Authors Posts by Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski
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Huntington nonprofit affords teachers a creative license

Officials break ground on a Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education-funded pond at the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. File photo

In a time when most news about education is related to highly controversial state-mandated standardized testing, one Huntington nonprofit seems too good to be true.

The Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education will reach $1 million in funded grants next year since its inception in June 1993, according to the foundation. HFEE is “dedicated to enhancing the quality of the Huntington public schools in education, the arts and athletics,” according to its mission statement. Its funding comes entirely from donations and 100 percent of that money goes back into the school district.

“We are very lucky to have had such concerned parents back in 1993 to have formed such an awesome organization,” Maria Cassar, co-president and board of directors member since 2004, said in an interview this week. “HFEE has donated so much to the district and has become an organization that teachers, parents and students can come to with great ideas for our school district,” she said.

“Teachers come to us with so much enthusiasm for special projects,” Cassar said. She mentioned a hydration water filling station and a cell culture lab at the high school as a couple of her favorite projects from recent years.

Some other grants listed on the foundation’s website include a freshwater ecosystem pond at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School last May and a donation to the school district’s athletic department that included a three-dimensional climbing wall, a defibrillator and a new shell (a boat used for crew) for the crew team in 2013.

In 2015, HFEE funded grants for a gem stonecutter at the high school, a 3D printer for J. Taylor Finley Middle School and other projects totaling more than $40,000.

Teachers in the Huntington school district understand how lucky they are to have a support system like HFEE that allows them to come forward with creative ideas that often receive funding.

“It’s huge,” Maryann Daly, an employee of the Huntington school district for 33 years, said about the support both financially and creatively that she receives from HFEE. She estimated that she has personally written about $60,000 worth of grants over the years. “It’s what the association between parents and teachers is all about,” she said.

Daly is the chairperson of the district’s SEARCH program, which stands for Scholastic Enrichment and Resource for Children in Huntington. The program is designed to provide hands-on group instruction for the most gifted and talented of the district’s students.

Daly’s job involves implementing a creative curriculum meant to enrich and supplement traditional education, so the assistance that she has received from HFEE and the ability to spread those creative and enriching ideas to the whole district is irreplaceable, she said. Daly said that her position forces her to “think outside the box,” and that is never an issue for HFEE.

One of Daly’s favorite grants was funded by HFEE in 2004. The $15,200 grant replaced the district’s old Starlab, or a portable planetarium, with a brand new one. Another program, which started in 2004 and continued through 2014, allowed fourth-grade students to receive two one-hour lessons from the New York Hall of Science in preparation for a standardized test.

“The Huntington Foundation is absolutely amazing,” Tracey McManus, a teacher at Jack Abrams and an employee of the district for 15 years, said in an email this week. “They have helped me incorporate such unbelievable experiences for my students.” McManus cited a grant for an incubator used to hatch ducks and a grant in 2014 for the pond where she later saw ducks swimming as a couple of her favorite projects funded by HFEE.

Brian Reynolds, an employee of the Huntington school district for 25 years and a current technology teacher at the high school, fondly remembered the “smile from ear to ear” on a student who won a car race on a track for CO2 cars in front of his entire lunch period. He said the boy was virtually skipping through the halls for days after. Reynolds said it was the first thing the boy ever won in his life.

“It is a very exciting year for the Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education,” Cassar said, looking forward to the 2015-16 school year. “We are all so thrilled to pass the $1 million mark in what we have funded for the school district.”

The foundation offers a few different types of grants to teachers in the district for special classroom enhancement projects, in addition to one $1,000 scholarship for a graduating senior and one scholarship for a lucky sixth-grader interested in a three-day environmental camp, according to the HFEE website.

For more information or to donate to HFEE visit www.huntingtonfoundation.org.

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Nick Fanti turns down Marist College scholarship after agreeing to terms with Philadelphia Phillies

Nick Fanti hurls a pitch during the Grand Slam Challenge. File photo by Alex Petroski

Hauppauge graduate and star left-handed pitcher Nick Fanti, who was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 31st round of the 2015 MLB Draft, agreed to terms on a contract with the club this week. He chose to forgo an opportunity to play at Marist College on a baseball scholarship, and will instead begin his minor league career with the Gulf Coast League Phillies in Clearwater, Florida, Philadelphia’s rookie-ball affiliate.

Fanti said the decision was very tough on him, but he’s confident he made the right one.

“I really felt at home at Marist and comfortable with the coaches and players that I was going there with, but in the end, I followed my heart and made a decision that I wanted to make,” he said.

Hauppauge head coach Josh Gutes was thrilled with his former player’s decision.

“Since he was a little kid, all he’s wanted to do was play baseball for a living, and now he’s going to get the opportunity to do so,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy decision at first, because of Nick’s loyalty to Marist, but he had the chance to pursue his dream and he’s going to do everything he can to make that dream come true.”

Fanti had an outstanding senior season for the Eagles. He went 7-1, with a 0.67 ERA, a 0.63 WHIP and 87 strikeouts over 52 innings. He also threw two consecutive no-hitters. Fanti won the 2015 Carl Yastrzemski award as Suffolk County’s best player, and started on the mound for the Suffolk County team in the Grand Slam Challenge, Long Island’s annual Suffolk County versus Nassau County All-Star game.

“I would have probably fainted from excitement,” Fanti said about the thought of his 10-year-old self receiving the news that one day he’d be a professional baseball player. “I can remember being told by teachers to stop writing and drawing about baseball during projects because that’s all I ever thought about, and still think about.”

Fanti grew up in a family of lifelong New York Yankees fans, though his Dad, Nick Fanti Sr., said in an interview in June, following draft day, that wearing a Phillies uniform one day wouldn’t be a problem.

“I’m just so happy for him,” Fanti Sr. said. “He’s going to make it anywhere he goes.”

The Phillies organization declined requests for comment, pending Fanti’s signing becoming official this week.

Fanti said on Twitter Monday night that he was “ready for this challenge” of taking on professional competition, which is obviously a step up from the high school competition that he’s used to, and the college competition that he bypassed.

Being selected in the MLB Draft, especially in the 31st round or later is far from a guarantee that an opportunity will present itself for a young player in the Big Leagues. However, New York Mets legends Mike Piazza and Keith Hernandez were both selected far later in their respective drafts than Fanti. Left-handed pitcher Kenny Rogers had stints with both the Mets and Yankees, and he was selected in the 39th round.

Some other notable 31st round picks include pitchers Scott Erickson [1990] and Pedro Feliciano [1995], who both played for the Mets and Yankees in their careers. Erickson went in the 31st round in his fourth time being in the MLB draft. Sean Gillmartin, a southpaw currently on the Mets’ roster, was selected in the 31st round of the 2008 draft, although he was again drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft.

A few Major League all-stars also got their start in the Gulf Coast League over the last decade. Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder and 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen each played full seasons in the GCL.

After the Grand Slam Challenge game in June, before he had made his decision, Fanti said how different it would be playing alongside strangers as opposed to his teammates from Hauppauge, who became his best friends. Fanti will have no trouble making friends in the Phillies organization if he pitches for them anywhere near the way he did in high school.

Activists, politicians, volunteers taking closer look at declining population of Long Island’s ocean life

Horseshoe crabs have been on Earth for almost 500 million years, but their future is uncertain. Researchers like Matt Sclafani, a marine educator from the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, said he believes that the species is in an alarming decline.

“It’s a very important issue for a lot of reasons,” Sclafani said during a horseshoe crab monitoring session at West Meadow beach in Stony Brook on Monday night.

Horseshoe crabs are a valuable species to human life, Sclafani said. Their blue blood is used for pharmaceutical purposes. Fishermen use them as one of the most effective sources of bait that exists.

Sclafani called Delaware Bay the epicenter for horseshoe crab spawning activity, with Long Island coming in as a close second as one of the most important areas to the species on the East Coast, he said.

Sclafani and his team of volunteers take to the local shores when the tides are low, usually in the middle of the night, to count and tag horseshoe crabs that come up to the shore to spawn. On Monday, Sclafani was joined by Frank Chin, the regular site coordinator for West Meadow beach, along with Grace Scalzo, a volunteer, and Karen Papa and her sons — 12-year-old Zachary and 8-year-old Jonah.

North Shore activists take to the waters to learn more about the area horseshoe crabs. Photo by Alex Petroski
North Shore activists take to the waters to learn more about the area horseshoe crabs. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We get a lot of volunteers for this program,” Sclafani said. “That’s the part I think is really great, too. We get people involved in their backyards. There’s not a lot of marine life that you can get involved with and handle this directly — that comes right out onto the beach for you without a net or fishing pole.”

In all, the team tagged 55 horseshoe crabs over the course of the night, though that is nothing compared to the night on the South Shore when Sclafani said he and a team of about 35 volunteers tagged about 800 crabs. The process requires measurement, drilling a small hole into the shell, and then applying a round tag that has tracking information on it which is recorded.

“I think the entire population up and down the East Coast is in trouble,” Larry Swanson, associate dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said of the horseshoe crab population in an interview last week. “It’s in trouble for a variety of reasons including people overfishing the population, but also certain birds, including the red knot, are particularly prone to using them as a food source.”

Sclafani said the consequences could be dire, if the crabs are not saved.

“Their eggs are really important to the ecosystem,” Sclafani said. “A lot of animals feed on them, including migratory shore birds.”

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) divulged plans to urge the Department of Environmental Conservation to expand restrictions on harvesting horseshoe crabs in May, to the chagrin of fishermen. Those plans have since been tabled.

“I’m just a man, but I’m a vital part of the food chain and I think I’m at the top,” Ron Bellucci Jr. of Sound Beach said in an interview last month.

Horseshoe crab harvesting is a vital part of his income, he said. Local fishermen have also questioned the validity of claims about the declining population.

North Shore activists take to the waters to learn more about the area horseshoe crabs. Photo by Alex Petroski
North Shore activists take to the waters to learn more about the area horseshoe crabs. Photo by Alex Petroski

The idea that the species may not be declining is not an encouraging sign to Malcolm Bowman, professor of physical oceanography and distinguished service professor at SoMAS, Stony Brook. He is also the president of Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy and the Friends of Flax Pond, two environmental advocacy groups.

“We know in nature that things go up and down, and up and down, but you have to look at long-term trends; 10 years, 20 years,” Bowman said in an interview last week. “I’ve worked with fishermen a lot. They have to make a living, I understand that, but it’s important to keep communications between the scientists and say the fishermen with mutual respect, and that way we can learn a lot from them. We scientists are trained to have a long-term view. It’s not just this season, this summer, this breeding season. It’s a long-term view. I think that’s so important.”

More restricted areas, which Romaine is pushing for, could simply result in overharvesting in areas without restrictions, both Bowman and Sclafani said.

There has also been some experimentation with extracting the blue blood while the animal is still alive, then rereleasing them into the water. This process is called biomedical harvesting.

“That’s becoming a more and more controversial topic,” Sclafani said. “The biomedical companies have maintained that it’s a low mortality rate — about 10 percent … they might even be as high as 40 or 50 percent.”

He also mentioned that there are concerns about the horseshoe crabs’ spawning activity after this process is completed.

Bowman stopped short of saying that the extinction of the horseshoe crab would have a drastic impact on human life, but it’s not a good sign.

“I was reading some very important news that’s coming out about the extinction of species on the planet,” Bowman said. “Species are going extinct at a huge rate. The cumulative effect is going to have a very bad effect on human civilization, far greater than we can imagine. We only see a little piece of it.”

Employee attendance to be tracked electronically

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Town employees may soon have their work time and attendance tracked by a new electronic system.

The board voted unanimously by resolution earlier this month to authorize the implementation of an electronic time and attendance system. The resolution was sponsored by Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and seconded by Councilman Gene Cook (I). The new electronic system will replace an old paper sign-in system.

“There has to be a system in place to track employees’ times,” Berland said in a phone interview this week.
The resolution was adopted for two reasons, Berland said.

In 2013, an audit of the town’s payroll costs by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office found the town had issues monitoring its overtime and leave benefits that could have entailed higher payroll costs.

The audit findings resulted in a recommendation to upgrade the town’s outdated time and attendance system.

Issues with overtime and leave are expected to be alleviated by the updated electronic system, which was a major finding of the 2013 audit. The audit looked at records from January 2011 through May 2012, and found that Huntington Town allowed employees to accrue more leave than bargaining agreements permit.

Implementing the electronic system also fulfills a requirement to qualify for tax relief for New York State taxpayers as part of the Government Efficiency Plan program. The plan, which is outlined on the state Division of the Budget page on the New York State government website, states that local governments and school districts can generate relief for taxpayers and qualify for the program by reducing costs through the consolidation of services.

The new automated system would be a step in the right direction to qualifying Huntington Town for the program and fulfilling the state requirements, Berland said. The new system was available on the New York State contract and procured with the New Jersey-based company SHI International Corp., according to the resolution. The total cost, which includes service contracts, computers, software and printers, will be $255,000.

“It helps lower payroll costs in the end,” Berland said, which she said is a key deciding factor in gaining approval on the town’s Government Efficiency Plan.

The new system will also serve to provide the town with “a more uniform sign in policy,” town spokesman A.J. Carter said during a phone interview.

Berland said there is not yet a timetable in regards to when the new system will be up and running, and that she did not want to speculate on a date.

“We have to develop a plan about how and when to institute this,” Berland said.

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Centereach High School students received their diplomas Saturday morning at their commencement ceremony under beautiful, sunny skies. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) addressed the senior class with his now presumably patented “Go for it!” speech, the class Valedictorian Devon Patel compared life to a long race in the video game “Mario Kart,” and senior class President Raquel DiGiacomo took a selfie with the entire senior class at the conclusion of her speech. Principal Thomas Bell also took the time to recognize the family of Matthew Lewis, a member of the senior class who passed away earlier in this school year.

Solar shingles shine on the roof of a Long Island home. Photo from Division 7

The idea of installing solar panels to a roof as a source of electricity for a home is not exactly prehistoric.

Reducing the use of electricity or gas to power and heat homes undoubtedly has a positive effect on the environment. Despite being fairly new to the market, solar panels may be supplanted soon by a less expensive, more effective alternative.

Solar shingles have been available in the United States for about five years, according to an estimate by Richard Ciota, a Stony Brook resident who owns Division 7 Inc. Ciota’s 21-year-old roofing company is located in Lake Grove. Its residential division is the only one in the Suffolk County, Nassau County and New York City areas permitted to sell Dow Powerhouse solar shingles.

Solar panels have been available for decades, Ciota said in an interview at Division 7’s main office. They are at this point more efficient in generating electricity than shingles in terms of kilowatts per-square-foot of roof space, though there are problems associated with panels that contribute to the higher cost Ciota said.

“When you’re putting a solar panel onto a roof surface, you’re mounting that solar panel to the rafters through the existing roof,” Ciota said about the older technology, which his company offered prior to the availability of shingles. “So the waterproof technology has got to be perfect because you could be putting 40, 50, 60 penetrations through a perfectly good roof.”

Solar shingles are installed onto the roof of a Long Island residence. Photo from Division 7
Solar shingles are installed onto the roof of a Long Island residence. Photo from Division 7

Wind, shade from trees, excessive heat and animals are other factors that Ciota said are enemies to solar panels, which are installed on top of asphalt shingles and leave wiring exposed to the elements. Wind can cause the panels to pull the asphalt shingles away from the roof, which is an annoying and costly problem to have to fix after panels are installed.

Solar shingles replace asphalt shingles. They are waterproof and work in the same way that any conventional asphalt shingle would along with the added benefit of a reduced electric bill and a more environmentally friendly home than one that runs on electricity or gas heating.

Despite availability and the obvious benefits, solar panels only currently exist on about 5 percent of Long Island homes, according to Ciota. The number of homes with solar shingles is exponentially smaller.

John Petroski, Division 7’s director of solar and residential operations, estimated that the company has done about 70 shingle installations on Long Island since 2012 when Dow partnered with Division 7 Inc. Petroski said they have about 35 booked jobs left to complete, as part of Dow’s pilot program, which offered leasing or purchasing options to consumers.

“The way [Dow] is moving forward with the technology of the shingles, the improvements they’re making — they’re covering their bases,” Petroski said in reference to the notion that unanticipated issues have arisen as solar panels have gotten older, which could also happen to the shingles.

“I personally think the solar shingle will take over the marketplace,” Ciota said about the future as the technology continues to be upgraded. “There are new generations of solar shingles that will be coming out that will increase its efficiency and eventually they’ll probably tie up and meet [the efficiency of panels].”

Other companies sell solar shingles on Long Island, though Dow’s are widely considered to be on the cutting edge. In 2012 Dow received a Breakthrough Award from the magazine Popular Mechanics for pioneering an integrated solar roofing system, according to a press release on Dow’s website.

Note: John Petroski, director of solar and residential operations, is this writer’s brother.

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The Incorporated Village of Poquott. File photo

The Village of Poquott is ready to move forward after a year of infighting and accusations involving an investigation of former village trustee Eddie Schmidt and a missing $23,000, its newly elected officials said in the wake of last week’s vote.

Poquott villagers elected three new trustees and a justice last week. Harold Berry and Jeff Koppelson won the two trustee positions carrying two-year terms, while Sandra Nicoletti secured a trustee position carrying a one-year term. Paul Edelson won the race for justice as a write-in candidate.

Berry and Koppelson were elected with 105 votes and 131 votes, respectively, beating out Gary Garofano, the third candidate vying for one of the spots.

Nicoletti received 113 votes over Karen Sartain, who garnered 69 votes, the village clerk said.

The village did not have any names on the ballot for the justice position, so the spot went to Edelson, who received 96 votes, over Alexander Melbartis — another write-in — who received 87 votes.

“The previous board for the past year has done nothing but fight,” Berry said in a phone interview this week. “I think very little [has] gotten done.”

Berry has lived in the village for over 30 years, he said, and has served as a trustee before. Most recently, he filled the position of maintenance commissioner. The Village of Poquott government website lists his responsibilities as “roadways, lights, signs and drains.”

He said his experiences put him in the position to do some good for the Village of Poquott. Berry said that he campaigned on the platform of “truth, fairness for all and to do good things for the village.” His election has not clouded that view, he said.

“There’s a lot that can be done for the village, and I’m already in the process of doing that,” Berry said. “The board has to come together and work as one unit.”

Koppelson was a health care administrator and has a degree in administration, so he said he is ready to start putting that knowledge to use to help Poquott, he said.

“I’m looking forward to getting started. I ran to see if we could resolve some of the bad feelings and gridlock and start to reduce that,” Koppelson said during a phone interview this week. “Once we get started I’m confident that we can make that happen.”

Koppelson moved to Poquott in 1972, he said.

“People tend to have allegiances based on how long they’ve lived in the village,” Koppelson said, and he expressed his desire to eliminate that.

Koppelson acknowledged that his new position doesn’t make him responsible for “defense of the nation, or anything serious like that,” he said with a chuckle, but he does hope to impact the village positively during his two-year term.

Nicoletti served as a trustee from 2002 to 2014, according to village clerk Joe Newfield. She lost her seat in the 2014 election, then filled in on an interim basis after Schmidt resigned while she waited for the 2015 election. Nicoletti did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Edelson is an attorney at law and a mediator according to his email signature. He declined a request for further comment for this story.

Hauppauge’s Nick Fanti winds up to hurl a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

The best high school baseball players that Long Island has to offer were all on the same field Monday night at Farmingdale State College for the Grand Slam Challenge presented by Blue Chip Prospects, where the Nassau County All-Stars beat the Suffolk County All-Stars, 3-1.

Smithtown East’s Dom Savino warms up before taking to the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski
Smithtown East’s Dom Savino warms up before taking to the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It’s a great atmosphere,” Joe Flynn of Ward Melville said about the experience after the game. “To come out here with all the best players on the Island, to get to compete against each other one last time before we all head off to college — it was really just a lot of fun seeing some of the talent that’s out there that we didn’t get to see this year.”

Billy Bianco of North Shore and Nassau County took home the MVP award, thanks in large part to his two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning off of Smithtown East’s Dom Savino. Bianco’s clean single up the middle drove in Chaminade’s Beau O’Connell and Division’s Anthony Papa, and gave Nassau the lead for good.

Nick Fanti, Hauppauge’s star left-hander and winner of the Carl Yastrzemski Award given to Suffolk’s best player, got the start on the mound for Suffolk County. He pitched a scoreless first inning, helped out by a smooth 6-4-3 double play started by Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese. The double play erased an error by Flynn at third base and got Fanti through the first, unscathed.

“It’s awesome,” Fanti said after the game about playing in the Grand Slam Challenge. “It’s a huge honor, especially to start the game off and just be around all these great players. It was a really cool experience.”

Fanti was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 31st round of this year’s MLB Draft. He will decide between beginning his professional career in the minor leagues and playing ball at Marist College.

Ward Melville's Joe Flynn tosses the ball to first for the out. Photo by Alex Petroski
Ward Melville’s Joe Flynn tosses the ball to first for the out. Photo by Alex Petroski

Suffolk staked Fanti to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Lagravinese roped a one-out single into center field, and then went from first to third on a slow roller to the hot corner by Flynn. The throw, trying to catch Lagravinese taking the extra base, was wild, which allowed him to score the game’s opening run.

Nassau tied the game in the bottom of the fifth after a lead-off triple into the gap in right center field by Papa, and a sacrifice fly by Wheatley’s Andrew Hastings, which drove Papa home. Suffolk tried to mount a comeback in the top of the seventh after Nassau pitcher Hasan Deljanin of Clarke walked the bases loaded with two outs. Deljanin struck out Mike Demarest of East Islip to end the threat, and Suffolk didn’t get another base runner after that.

Monday night was the final time that Fanti will throw to his Hauppauge battery-mate P.J. Contreras, who started behind the plate for Suffolk.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Contreras said about his four-year high school career.

The fact that the game was an exhibition only slightly softened the defeat for Lagravinese.

“Both teams work hard so it’s a tough game to play in, but we showed out and Nassau had their day today and took it over,” he said.

Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese gets up to bat. Photo by Alex Petroski
Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese gets up to bat. Photo by Alex Petroski

Lagravinese and Savino, teammates at Smithtown East, will both play at the University at Albany next fall.
“It really hasn’t settled in yet,” Savino said of completing his last high school game. “Even when we lost in the playoffs I never really felt like it was over. Even now, after this, I don’t feel like it’s over.”

Flynn, winner of the 2015 Paul Gibson Award, which is given annually to Suffolk’s best pitcher, put his electric stuff on display when he took the hill for Suffolk in the eighth. He pitched himself into and out of trouble, getting MacArthur’s Brian Perez to pop out to first base with two outs and the bases loaded.

“It feels like yesterday that I was a freshman playing my first scrimmage at Smithtown East,” Flynn said of his time playing on the Patriots team. “It [has] gone by way too fast, but it was a great four years.”

Flynn will play baseball at Princeton University starting this fall.

The end of the evening seemed bittersweet for many of the players. Fanti lamented about the fact that strangers would replace his Hauppauge teammates-turned-best friends in the fall, and Lagravinese looked forward to his next journey at Albany. Both teams exited the field to standing applause from their friends and families who packed the Farmingdale State bleachers.

Three Village’s Ron Matz and Hauppauge’s Nick Fanti Sr. are recognized for the impact they had on their sons’ careers

Lori, Steven and Ron Matz on the Ward Meville baseball field. Photo from Ron Matz

By Alex Petroski

Being drafted by a Major League Baseball team is a massive accomplishment.

The journey from tee-ball to the big leagues is one that weeds out just about everyone along the way, but the select few who actually make their way into a professional lineup all have a common denominator: a strong support system. Though they’ll never take the credit away from their hardworking sons, Nick Fanti Sr. and Ron Matz deserve some recognition ahead of Father’s Day.

Nick Fanti Sr. and Nick Fanti Jr. pose for a photo together. Photo from Nick Fanti Sr.
Nick Fanti Sr. and Nick Fanti Jr. pose for a photo together. Photo from Nick Fanti Sr.

Nick Fanti Jr. played baseball for Hauppauge High School. He was selected in the 31st round by the Philadelphia Phillies in the  2015 MLB Draft last week.

“I don’t know the words,” Fanti Sr. said in a phone interview about his son being selected by Philadelphia.

Pride was the word Fanti Sr. settled on after some deliberation.

“It brings tears to your eyes, even now thinking about it,” he said.

Fanti Sr. gained experience in being a supportive dad of his athletic children over the course of his four daughters playing careers, all of which are older than Fanti Jr.

“You realize there’s nothing you can do. … I enjoy just watching and possibly talking to him afterwards,” Fanti Sr. said about how hands-on he is as he juggles his role as a dad, coach and fan of a talented son. “You hope you’ve given them all the tools.”

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, Fanti Jr., who went 7-1 with a 0.67 ERA, a 0.63 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 52 innings, knows how much having a supportive dad over the years means when you’re trying to follow your dream of making it in the big leagues.

“He was never hard on me about the results of the game like most parents,” Fanti Jr. said about his dad. “He is most concerned with if I respect the game — running on and off the field, and having a good attitude. When he does critique how I played, I listen because he’s been through it.”

Fanti Sr. said he knew his son was special at an early age.

“When he was 10 or 12 he said to me, ‘Dad, Mickey Mantle’s soul went into my glove,’” Fanti Sr. said. “That was his idol.”

Their talented son now wearing a Phillies uniform does not faze the Fantis, who are lifelong Yankee fans.

“I’m just so happy for him,” Fanti Sr. said. “He’s going to make it anywhere he goes.”

His son has to decide if he wants to report to the Phillies or play college ball at Marist College. Fanti Sr. said that he’ll offer his son guidance, but it’s ultimately his decision.

Fanti Sr. was hesitant to take any credit for his son’s success, though he did mention some people that helped along the way, but he does credit his wife Laura with preparing her son a five-course breakfast everyday.

“It’s not only myself, but all the people that I surrounded him with growing up,” Fanti Sr. said, listing Long Island baseball stalwarts Neil Heaton, Matt Guiliano and Sal Agostinelli among others.

Lori, Steven and Ron Matz on the Ward Meville baseball field. Photo from Ron Matz
Lori, Steven and Ron Matz on the Ward Meville baseball field. Photo from Ron Matz

Steven Matz was one of the others that Fanti Sr. listed as having a huge impact on his son’s high school career. He called Steven Matz one of the best kids you could ever meet and said that Ron Matz, his father, reached out to congratulate him when Fanti Jr. was given the Carl Yastrzemski Award, which is awarded to the player of the year in Suffolk County. Both Steven Matz and Fanti Jr. were recipients in their senior seasons.

Steven Matz was selected by the New York Mets in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft after graduating from Ward Melville. He is presumably just weeks away from making his debut in Flushing with the big league club with 2.3081 ERA, 1.149 WHIP and 81 strikeouts over 78.1 innings with Triple-A Las Vegas this season.

“He always had a chance to be good,” Ron Matz said of his son and his chances of going pro one day. “We probably didn’t even think about it until really his junior year [of high school].”

Just like Fanti Sr., Ron Matz was quick to dismiss the thought that his son’s success is in any way a credit to him and his wife Lori, rather than his son’s hard work and dedication — although he did admit it wasn’t always easy satisfying his son’s desire to play the game.

“Any time he wanted to have a catch or go to the field, take batting practice or pitch, I couldn’t say no,” Ron Matz said. “Before my foot hit the ground it was ‘Dad can we go?’ I was tired from working 11-hour days, but I couldn’t say no.”

Steven Matz has been a household name for Mets fans for a few years now, and living in Stony Brook, Ron Matz said it’s hard to avoid hearing or reading about his son.

“It’s very, very exciting,” he said. “It’s a little nerve wracking. It’s out there, so being a New York guy, and Steven’s a New York Met, it’s hard to avoid it.”

Ron Matz said that he’s very calm when he gets to watch his son in person but added that it’s much harder trying to follow his son’s games when he’s not there. Steven Matz has been playing for the Mets’ various minor league affiliates in Port St. Lucie, Binghamton and Las Vegas since he signed with the Mets organization in 2009.

Steven Matz suffered a torn ligament in his elbow in 2010 that required Tommy John surgery, which involves a lengthy and strenuous rehab process, but after recovering he’s come back stronger than ever to prove he has what it takes to move into the Mets’ rotation.

Both fathers had a hard time hiding how proud they both are of their sons. Although Ron Matz and Fanti Sr. both deflected questions about their impact on their sons’ careers, they were always strong support systems for their sons.

“It’s going to be pretty exciting,” Ron Matz said about the day his son finally dons a Mets uniform. “With all the setbacks and bumps and valleys, it was a trying time seeing what he went through, to continue to work hard — it will be nice to see him finally achieve his dream.”

Martin Doherty presents traffic study findings to residents at a meeting about the heavily traveled Woodbury Road. Photo by Alex Petroski

Findings on a traffic study for the heavily traveled Woodbury Road fell short of some residents expectations Monday night, when engineers recommended against adding traffic signals or stop signs on the thoroughfare that connects Huntington and Cold Spring Harbor.

GEB HiRise, the Uniondale engineering firm that spent 10 months on the project, announced the results of their traffic study to about 60 residents at Huntington Town Hall, at a meeting sponsored by Councilwoman Susan Berland (D).

Martin Doherty, GEB HiRise senior traffic engineer, said the firm conducted the study over 10 days, laying rubber tubes across the road that tracked both the volume and speed of traffic.

Despite resident reports of dangerous traffic activity on the road, GEB HiRise recommended only minor changes.

Doherty said during his presentation that the maximum speed clocked on the road over the 10-day study was 76 mph, by a car passing by at night. For the bulk of drivers traveling on Woodbury Road during the study, the average speed was 44 mph.

The speed limit on the road is 30 mph.

Doherty said larger and more reflective signs; thicker lane markings; rumble strips in the double yellow lines in the center of the road; reduced speed limits in some areas from 30 to 25 mph; and narrower lanes in some areas were the most drastic changes GEB HiRise recommended. The firm also suggested adding permanent overhead radar detectors in some spots — the kind that tell drivers how fast they are going, in the hopes of making them aware of excessive speed.

The study results did not suggest adding stop signs or traffic signals to the road.

The study deemed stop signs to be an ineffective solution because they would increase the number of rear-end collisions and create heavy delays, according to Doherty.

“I’m almost at a loss because it’s a lot to take in,” Woodbury Road resident Marilyn McDermott said after the meeting Monday. “I had my own expectations coming in of what I thought would be helpful.”

McDermott started a petition last summer to have the traffic study done. Her driveway leads directly onto the thoroughfare. McDermott said she arranged for her child’s school bus driver to come up her driveway in the morning because the road is too dangerous for anyone to stand on while waiting for a bus.

“You hear the study say that it doesn’t call for [stop signs],” McDermott said. “It makes us take a deep breath and say, ‘OK if it’s not [warranted], then are we turning this into a highway?’ … None of us want to have that kind of a road.”

There were moments during the meeting when the crowd became audibly frustrated with some of Doherty’s recommendations.

“How many people have to die before we get some damn stop signs?” one resident called out before exiting the meeting. He said he feared his agitation would trigger an existing heart problem.

Residents said they believed many of the worst offenders driving on Woodbury Road are people who are trying to make it to the Cold Spring Harbor train station in time for a train.

Berland reiterated that the study simply made recommendations about improving conditions on the road. She collected note cards from residents who wanted to share their opinions, and plans to consider them before action is taken, she said.

“We’re going to collate all of that, put all of that together and then I’m going to sit with the supervisor and our director of traffic, go through everything and see where we go,” Berland said.

Residents voiced concerns with numerous aspects of the study. Some were unhappy that it was conducted over a span of only 10 days, while others said that some of the data collected would be skewed because drivers were aware of the fact that their speed was being tracked. Also, residents who live on side streets of Woodbury Road were frustrated that their difficulties in making turns onto the curved main road were not taken into account in the study.

Resident suggestions made during the meeting included asking the police department for an increased presence and adding speed cameras.

Mayer Horn, a Dix Hills resident and transportation engineering consultant, offered a different view.

“Let me stress one word,” Horn said. “It’s not enforcement. It’s not stop signs. It’s not signals. People who asked you for those things mean well, but they’re misguided. The key word is ‘compliance.’ That’s what we really want here.”

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