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Susie Facini

Annual game against Mount Sinai memorializes the late alumna for her kindness, giving nature

By Desirée Keegan

Hundreds came out to show support for a local girl who gave to others.

In 2011, Rocky Point High School graduate Susie Facini died of a sudden heart attack. She was 19 years old. Since then, the Eagles and Mount Sinai’s baseball team have faced off each year to raise money for a scholarship in the name of a girl who was known for her immediate impact on everyone she met.

“All of them universally buy into what we’re trying to get across, and that is kindness,” said Facini’s father Peter, who tossed a ceremonial first pitch. “It takes courage to be kind sometimes — to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to somebody. And conversely, if you’re in trouble and you need help, you need to be able to ask somebody for help. It’s a difficult world and these kids give us great [hope].”

Without warning, Facini had felt her heart race, and passed out just seconds later. Despite efforts by her mother, Bernadette, a registered nurse, Facini was unable to be revived. The mother said she’s moved each and every year by how the community and the teams react to the game, especially now that most of the current student-athletes had never met her daughter.

“It comes down through the teachers, the parents; ‘Who is this girl, what does she mean to people and why?’ and they all do it proudly,” she said. “We are humbled by it every year and we’re shocked that it gets bigger and bigger. These are absolutely remarkable, nice boys. This event is really wonderful, and we’re lucky.”

Rocky Point senior pitcher and outfielder Ryan Callahan dedicated his time and efforts, taking part in the fundraiser that gathered $500 for the scholarship through food sales and raffles.

“I didn’t know her, but anyone you talk to says she was such a great person,” Callahan said. “I heard from everyone who’d known her that she was such an amazing human being, always so kind to everyone and left such a big and lasting impact on people. This is just our way to memorialize that.”

Jessica LaCascia, Facini’s longtime friend and classmate, said it’s the type of event her friend would’ve been first in line for.

“She would be dancing in the dugout like they are,” she said, pointing to the teammates that shook their hips to the music that played between each inning. “Susie was friends with everybody — there was not a stranger in her life. She was just such a bright light. Anytime she entered a room you couldn’t help but laugh; she commanded all of the attention. [I look around] and I don’t know anyone here, so I’m so thankful for all the people here coming out to celebrate what her life meant.”

Donations to the Live Like Susie Memorial Scholarship can be made in person or by mail to the high school at 90 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road, Rocky Point, NY, 11778.

Bill Landon contributed reporting

Rocky Point and Mount Sinai faced off in the Suffolk County baseball championship game in 2016, and though the schools are rivals, they’re on the same team once a year to honor Susie Facini.

A Rocky Point High School graduate, Facini died in November 2011 at 19 years old of a sudden heart attack. Without warning, she felt her heart race, and passed out just seconds later. Despite efforts of her mother, Bernadette, a registered nurse, Facini was unable to be revived.

Susie Facini’s parents, Bernadette and Pete, during the fourth-annual Live Like Susie baseball game and fundraising event. Photo by Bill Landon

The Rocky Point alumna had an immediate impact on everyone she met. Her reach was so strong, that over 3,000 people came to her one-day wake. As a result of her death, 18-year teacher Andrew Aschettino, head coach of the Rocky Point baseball team, felt compelled to host a baseball game in her memory.

“She was genuinely concerned for other people — she was the happiest person,” Aschettino said. “With a smile, she always had something nice to say about everybody everyday. Everyone was happier just by being around her, and that’s what we’re trying to spread.”

Rocky Point assistant coach Eric Strovink said Aschettino called up their good friend and Mount Sinai baseball team’s head coach, Eric Reichenbach, in 2014 to ask if his Mustangs would compete in a yearly game in Facini’s honor.

“Reichenbach said, ‘We’re in for as long as you guys do this,’” said Strovink, a Shoreham-Wading River graduate. “That’s pretty impressive.”

The two teams faced off May 6 in the annual Live Like Susie game, which raises money for a scholarship in Facini’s name. There’s no requirement for the student who receives the scholarship except that they be a kind and giving person.

“It’s extremely heartwarming,” Facini’s father Pete said of the event. “This is a community that came together to make something great out of something that is so sad and tragic. Susie represented nothing but kindness and that message transcends what has happened. These people here recognize it, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Mount Sinai tops Rocky Point

By Bill Landon

Although the matchup was in the name of a good cause, someone needed to come out on top, and with a five-run sixth inning put Mount Sinai’s baseball team ahead 9-2 at Ridge’s Fireman’s Field.

Mount Sinai senior Dan Deckert’s bat cracked first, drilling a home run over the left field fence and bringing home classmate Will Esposito for an early 2-0 lead. Mount Sinai junior George Rainer took a healthy lead off second base, and senior Alex Giantonnio helped bring him home for a three-run lead with a shot to deep right field.

Rocky Point junior John Rosman took the egg off the scoreboard for the Eagles, sending the ball through the gap and sending home senior Shane Owensby to make it a two-run game, 3-1.

The Mustangs found themselves in trouble in the bottom of the third inning when senior Robert Lindstrom walked a batter to loaded the bases with one out. Lindstrom focused in on his next two batters, and escaped the inning without letting up a run.

The team found itself in trouble yet again in the bottom of the fourth, but this time, the Eagles capitalized, with a run coming in off a walk with the bases loaded to cut the lead in half, 4-2.

Then, Mount Sinai’s bats caught fire in the top of the sixth with a pair of unearned runs, and followed it with a bases-clearing three-RBI single for a 9-2 lead and the win.

Rocky Point hit the road May 8 for the first of a three-game series against Sayville, coming up just short 5-4. The Eagles will host Sayville and Mount Sinai will host Elwood-John Glenn May 9 at 4:30 p.m.

He and his wife said they enjoy seeing that even though the current students and members of the baseball team may not have known their daughter, they’re excited to be a playing in such a special game.

“These boys never knew her, and we’re very proud,” Bernadette Facini said. “Sometimes I’ll be out shopping and I’ll see one of the kids from Mount Sinai with a purple bracelet on that says Live Like Susie or they’re wearing a Live Like Susie T-shirt, so we are so humbled by the kindness. She was adored by so many and she was just a joy to be around. She literally went from group to group to group — there were no outsiders in her life — and that’s why we keep the kindness award and scholarship going in her name.”

Reichenbach said he’s also proud to be part of the event.

“Our communities are so close — the kids all know each other — so it’s just good people getting together for a good cause,” he said. “I know [Susie Facini] was a big part of coach Asch’s life. It’s a great way to keep her memory alive.”

Parents donate food for the event, and in return for the free food, there’s a suggested donation toward the scholarship. Last year, $1,000 was raised, and with an even larger turnout at this year’s game, Aschettino said he’s hoping for an even bigger scholarship.

Cassie Rando, last year’s recipient, was home from college and attended the crosstown matchup. Bernadette Facini pointed to her as a reason why the family and the baseball teams keep doing what they’re doing. But Aschettino pointed to the Facinis as the real motivators.

“It’s a classic case of where the apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” he said. “Their son Andy is also a great kid — they’re just great kids from a great family.”

Rocky Point students and Eagles’ team members like Brian Forbes feel the same way.

“It just shows how we can all come together as a family,” the senior said. “[Mount Sinai doesn’t] have to do this, but they do. That shows how great they are.”

Senior Matt Pendl said he likes seeing the two teams continue to come together each year with mutual respect and admiration for a beloved community member.

“This is so important — it shows that there’s more important things in life than just baseball,” he said. “We had a blast celebrating the memory of someone who was just a great individual. I was not fortunate enough to know Susie, but my three older brothers who went to this school were fortunate enough to know her, and all I’ve heard is that she was an amazing person. This event is just a great way to remember her.”

To donate to the Live Like Susie scholarship, contact Rocky Point High School at 631-744-1600 or visit the school at 82 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road.

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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