Sports

Port Jefferson Village Board denies use of floating docks to extreme water sport

FlyboardLI, a company behind an extreme water sport, wants to operate out of Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo from Jimmy Bissett

FlyboardLI, a company behind a fairly new extreme water sport, has been denied approval to operate out of Port Jefferson Harbor any longer.

It had been previously working out of the harbor without approval of the Port Jefferson Village Board or a proper permit since May this year.

The board decided at a meeting on Monday evening that there were too many liabilities attached to the activity. Trustees said the harborfront park has always been a passive park, and they want it to remain that way.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Bissett was disappointed to hear that the village would not be approving his proposal.

“I bring people into the town, it’s a very popular activity,” Jimmy Bissett, owner of FlyboardLI said. “I had more than 500 customers last season, and I am doing very well this season.”

Invented by Franky Zapata, a competitive jet skier, the sport offers a fusion between wakeboarding, surfing, kite surfing, and Jet Skis. It involves strapping into a pair of boots, which are connected to a long hose. The rider can control the hose to float on the water, submerge underneath it or soar above it.

The sport gained popularity after a 2012 YouTube video of the first flight ever went viral. The video now has more than 15 million views.

The Village Board was unanimous in its decision to deny a trial period for FlyboardLI in the harbor. Bissett had also requested three parking spaces and the use of the floating docks in the harbor as part of his application.

Members including Trustee Larry LaPointe said he felt that there were more liabilities at stake to comprehend. He questioned if someone on a Flyboard struck a resident who was paddle-boarding, or damaged a boat in the harbor, whether the village would be held accountable.

Mayor Margot Garant said she had mixed feelings on the application.

“I think it’s a great attraction, but I feel that the harbor is a passive place, for activities like paddle-boarding and fishing.”

The board noted that FlyboardLI had participated in the village’s last two maritime festivals and at both, the activity seemed to be a big success. Board members also noted that the floating docks in the harbor Bissett wants to use for the business currently have no activity on them.

But the board felt that the potential cons would outweigh the pros for the village.

Bissett started the company last summer in Riverhead, but he first became involved with the sport in 2012, when he was in Arizona. He wanted to bring the activity back to his native Long Island to share it with residents here.

Last summer, while operating out of Peconic River in Riverhead, Bissett ran into some problems with the Town of Riverhead. He decided in the next season to bring FlyboardLI to his hometown of Port Jefferson.

Bisset explained that every participant has to be sign a liability waiver, and that the company is fully insured. The company offers several session options. The 15-minute session starts at $99.

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Ward Melville graduate makes noise, gets in record books in first start with New York Mets last Sunday

Steven Matz smacks a double past outfielder Billy Hamilton in his first MLB at-bat. Photo by Clayton Collier

Steven Matz was a hit in more ways than one.

Before even throwing his first warm-up pitch — just half an hour into the fan shop being opened at Citi Field — every piece of memorabilia with the 24-year-old southpaw’s name on it was sold out.

“He came out of the bullpen and got a standing ovation — who gets that?” Matz’s Ward Melville High School head coach Lou Petrucci said. “New York has 100 guys that have gotten the hype, and how great is it that Steven Matz lived up to it? And he didn’t just live up to it, he exceeded it — and that’s what’s so great about this.”

But it may not have seemed that way from the start.

The first pitch Matz threw, a 96-mph fastball to the Cincinnati Reds’ Brandon Phillips, was wild, as it nicked catcher Johnny Monell’s glove and traveled to the warning track behind the plate.

Steven Matz hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Clayton Collier
Steven Matz hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Clayton Collier

In that same at-bat, Phillips hit a game-opening home run, and all Long Island fans could do was hold their breath and hope the local star, who had only made his Triple-A debut just one year ago, could turn things around. And he did.

Matz had finished his season 7-4 with a 2.19 ERA and 94 strikeouts over 90.1 innings for Triple-A Las Vegas, and he wasn’t going to sweat the small stuff.

After shaking off the opening at-bat jitters, the side was retired, and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.

“A lot of people would have just cracked under the pressure, but that just ignites Steven’s fire,” former MLB pitcher Frank Viola, who pitched for the Mets from 1989-91, said in an interview with Seton Hall University’s radio station WSOU. “He’s more than just a baseball player — that’s secondary. He’s just a wonderful person, terrific kid; you root for people like that. The world needs more people like Steven Matz.”

The left-handed pitcher limited Cincinnati to two runs in the Mets 7-2 victory. The Reds’ second was another solo home run, this time off the bat of Todd Frazier. But Matz struck out both Phillips and Frazier in their next at-bats, and ended his 7.2 innings with a 2.35 ERA on five hits while striking out six and walking three.

What may have been even more impressive though, was his historic debut at the plate.

Everyone knew Matz could hit — he finished AAA with a .304 batting average, but no one could predict he would go 3-for-3. Just six innings in, the 999th player in Mets history found his way into the team record book by being the first player at any position on the team to have four RBIs in his MLB debut.

“It’s like a movie script,” Matz’s father, Ron of Stony Brook, said. “Aside from the home run in the first inning, where everyone was a little nervous, it was amazing the way he could shake it off and continue doing what he does. He’s always been a good hitter, but I never realized that at the major league level he’d be the star. He was a one-man show.”

Steven Matz has always had his own piece of fame since senior year of high school.

In the Three Village community, he had a sandwich named after him at the Se-Port Deli in East Setauket after being drafted by the Mets in 2009. But now, everyone across the Island has heard the 24-year-old’s name after he was called up to The Show last Thursday, making his official debut Sunday afternoon.

Steven Matz winds up. Photo by Clayton Collier
Steven Matz winds up. Photo by Clayton Collier

“I first got the phone call from Steve and he just said ‘Dad, I’m going to the big leagues,’” Ron Matz said. “I got pretty emotional. To see what he’s been through over the years, with the Tommy John surgery and all of that stuff and him battling back and doing what he did to finally get to the point where he is, it was a pretty proud moment.”

The father recalls his son’s younger years in the sport, and cannot believe how far he’s come to get to where he is today, although admitting he thinks it’s strange to see his name on everyone else’s back.

“Steve used to always come out with one of his older brother Jonathan’s uniforms on that would hang down past his feet,” Ron Matz said. “He was out there playing with the 5-year-olds when he was 2, and I always knew he had something special, and now everyone was rushing to the store once we heard there was a Matz jersey available. The line was out the door with people buying these things. His memorabilia was sold out within the first half hour.”

And everyone knew he had what it took to play in the big leagues.

“I’ve been coaching Steven since he was 9 years old, and when he was about 10, I told his father ‘Your son’s going to pitch in the big leagues one day,’” former MLB left-handed pitcher Neal Heaton said. “He thought I was full of it.”

But Petrucci saw it, too.

“He’s a complete baseball player, a complete athlete, terrific listener and he is extremely focused, and that’s what makes it so easy for him,” he said. “This kid is a product of all of the people who have touched him throughout the Three Village community: coaches, players, family members. How do you not root for this kid?”

Matz joined a young Mets rotation with the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and the injured Zack Wheeler, which Mets manager Terry Collins said is a staff to be reckoned with.

“I think it sends a message to our fan base that the future is now,” he said in a press conference following Sunday’s game. “We’ve been talking about down the road, next year, next year; the future is now. They’re here, they’re going to pitch, and it’s going to be exciting to see them grow from start to start.”

Matz was also the first Mets pitcher with at least three hits and four RBIs since Dwight “Doc” Gooden in 1985, and Doc thought the way the southpaw handled himself on the mound after the opening pitch said a lot about his character.

“Giving up a home run to that first guy, it probably didn’t bother him as much as it would some other guys because of what he’s been through to get to that point,” he said. “That can go a long way in showing his character and mound presence when it comes to pitching against tough teams and big games come September.”

Matz’s former high school coach said he sees the pitcher going far.

“Every level Steve has gone up he’s only continued to get better because he’s more determined than ever and he’s dedicated to being the best pitcher that he can be,” Petrucci said. “Is he going to go 3-for-3? I don’t think so. But is he going to get his share of base hits? You bet he is. Will he win some games? Oh, you bet he is. The bigger the stakes for Steven Matz the higher he rises up to the occasion. This is more than just the beginning. This is the start of something special.”

Clayton Collier contributed reporting.

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Chief Master Sgt. John Bellissimo, boat captain Adrian Mason and Master Sergeant Shawn Burke holding part of the day’s catch of fluke. Photo from Angelo Peluso

By Angelo Peluso

As we all go about our busy lives, we sometimes forget to say thank you to those who protect our freedoms and our coveted way of life. Those liberties were bestowed upon us by visionary forefathers, etched in our Constitution, fought for in wars, and above all else, preserved and protected for generations by all those who serve.

Regardless of one’s political beliefs or political party affiliations, we as a nation are united by those freedoms we all enjoy. We are forever indebted to the many who have served and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so others can enjoy unparalleled liberty.

Paying tribute to members of the American military for their honorable and selfless service to our country takes many forms. Members of the outdoor community were among the first to embrace that patriotic practice. The Soldiers on the Sound fluke tournament, organized by the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club, is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 395 from St. James. The 2015 event marked the seventh annual gathering of soldiers and volunteers.

The tournament drew a total of 300 participants, including 135 active members of the military, 60 boat captains, 60 mates and 45 event volunteers — all working to make this the best day possible for the guest soldiers.

Those military members in attendance represented the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the renowned 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard, which is based in Westhampton. Many of the soldiers had recently returned from various deployments abroad.

‘Team Old School’ heads out on the water in the seventh annual Soldiers on the Sound fluke tournament. Photo from Angelo Peluso
‘Team Old School’ heads out on the water in the seventh annual Soldiers on the Sound fluke tournament. Photo from Angelo Peluso

It was my honor to once again participate in the event and serve as mate aboard captain Adrian Mason’s boat, Big Trouble. Two distinguished members of the 106th Rescue Wing joined with us for the day’s fishing activities — Master Sgt. Shawn Burke and Chief Master Sgt. John Bellissimo. These two seasoned military veterans are also seasoned anglers who are quite adept at catching fluke and big sea robins. One of the team’s keeper flukes was a contender for the day’s weigh-in. In the end, that fish was bested by the winning flatfish in excess of six pounds. The winning fish was caught by 16-year-old first mate Jake DeLeo with the assistance of Staff Sgt. Chris Arrigo from the 106th Rescue Wing, Air National Guard and his captain Tony Voelker. It was both DeLeo and Arrigo’s first year participating in the event.

Captain Adrian Mason of Time Flies Fishing Charters was at the helm of our boat. Like the other gracious captains, he donated his boat, time and skills to host our team of soldiers. Captain Adrian did not disappoint as a number of quality summer flounder were caught, including half a dozen large keeper fluke. The catching is usually secondary to the camaraderie, the laughter and the opportunity to say thank you to a group of patriotic Americans.

“I have been involved with the Soldiers on the Sound for five years, and I can’t thank these service men and women enough for all they do,” he said. “Spending a day on the water with them seems like such a small way to say thank you, but it really means a lot to them. They are heroes in my book and this tournament treats them as such. I am honored to be a part of it every single year and I am already planning for next year.”

The concept for the Soldiers on the Sound fluke tournament was the brainchild of Kings Park resident Mark Garry.

Garry felt a compelling and overwhelming need to honor members of our armed forces who are currently serving our country. His dedication to both cause and mission was intense, and he, along with his team of volunteers, took his vision and turned it into reality — organizing and running one of the most successful events of its kind.

“This event is a small token of appreciation for all that the U.S. military does so that we can all enjoy our freedoms and life in the greatest country on earth,” Garry said to the soldiers who took part in the event. “We can never repay you enough for all that you do for us and for your courage and skills.”

While the initial event seven years ago was a tremendous success, the 2015 tournament set the bar even higher. All soldiers and participants were treated to a pre-tournament breakfast, a BBQ upon their return from fishing, live music and a hot food buffet as the extensive raffle was conducted. The raffle prizes, donated by individuals, local businesses and corporate sponsors, included fishing rod and reel outfits, gift bags, gift certificates and handcrafted products. The top prizes were kayaks, flat screen TVs and computer tablets.

Beyond the fishing, the food, the prizes and the camaraderie of the event, one soldier’s comment hit home.

During one of the idle moments in an otherwise very active day, Chief Master Sergeant John Bellissimo spoke about the importance of the event.

“You cannot imagine how much an event like this means to the entire base,” he said. “Even those soldiers who did not attend will be talking about this for weeks. What matters most of all this is that we know people here on Long Island care about what we do. We are already looking forward to next year.”

Tim Mattiace, second from right, with Deren family members, is all smiles after receiving the Ray Deren memorial scholarship. Photo from Huntington athletics

Ray Deren’s name in Blue Devil athletic history is etched in stone. The legendary sports administrator’s creativity and foresight helped ignite an explosion in the number of opportunities available to Huntington’s student-athletes, and his planning and commitment to the athletes of the community continues to benefit countless Blue Devils each year.

Tim Mattiace plays lacrosse in his Blue Devils uniform this past season. Photo by Darin Reed
Tim Mattiace plays lacrosse in his Blue Devils uniform this past season. Photo by Darin Reed

A trendsetter in the area of sports program innovation, Deren played a leading role in a long list of initiatives that have become an essential part of the district’s cherished traditions.

Although he died more than 15 years ago, Deren’s influence is still widely felt in Huntington’s classrooms and gyms and on its fields.

At this year’s 47th Blue Devils senior athletic awards banquet, which Deren created in 1969 to recognize and honor seniors who have participated in athletics, Binghamton University-bound Tim Mattiace was presented with a $1,000 scholarship and handsome plaque in honor of the longtime district athletic director.

“My dad believed that students who participated in athletics would have the most success in their careers and relationships,” Deren’s daughter, Georgia McCarthy, who now fills the same position her father once did, said. She was joined for the award presentation by her sons, John and Kenny.

The Deren scholarship recognizes athletes who have consistently showed dedication to their academic and athletic programs and are determined to complete a college education while participating in athletes.

Mattiace is headed to Binghamton University on a scholarship to play lacrosse. One of the top members academically of the class of 2015, the student-athlete has been a mainstay of the Blue Devils program for many years. He tallied seven goals and 11 assists and was a member of the team’s strong defense this spring, scooping up dozens of ground balls.

“It’s a true honor coming from Kenny, John and Mrs. McCarthy, to receive this award and everything it stands for,” Mattiace said. “Mr. Deren was an amazing man and I can only hope to accomplish as much as he did some day.”

Mattiace captained the Blue Devils’ football and lacrosse teams, winning post-season recognition in both sports. He was a First Team All-Division player on the gridiron last fall and All-Division and All-County in lacrosse this spring.

Ray Deren, Huntington’s athletic director for two decades. Photo from Huntington athletics
Ray Deren, Huntington’s athletic director for two decades. Photo from Huntington athletics

The athlete was named Suffolk County League III’s Defensive Player of the Year for his outstanding play as a long stick midfielder, and he earned a spot on the Brine All-American team that won the national championship and went on to beat Canada for the Brogden Cup.

The Huntington Lacrosse Alumni Association presented Mattiace with a large plaque earlier this spring for being a “player who exemplifies the spirit and tradition of Huntington High School lacrosse.”

“I will be working as a junior manager at Lacrosse Unlimited of Huntington; playing in the Shootouts for Soldiers tournament, the Cantiague men’s lacrosse league with kids from around the Island and the Greenport lacrosse tournament; doing plenty of fishing; and working out to prepare for Binghamton University men’s lacrosse,” Mattiace about his summer plan.

During Deren’s tenure, the number of athletic teams sponsored by the district skyrocketed from 28 to 70 and the program was seen as a model by districts across New York. A true visionary, he identified the need for a full-time athletic trainer — a first for a Long Island high school — writing the job description for the position.

Throughout his tenure, he pushed for improvements to the district’s athletic programs and sports facilities.

Deren passed away on Feb. 28, 1999, but his memory lives on through the memorial scholarship presented annually in his honor by his family.

“Our student-athletes are obligated to work well with others on a daily basis in some of the most unique situations,” McCarthy told the crowd at the senior banquet. “You all have a strong work ethic, can problem solve, be unselfish and manage your time wisely because of your experiences in Huntington. These are just a few of the skills that are second nature and will help you live happy and successful lives. This banquet is all about you, who have put so much time and energy into this strong program, rich with traditions.”

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Max Scandale maintains possession with an opponent on his hip in a game this season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

The Port Jefferson boys’ lacrosse team capped off its inaugural season with some prestigious individual and team honors.

Three players, Max Scandale, Brian Mark and Connor Fitterer, were selected as members to the League IV All-League team.

Scandale also made the All-County team, and Mark was selected as the League IV “Rookie of the Year.”

As a team, the Royals were the recipient of the “Crosse Award,” for which a team is nominated by the Suffolk County Lacrosse Coaches Association as being the most improved squad from the beginning to the end of the season.

“I really could not be more proud of what this team accomplished this past season,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “Being a first-year varsity lacrosse program in Suffolk County is hard enough. To make it to the playoffs in our first season is a true testament of this program’s growth and progression.”

Senior Jake Myhre was also recognized by the Port Jefferson Village Lacrosse Association as being the first recipient of the “Stick With A Goal” scholarship at the annual Booster Club Dinner.

This scholarship, a $1,000 prize, recognizes a college-bound senior for their hard work, dedication and commitment to their team.

“When approached about this scholarship, I knew right away we had a perfect match,” Forstell. “Jake is a three-sport athlete that commits countless hours to improving his craft in all three sports. It has been an honor to coach him the past three years and we all wish him the best of luck next year at the University of Pittsburgh.”

Looking ahead, Forstell is excited for the next season with his athletes.

“Our journey has just begun,” he said. “We look forward to continued success in the coming years through hard work and commitment to the lacrosse family.”

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.

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Lacrosse standout will take his talents to the next level

Middle Country's Zach Harned changes direction to move around an East Islip player in a game this past season. File photo by Bill Landon

By Clayton Collier

When Middle Country’s Zach Harned headed to the locker room following his final career high school game, a 17-1 first-round loss to the No. 1-seeded Northport, the senior attack could take solace in the fact that his lacrosse career would not end that afternoon.

Harned will continue playing when he attends the University of Tampa this fall, competing for the Spartans at the Division II level. The Middle Country captain said he has had his eye on Tampa for some time.

“Ever since I was in tenth grade I had my eye on Tampa because I knew they were an upcoming team who was going to competitively compete at the Division II level,” he said. “Once I talked to the coaches and got to know them it made everything so much easier. I feel I could grow even more as a player there and hopefully help them compete for a national championship.”

The 2015 All-County selectee’s achievements go beyond the playing field. Harned was named an Academic All-American and was awarded the Eric Sopracasa Memorial Scholarship, awarded to an athlete who “through determination and character serves as a role model and inspiration to fellow athletes.” The scholarship is given in memory of Sopracasa, who died after being struck in the chest by a lacrosse ball during practice in 1999.

“He’s the epitome of a Middle Country athlete,” athletic director Joseph Mercado said of Harned. “He’s a hard worker and truly dedicated in everything he does on and off the field.”

Middle Country boys’ lacrosse head coach Ken Budd echoed Mercado’s sentiments.

“He plays bigger than he is,” Budd said. “He’s not very big in stature, but definitely presents himself bigger on the field. He’s a two-year captain; he’s a leader on and off the field. He definitely draws the best defensemen, he’s our quarterback on offense and we’re definitely going to miss him.”

This is the second Harned in as many years to move on to collegiate lacrosse. Zach’s brother Dylan recently completed his freshman season as a member of the LIU Post lacrosse program.

“Dylan set a good example for his brother to follow,” Budd said. “Having back-to-back years of Harneds is a good thing. It’s a blessing.”

Zach Harned maintains possession for Middle Country. File photo by Bill Landon
Zach Harned maintains possession for Middle Country. File photo by Bill Landon

Harned will play for NCAA lacrosse Division II’s winningest coach, Rory Whipple. Having previous coaching stints at Clarkson University, Hartwick College, Bryant University and University of South Florida, dating back to 1980, Whipple became the Spartans’ first head coach in 2012. Through the program’s first four years of existence, Whipple has led Tampa to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.

Whipple has high praise for Harned as both an athlete and a student.

“We’re really excited about him,” he said. “I like his character. We try to recruit kids of strong character that are strong in the classroom. He’s got great athletic ability and he’s got a great work ethic. I think he’ll be a strong Division II player for us.”

Middle Country lacrosse already has strong ties to the Tampa lacrosse program. Assistant coach Mike Massari, who played for Whipple at Hartwick in 1998, facilitated the recruiting efforts for Harned.

This will mark Tampa’s second recruit from Middle Country. Face-off specialist Trevor Calleja, who just completed his final season with the Spartans, said Harned is going to love it.

“Playing for coach Whipple was awesome,” he said. “Although he was very tough on the field, off the field he was very funny. I’ll never forget my time at Tampa and would go back and do it all again.”

It might not be long until Harned makes an impact on the Spartans squad, as Whipple said that there is a strong possibility that the Middle Country standout could start right away.

Harned’s mother, Marie, said she is thrilled for her son.

“He’s wanted this since tenth grade,” she said. “He can’t wait to go. We’re just so proud of him.”

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.”

The Soldiers on the Sound fishing tournament yields hefty results on Sunday. Photo by Joseph Bellantoni

By Rachel Siford

St. James was swimming with activity on Sunday as the Soldiers on the Sound fishing tournament hit the waters.

From 15 boats and 25 soldiers participating in 2009, to 57 boats and 135 soldiers this year, Soldiers on the Sound Ltd. has been thanking active military members every year with consistent growth and success.

Soldiers on the Sound is a military charity and fishing tournament for active service men and women, organized to honor and give back to those who are in the military.

At the event’s beginning, Mark Garry, president and founder of Soldiers on the Sound Ltd, got off his boat after a day of fishing and relaxing at the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club and saw news coverage of the war, seeing soldiers overseas laying in the sand using their helmets as pillows, and thought that he should do something to thank them for protecting his freedom.

He said he decided a fishing tournament was the way to go, because that is how he relaxes. Garry was then a Nassau County Homicide Detective.

“This is a very satisfying event to put on,” Garry said. “You can’t find anyone without a smile on their face.”

The event includes a fishing tournament, food, entertainment and raffles at Smithtown Bay Yacht Club, all paid for completely from donations. This year they raised about $13,000. Soldiers do not have to do anything. Local boat owners donate the boats.

Individuals and companies make the donations. Simrad Marine Electronics and C.E. Smith Company Inc. were major contributors.

“Soldiers bring nothing and walk out of there with new TVs and trips to Florida,” Garry said. “Soldiers leave in disbelief, because it’s hard for them to grasp the fact that there’s no catch.”

Soldiers are mainly local to Long Island and work out of the airbase in the Hamptons, but many come from all over.

Ed Reiter, retired command chief master sgt. of the 106 Rescue Wing, Air National Guard, serves as the liaison.

“What the soldiers do is unbelievably generous,” Reiter said. “A lot of the soldiers are overwhelmed by the generosity and support.”

Jake DeLeo, a 16-year-old first mate, caught the winning fish, weighing more than six pounds, with help from Staff Sgt. Chris Arrigo from the 106th Rescue Wing, and his captain Tony Voelker.

“This event is really cool; it’s great what they do for the soldiers,” Deleo said. “The fish was big and flat, so it wouldn’t go in the net. I had to turn it sideways to finally get it in. Then we saw the rigging was stretched out and they could have lost the fish! The fish was so big they had to put it another cooler.”

It was both Voelker and DeLeo’s first year participating in Soldiers on the Sound.

Skip Hein is the only founding member of Soldiers on the Sound with a military background. He is a retired senior master sergeant who served in the U.S. Air Force and New York Air National Guard.

“Back in Vietnam, the public wasn’t really supportive of the military, so it’s just natural that I’d want to show my thanks to the military now,” Hein said.

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No. 3 overall pick Brendan Rogers, who was selected by the Colorodo Rockies, talks with members of the media. Photo by Clayton Collier

By Desirée Keegan & Clayton Collier

One Port Jefferson local was awarded another trip to the MLB Draft, held in Secaucus, N.J., from June 8 through June 10, where he experienced the sights and sounds that surround the excitement that comes about when young new talent is recognized and called upon to compete at the majors level.

Long second fiddle to the NFL and NBA drafts, mostly due to the length of time before baseball draftees make a major league impact, MLB has catapulted its draft into a unique experience in which prospects as young as 17 years old are welcomed live on television by some of the greatest to ever wear the uniform.

This was Clayton Collier’s third time covering the draft. He said every year the event continues to live up to the hype.

Baseball legends converge on MLB Network’s northern New Jersey location to ceremoniously answer the phones from their respective front office’s to hand in their draft picks for the first and second round. The remainder of the selections are made over the following two days and are announced online.

Clayton Collier was in attendance at the 2013 MLB draft, his first experience with the event. Photo from Collier
Clayton Collier was in attendance at the 2013 MLB draft, his first experience with the event. Photo from Collier

Collier was covering the event for WSOU, Seton Hall University’s radio station, which is a school that has a strong baseball program that typically has a handful of players go in the higher rounds, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is a local station that broadcasts into New York City.

At the 2015 draft, Collier witnessed crowds of families, former players and media members pack the glass double doors. Inside, was a large, rustic Dodger-blue door affixed with a plaque marked “42,” an ode to the civil rights trailblazer and Brooklyn-great Jackie Robinson.

Through the doorway and down a maze of hallways, is the iconic Studio 42, a set designed as a baseball stadium. In front of Collier was a mock turf field, including a pitcher’s mound, which was wedged between the Brewers’ and Tigers’ draft tables.

The overhead lights replicate the scene of a major league ballpark. The green stadium seating in the outfield, similar to those at Citi Field, is packed with families of draft hopefuls. All is arranged to face a podium, which is located at home plate in front of a large screen projecting various clips of current MLB All-Stars.

Commissioner Rob Manfred made his first appearance with his opening remarks and subsequently made 75 young men’s dream come true live on national television.

An array of 30 tables dressed to the nines in team apparel don the field.

With them, legends of each of those aforementioned clubs take their rightful seat at each of the corresponding club’s station. Philadelphia Phillies’ Mike Schmidt and Brooklyn Dodgers’ Tommy Lasorda shoot the breeze in front of the podium. Seattle Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. shares a laugh with Andre Dawson, originally a Montreal Expos outfielder, and company at the buffet in back. Art Stewart, a front-office executive and former director of scouting for the Kansas City Royals, asks former outfielder Johnny Damon, most notably from the Royals, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, for the Wi-Fi password. Originally a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and currently an active sportscaster, John Smoltz; Detroit Tigers’ shortstop Alan Trammel; Luis Gonzalez, most known for his time spent as an outfielder with the Arizona Diamondbacks; and David Cone, a former pitcher and now commentator for the New York Yankees on the YES Network, who pitched the 16th perfect game in baseball history, struck out 19 batters to tie for the second-most ever in a game, and 1994 Cy Young Award winner are some of the legends that continue to flood in. Manfred then comes out to mingle with them all.

Entrenched in the third-base dugout, a quartet of MLB Draft hopefuls were in attendance for the ceremony. Ashe Russell, Brendan Rodgers, Mike Nikorak and Garrett Whitley sit quietly with their parents, watching the scene and occasionally interacting with a former player or two who come over to introduce themselves.

Friends and family cheer for No. 3 overall pick Brandon Rogers during the 2015 MLB Draft. Photo by Clayton Collier
Friends and family cheer for No. 3 overall pick Brandon Rogers during the 2015 MLB Draft. Photo by Clayton Collier

As the names get called, polite applause ensues. When one of the four prospects in-studio gets picked, pandemonium ensues. The outfield stands erupt as if the home team hit a walk-off home run. Rodgers was the first, being picked third overall to the Colorado Rockies. He puts on his jersey, shakes Manfred’s hand and is soon after interviewed by Port Jefferson native Sam Ryan. He then takes a phone call from Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, who playfully asks, “Are you still breathing?”

Russell, Whitley and Nikorak follow the same routine once their names are called, going to the Royals, Rays and Rockies, respectively. Nikorak, Rodgers and their parents celebrate the fact that they’ll be teammates again, having been on the field together for the Under Armour All-America Game.

As the final names were called and the cameras went dark, the draftees and their representatives clear out, and all that was left was a mess of papers and water bottles scattered throughout the stadium and stands.

It’s a unique phenomenon to observe the beginnings of the young athlete’s careers. In 2011, we witnessed a young man by the name of Mike Trout get called up on stage to receive his Los Angeles Angels jersey. Four years later, he’s the face of the game. How long until we see Rodgers, Russell, Nikorak or Whitley in the big leagues? Only time will tell.

Russell best explained the experience before the night began, when he was pacing along the third baseline of Studio 42 in nervousness. Around 10 minutes after being selected by the Royals, Clayton followed up to see how the no longer prospect, but draftee, now felt.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “I can’t believe this is happening right now. This is a dream come true.”

For Collier, the experience has had similar effects.

“As a young sports journalist, it is certainly rewarding to have the opportunity to cover these type of events,” he said. “WSOU at Seton Hall, as a professionally run radio station, offers a number of tremendous opportunities for students such as the MLB Draft. It’s events like these that help you gain the experience necessary to be successful in the media industry. I’ve worked hard at it for several years now, so to be able to cover an event like the MLB Draft for WSOU is very much satisfying.”

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