, changed history. The setback for Wilbur while playing hockey was just one of many catalysts in their lives that led to the collaboration that taught the world how to fly.

Nov 01 2018

Keeping An Eye On What Is Important

Cazenovia High School sophomore Jake Tobin was in the lead at the boys’ junior varsity cross-country race during the Auburn Invitational in upstate New York. He had about 200 meters to cover when another runner passed him.

Luke Fortner, a Fairport High School senior, is legally blind. He passed Jake as they were running up the final steep hill. The crowd was cheering for Luke when he slipped in the mud and fell.

Without hesitation, Jake, who also had been supportive of Luke’s competitive spirit, helped lift his fellow runner with the assistance of Luke’s aide. The three then crossed the finish line.

“Jake got down and lifted him up with his guide, and then helped push him up the hill,” Cazenovia cross-country coach Jason Hyatt told the local newspaper. “It was touching to see, and it will be a memory I’ll carry with me for a long time. A great example of true sportsmanship.”

Luke’s coach applauded Jake in an email to Cazenovia High School. “It was an awesome display of sportsmanship and kindness,” he wrote. “Jake deserves to be commended!!!!”

Other coaches and parents recounted that Jake spontaneously aided Luke and helped push him up the hill. “It was one of those moments that kind of makes your day,” said one parent. “Jake is a really good kid, and I’m not surprised he did it.”

Another email was sent to Cazenovia:

“Wanted to write your school to tell you how impressed I was by your XC team member today at the Auburn Invitational. He was running towards the finish when a Fairport team member passed him. The crowd was cheering for the Fairport team member due to his vision impairment. Your XC team member did not only cheer and clap for him as the student tried to run up the hill in front of him, but stopped and helped him to his feet when he slipped…wanted to commend him and his great sportsmanship he showed to his fellow competitor.”

Soon after, the story went viral and it ran around the world. Well done, Jake!

Sep 02 2018

Slugger Finds His Fields Of Dreams

Carlos Cruz was the leading slugger on his Queens College baseball team. He then played professional ball in England. Though he never made the leap to the major leagues, Carlos found a way to remain involved in the game.

When Carlos was at college, he sold one of his gloves to a teammate for $100. With that money, he purchased additional gloves. He customized the gloves by adding extra padding and other features, and then he sold these gloves to friends. Carlos landed a human resources position at a large Long Island company when he returned from England. At the same time, he built his small baseball glove business through word of mouth. He created his own brand and sold uniforms along with the gloves. Soon after, he added wooden bats.

Carlos is from Panama City. When he arrived in Queens at 13, he was a good player and starred as a catcher for Newtown High School in Elmhurst. Now, he is starring in his business that is located in a Bronx industrial building.

From the start, Carlos understood that he could not compete with the marketing and production of larger companies. His plan was to make inroads locally through solid customer service. To accomplish this, he has relied on family. His sister helps with the bats. His wife designs uniforms. His nephews help with deliveries.

The seed for this success and for family support was planted years ago. Carlos’ mother struggled financially but she found $39.99 to purchase a glove for him at a Caldor store so he could play the game he loved. Back then as a player and now as a business owner, Carlos found his two fields of dreams.

Aug 17 2018

With Vision, Football Is Just His Latest Triumph

Jake Olson was born with retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer of the retina. It destroyed his sight. It took his left eye at 10 months. At age 12, he lost sight in his right eye.

While he slowly lost his sight, Jake realized that his battle actually had “vision.” Jake had a choice. The cancer could have changed him, or he could attack life and live it on his terms. He chose the latter.

Jake became a scratch golfer. He traveled the country as a motivational speaker, delivering his first speech to Wells Fargo employees when he was 12 years old. Jake then opened a business with his college roommate, receiving special NCAA dispensation that allowed him to make money as a motivational speaker and also play college football.

Yes! That’s right! Jake played college football.

At an early age, Jack learned to confront adversity and fight. He always explains that a person must seize control and not allow life to dictate the terms. It becomes second nature. The bonus clause is that this outlook is therapeutic for Jack and for those who are close to him and the many others who hear his story.

So, do you really think snapping a football during a college game was difficult for Jake?

He began long-snapping while playing high school football in Los Angeles. His accomplishment at USC last season, when he became the first blind long snapper in college football history, captured the world through social media.

According to close acquaintances, Jake “sees” things differently than most people. For him, there is “vision” in blindness.

Jim


Jul 01 2018

Lacrosse Awards All Around Long Island

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!

Apr 15 2018

Hall Of Famer Cheers On Vets

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.

Dec 16 2017

The Sports Connection To History And War

Those of us who participate in competitive sports sometimes equate the battles on the field with the battles fought by an army. Both involve training, discipline, commitment and critical thinking.

With this in mind, it should not come as a surprise that a number of highly successful players and coaches have maintained a keen interest in history and especially in the tactics related to the Civil War. Several of these history buffs include New York Mets first baseman and broadcaster Keith Hernandez, National Hockey League coach Ken Hitchcock and legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley.

Keith and Ken read a lot and visit the battlefields. Ken even meets with a past-president of The Civil War Round Table of New York history group to talk a little blue and gray when his teams are in town. Vince, though, has taken his interest to another level. He has written a book about a Georgia colonel.

After serving as a U.S. Marine, Vince became one of the most successful college coaches. He won 201 games in 25 seasons at the University of Georgia. The successes included a national championship and six Southeastern Conference Championships. He later served as the university athletic director and he has written several books about the school’s sports history.

Now, he has added a Civil War story to the bookshelf—The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog: The Civil War Correspondence of William Gaston Delony, Colonel of Cobb’s Georgia Legion Cavalry.

The subject of the book was an attorney when the first shots of the war were fired. Vince decided to pursue this story when he learned that Delony’s letters to his wife, Rosa, chronicled his experiences in combat. Delony writes as a loving husband worried about his pregnant wife. He also provides details about his daily routine as a soldier. The colonel participated in the complicated tasks of leading a legion, a single command with elements from artillery, cavalry and infantry. He was mortally wounded at a battle at Brandy Station, Virginia.

To add an amazing coincidence to the story, a Delony great granddaughter married a student who played for Vince before the young man pursued military service. The soldier was part of the unit in Somalia during 1993 that inspired the book Black Hawk Down.

During his coaching years, Vince met many six-foot, three-hundred-pound men who could run the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds. But, while writing this book, he learned about the toughness of some of the smallest and slimmest Civil War soldiers. Pound for pound, these boys became the toughest of men, and they did it under the most trying of times.

Nov 01 2017

Sports Radio Host To The Rescue

He was maneuvering a boat into the front yard of a house owned by a middle-aged couple. The couple had never met John Lopez, but they were happy to see him. Houston had been hit hard by Hurricane Harvey.

John tossed life vests to the couple and helped them board the 16-foot fishing boat. They never exchanged names. The couple was delivered to safety and then John planned to be on his way to help others. A moment later, the couple heard and recognized his hearty and distinctive laugh. They looked at him. John now knew that they realized that the man with the boat was the popular sports radio personality they listen to on Houston’s KILT SportsRadio 610.

John loves fishing. His home was not flooded from the storm but his boat was in dry dock. He sent out a tweet searching for a boat to use to help stranded residents. He received about 12 replies and located two fishing boats.

Once he was rolling, John sent out another tweet accompanied by a video of his view of the flooded city streets. His message: “@ me if you need help.” For more than 10 hours, John rescued about 20 people. Some just had a trash bag of clothes and lost everything else, but everyone was very appreciative that John helped them.

John’s work that day wasn’t focused just on the people of Houston. He rescued a couple of dogs, too. Then, he came upon a barn, where he helped a woman move her two horses to safety. He took a long stick and poked it in the water to locate the shallowest passage for the horses to traverse to higher ground.

John did a lot that day, but he said many others were there with him. About 30 to 40 boats were helping the residents. Rescuers included firefighters and the Coast Guard.

According to John, the fisherman’s code is to stop all activities and help another boat in distress. John realized that Houston was in distress and he stopped his daily sports talk routine to help his neighbors.