July 1, 2010
Title: Empire of Riches: Long Island lacrosse’s Empire State Games opens doors and as a tradition, is second to none
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: July 2010
Start Page: 42
Word Count: 1,059
Max Seibald is one of the most recognizable names in lacrosse.
Just in the last year the 22-year-old midfielder was chosen second overall in the 2009 Major League Lacrosse draft, led Cornell to the NCAA title game and won the Tewaaraton Trophy as the college player of the year.
Yet his rise from unknown high schooler to elite prospect seemingly happened overnight at the Empire State Games, New York’s annual Olympic-style festival. Earning a roster spot on the Long Island scholastic boys’ lacrosse team is a sure ticket to stardom.
Look no further than Seibald, who tried out after a strong junior season at Hewlett High School. But he was among 500 other Long Island hopefuls vying for 20 spots in June 2004. Seibald auditioned the previous summer and was cut the first day. What were the odds a kid with only moderate Division III interest could turn heads and land a job?
“Coming back the next year, it was intimidating,” Seibald said. “You see college coaches on the sidelines. It motivated you but also made you grip the stick a little bit tighter. This was my first experience at this level and I wanted to make things happen.”
Seibald not only made the team, he starred. His roommate on the road that summer? Notre Dame goalie Scott Rodgers, a Wantagh native and MVP of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Empires put Seibald on a new trajectory. On the first day college coaches could make contact, the Hewlett teen received an early-morning phone call that woke him up. Then-Princeton coach Bill Tierney was on the other end. The offers came pouring in from there.
That’s the Empire effect.
“It’s been a springboard for kids to get into college,” longtime ESG lacrosse coordinator George Fox said. “There were some kids who have made this team that were surprises. And there were some kids expected to make this team who didn’t.”
Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala agreed. Before he grew into one of the great defensemen in lacrosse history and won two national titles as a coach, Pietramala was an unassuming junior at St. Mary’s High School. Then he earned a spot on the inaugural 1984 Empire State Games squad.
“I wouldn’t be sitting where I am right now if I hadn’t played in the Empires,” said Pietramala, who was recruited to Johns Hopkins as a player only after his ESG performance. “That’s the God’s honest truth. I would have never gone to Johns Hopkins.”
The Empire State Games resumes in Buffalo from July 21-25 after a one-year hiatus forced by recession fears and a state-wide budget crunch. The event draws 7,000 teenaged and adult athletes in 33 sports and has been a summer staple since Gov. Hugh Carey opened the first Games in 1978.
These Games are more cash conscious than ever before. Buffalo area businesses pledged $1.1 million in cash and in-kind support. And for the first time, ESG decided to charge athletes a $10 registration fee.
While some grumble whether the Empire State Games should even move forward at a time when the state threatened to close parks, others are glad to see the Games back. They are a rite of passage, especially in the lacrosse community.
For lacrosse players, the void was filled by the Long Island Showcase Games, an event sponsored by the Nassau and Suffolk coaches associations. As much attention as it garnered for the sport, the Showcase couldn’t replicate the Empire experience.
“I was disappointed. But I was disappointed for Long Island,” Sachem North coach Jay Mauro said. He was a former player and now he’s the Long Island coach. “This is prestigious. It’s great for the kids. We’ve medaled every year. I’m just glad they brought it back this summer.”
That’s why a record 630 players showed up at ESG boys lacrosse tryouts in 2008, and why another 558 registered to compete for a Long Island roster spot by the end of May. And the alumni? A who’s who of lacrosse greats.
Scholastic girls lacrosse, introduced to the Empire State Games in 2001, has medaled each year and won the last three golds. The girls boast the same talent, if not the tradition.
“It’s really the flagship sport,” Fox said. “It means a lot to the kids to make this team. They realize they are representing Long Island. This is the highest level, a select all-star team in an event that’s been important over the years.”
With Fox at the helm, Long Island’s scholastic boys lacrosse team has developed into an elite program with a demanding schedule that’s served to sharpen any rough edges on the assembled talent. Five days of tryouts in each county were followed by a Top 50 game. The final team was announced with fanfare at Hofstra on June 25th.
Then comes the hard part: A month of practice to go with three out-of-state tournaments. All of it serves as a warm-up to the Games themselves—five games in three grueling days in the heat of summer followed by a medal round at Canisius College in Buffalo.
“That is a high-profile sport on Long Island,” Long Island region director Bob Kenney said. “We are the team to beat. And who knows what it would be like if we had an open team?”
True enough. The 2008 Long Island squad drilled Western, 14-3, in the gold medal game. Rocky Point’s Matt Palasek scored five times and West Islip’s Nicky Galasso, the top prospect in the class of 2010, added a goal and three assists.
To the chagrin of the state’s other five regions, the victory locked up Long Island’s fourth straight gold medal and 15th overall. The scholastic boys have medaled every year since the sport’s inception in 1984, a feat on par with the Harlem Globetrotters.
As if playing for a college scholarship or Long Island pride weren’t enough, the 2010 team has a unique opportunity at history.
“We’ve never won five golds in a row,” Fox said.
One way or another, this collection of talent from every corner of Long Island will turn heads. Whether they bring home gold medallion keepsakes, or a scholarship offer or an unforgettable memory, the Empire State Games experience is rich and lasting.
May 1, 2010
Title: Softball’s Dynasty: Bay Shore softball coach Jim McGowan has a legacy beyond more than wins and championships
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: May 2010
Start Page: 36
Word Count: 966
Jim McGowan leaned against the chain link backstop, surrounded by reminders of his championship past, his gaze trained on the promising present but his words focused on the future.
Billboards adorn the dugout at Fifth Avenue Elementary, where McGowan built the Bay Shore High School softball program into a dynasty. These monuments to seasons past tick off accomplishments so long they read like the nutrition label on a cereal box.
On this sun-drenched Saturday, the players warmed up in the outfield for a scrimmage as the coach paused for an interview. Yes, the Marauders have high expectations after losing in the Suffolk Class AA championship series a year ago. So much promise lay ahead.
But so does the finality of a decision the legendary coach made long ago. When his daughter Taylor McGowan graduates, he’ll move on.
“I’m done after next year,” said McGowan, 58, also a social worker at the school. “I just want to go out on top. It’s time.”
Taylor McGowan literally grew up in the Bay Shore dugout. The youngest of four children sat in a stroller behind home plate as mom Robin McGowan filmed games. And when she was old enough to stand up straight, Taylor McGowan assumed the role of mascot before growing into the job of team manager.
She finally stepped into the pitcher’s circle as an eighth grader, fulfilling what she was destined to do—pitch for the Marauders. She was the Suffolk League II pitcher of the year and a Newsday All-Long Island pick as a sophomore.
“I’ve been going to games for as long as I can remember,” Taylor McGowan said. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I could not wait to be on the team.”
At the start of her junior campaign, she has just one goal—win.
Bay Shore has come frustratingly close the last few seasons. It lost in the 2006 state title game. In 2007, the Marauders fell to Long Beach in the Long Island championship game. The 2008 team lost to West Babylon in the county semifinals. And last year Brentwood beat Bay Shore in the county championship series. Long Beach, West Babylon and Brentwood each won state titles.
“We’re getting closer each year,” Taylor McGowan said. “This is our year. Each year we lost to the eventual state champion. It’s our turn.”
The numbers are astounding. Jim McGowan has won 609 games, 23 league, 11 Suffolk County, nine Long Island and six state championships in 27 seasons.
Yet his greatest legacy has little to do with wins, titles or accolades. Look around Long Island and you will see a softball landscape redefined by the in-your-face taskmaster. He’s tutored pitchers for rival schools. Two sons are successful high school softball coaches. Two former players coach (and countless others are assistants, coached in the past or are mainstays in different sports). And when McGowan steps aside after the 2011 season, another former Bay Shore pupil will succeed him in Jackie Pasquerella.
“My [players] are my judgment,” McGowan said. “I love my kids and respect my kids. That’s my legacy. Hopefully I made a difference in their lives.”
It’s a living legacy that says more about the man than any plaque ever could. His influence will live on long after his accomplishments become forgotten clutter in the trophy cases at Bay Shore High School.
Truth is, no one has won more high school softball games in state history than McGowan. And he’s done it his way—equal parts motivational speaker and drill sergeant with a dash of Martha Stewart perfectionism. His gruff act has drawn plenty of critics over the years.
“A lot of times [the criticism is] unwarranted,” said son Jimmy McGowan, in his 10th season as the Hauppauge softball coach. “If he was 12-10 every year people would say he gets the most out of his talent. The fact that he goes 25-2? People like winning but they don’t like winners. That’s a big part of it with him.”
“Jim is a tremendous student of the game and really works at it,’’ Hofstra coach Bill Edwards said. “He always has the kids’ best interests at heart. He’s old school and uncompromising in his values, which kids today need.”
The supporters are winning out. McGowan will be inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame on May 6.
“It’s about time,” said son Jason McGowan, a third-year softball coach at Plainedge. “I don’t know why it took this long. It’s a huge accomplishment. But he deserves it.”
Back on the field, McGowan gathered his team in a circle and went over a mental checklist before the scrimmage. Preparation is an important ingredient to his success. Little wonder why he owns an incredible .888 winning percentage and the longest winning streak in state softball history (54 wins from 1994-95 with Pasquerella in the lineup).
“Practice makes perfect,” Taylor McGowan said. “That’s what he’s been telling me since I was 7.”
Oh, Jim McGowan has a saying for every occasion.
“Our motto this year is: No better time, no better team,” the elder McGowan said. “The name of the game is pitching and we have two All-Long Island pitchers. I feel good about this team. ”
The coach knows the clock is ticking. After three decades of kicking clay, taking on umpires, developing talent and hoisting championship plaques, the end is near. He’ll tackle it on his terms.
“I try to emulate what he does and hopefully I can be half as successful,’’ Jimmy McGowan said.
He’s already there. Hauppauge reached the Suffolk Class A championship series last season while Plainedge advanced to the second round of the Nassau Class A playoffs. So long as a McGowan is on a softball field somewhere on Long Island, past, present and future remain perfectly aligned.
April 19, 2010
Title: Super 75: Top Long Island Boys LAX Players
Publication: MSG Varsity.com
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: April 19, 2010
Word Count: 2,553
When it comes to high school boys lacrosse, no other region in the country compares with Long Island. From tradition-steeped Ward Melville, the excellence of Catholic school rivals Chaminade and St. Anthony’s to the budding dynasty at West Islip, the breadth and depth of the sport on Long Island is impressive.
The individual talent the Island produces each spring can only be compared with other heralded prospect-rich locales, such as South Florida football, Southern California baseball and New York City basketball. You want dominance? Look no further than the Empire State Games, where Long Island has won 15 of the last 25 gold medals.
So it comes as no surprise that Inside Lacrosse magazine’s Top 50 seniors in the nation included 10 Long Islanders. West Islip’s Nicky Galasso is rated No. 1. MSG Varsity compiled its own list of top players for the 2010 season. Of course Galasso made the cut. But check out who else did too. Here is MSG Varsity’s Super 75 Long Island players of 2010 (in alphabetical order):
Gavin Ahern, South Side, Senior, Attack: This big lefty was an All-Nassau pick as a junior. He’s tied for the county lead with 25 goals in eight games. Signed with Penn State.
Richie Akpinatis, Hauppauge, Senior, Goalie: This tough-to-score-on goalie is an intimidating 6-3, 245. The All-Suffolk pick as a junior signed with Manhattan.
Michael Andreassi, Sachem North, Senior, Attack / Midfield: An All-Suffolk pick as a junior, Andreassi is a threat to score with either hand. The four-year starter has 20 goals in six games this spring. He put up nine points in a win over West Islip this season. Signed with UMass.
Tyler Begley, East Islip, Junior, Attack / Midfield: This Hofstra-bound talent was a serious point scorer as a sophomore with 46 goals. He’s a big target.
Drew Belinsky, Manhasset, Senior, Midfield: Led the Indians to the state Class C title a year ago. With seven starters from that team now playing NCAA Division I ball, Belinsky’s role has grown. Great athlete. Committed to Penn.
Evan Bloom, Sachem North, Senior, Defense: Played in the Long Island Showcase. His defensive prowess showed in the team’s upset of West Islip earlier this season. Committed to Dartmouth.
Tyler Brenneman, East Hampton, Senior, Midfield: One of the most prolific scorers in school history, Brenneman has 17 goals and 34 points in seven games this season. He scored three goals with four assists in a 15-11 victory over defending Long Island Class B champ Sayville. Signed with Notre Dame, where brother Zach is a junior.
Trevor Brosco, Shoreham-Wading River, Sophomore, Midfield: A great faceoff man with soft hands who can shoot lefty or righty on run. A team co-captain who compares well to another SWR star: 2003 All-American Tony Ferriera.
Ricky Buhr, Manhasset, Senior, Midfield: This Syracuse-bound talent is a faceoff machine and one of the cogs in last season’s state Class C championship team.
Pat Candon, Holy Trinity, Junior, Attack: An All-NSCHSAA pick a year ago. This young gun already has 19 goals in CHSAA play.
Jesse Chazen, Jericho, Junior, Attack: An All-Nassau pick as a sophomore, Chazen has emerged as a true offensive force this spring. He’s tied for the county lead with 25 goals in seven games.
Steven Christofides, Glenn, Senior, Goalie: Played in the Long Island Showcase last summer. Christofides made 20 saves in a 10-3 win over Huntington this season. Enough said. Headed to Limestone College.
Tom Cleary, Comsewogue, Senior, Midfield: All-Suffolk pick as a junior is headed to Dowling. A true scorer, the 6-1 Cleary is fast and boasts a hard shot. Scored 25 goals a year ago.
Austin Cohen, Glenn, Senior, Defense: A rugged, 1,000-yard running back in football, Cohen was an All-Suffolk pick in lacrosse a year ago. He’s an Under Armour Long Island All-Star. Headed to Dartmouth.
Eddie Collins, Long Beach, Senior, Goalie: Led Long Beach to 2008 Nassau Class A title game and was an All-Nassau pick as a junior. He’s an Under Armour Long Island All-Star.
Ryan Curley, Eastport-South Manor, Sophomore, Attack: Starred in the Long Island Showcase sophomore game and has opened the season in impressive fashion with 23 points in seven games.
Greg Danseglio, St. Anthony’s, Junior, Defense: IL’s No. 15 junior after helping the Friars win the state CHSAA title a year ago. Already committed to Virginia.
Greg D’Arienzo, Carey, Senior, Midfield: An All-Long Island football player, D’Arienzo tallied
21 goals and 32 assists on the lacrosse field. This Under Armour Long Island All-Star is headed to Maryland.
Tom DeNapoli, Lynbrook, Senior, Attack: An Under Armour Long Island All-Star, DeNapoli is among the Nassau scoring leaders with 31 points in eight games. He is headed to Towson.
Ryan DeSimone, Smithtown East, Junior, Attack: IL’s No. 22 junior has already committed to Villanova.
Al DeStefano, Ward Melville, Senior, Midfield: Team co-captain and speedster. Also an impact player in football and indoor track. Committed to Army.
Devin Dwyer, Garden City, sophomore, Attack: Rated one of IL’s Rising Sophomores, Dwyer was an All-Nassau pick as a freshman and a top assist man. He sees the field and is a crisp passer.
Mike Ehrhardt, Chaminade, Senior, Defense: IL’s No. 45 prospect and an Under Armour Long Island All-Star. He was an All-Long Island football player. Signed with Maryland.
Brian Fischer, Garden City, Junior, Defense: IL’s No. 18 junior was part of Garden City’s Nassau Class B title team in 2009. Was named a U.S. Lacrosse All-American as a sophomore. Already committed to Harvard.
Jake Frocarro, Port Washington, Sophomore, Attack / Midfield: An IL Rising Sophomore and the brother of Princeton’s Jake Frocarro. He’s among the Nassau goal scoring leaders with 17.
Nicky Galasso, West Islip, Senior, Attack: The nation’s No. 1 prospect, according to Inside Lacrosse. West Islip has won three of the last four state Class A championships. He was named Newsday player of the year after scoring 71 goals and 136 points. Galasso is off to another fast start with 21 goals and 33 points in six games. Galasso signed with North Carolina, the gem of IL’s top-ranked college recruiting class.
Jake Gambitsky, Wantagh, Junior, Goalie: IL’s No. 38 junior is drawing a lot of attention from recruiters. He recorded 20 saves in a win over Lynbrook this season.
Brandon Gamblin, Hicksville, Junior, Midfield: Scored five goals in Long Island championship loss to West Islip a year ago to finish with 36 on the season. Strong on defense.
Nick Giampaolo, Ward Melville, Senior, Attack: Opened the new season on a tear, with 17 goals and 25 assists. Signed with D-I Bryant.
Nick Gibaldi, Rocky Point, Senior, Goalie: From backup to starter, there are high expectations for Gibaldi. The talent is there. So far so good. Signed with Wagner.
Robert Goeren, Massapequa, Senior, Midfield: Currently among the Nassau scoring leaders with 27 points, he had three goals and three assists in an upset of defending champ Baldwin. Signed with D-I Bryant.
Zak Goldbach, Plainview JFK, Junior, Attack: Ranked No. 50 in IL’s junior class. He’s among the Nassau leaders with 24 points in seven games.
Tom Gordon, Garden City, Junior, Attack / Midfield: Helped lead Garden City to the Nassau Class B title last season. Three-year starter and great finisher. Already committed to Johns Hopkins.
Austin Heneveld, East Hampton, Senior, Attack / Midfield: Has already recorded 29 points in East Hampton’s high-scoring attack. Headed to Navy.
Will Himler, Chaminade, Senior, Attack: IL’s No. 9 prospect. Himler had 15 points and 27 a year ago. He already has 13 assists this season. Headed to Princeton.
Andrew Hodgson, West Islip, Senior, Attack / Midfield: This Towson-bound talent is IL’s No. 10 prospect. Hodgson came up big down the stretch of West Islip’s state Class A championship run. He had four goals in the county title win over Ward Melville and two more in the state final against Orchard Park.
Adam Hull, Smithtown East, Senior, Attack / Midfield: Starred in the Long Island Showcase game last summer. He has 25 points in six games this season. Headed to Dartmouth.
Stephen Jahelka, Garden City, Junior, Defense: IL’s No. 8 junior and member of the Trojans’ Nassau Class B championship team last season. This three-year starter is tough, as evidenced by his Newsday All-Long Island selection at linebacker. Already committed to Harvard.
Myles Jones, Whitman, Junior, Midfield: IL’s No. 6 rated junior, the 6-4 Jones is a pure athlete and unstoppable one-on-one. He helped Whitman upset Ward Melville this season.
Kyle Keenan, Smithtown West, Junior, Attack: IL’s No. 41 junior. Keenan is second in Suffolk with 38 points (25 assists) through six games. He forms a great tandem with James Pannell. He’s an early commitment for Duke.
Tom Kelly, Rocky Point, Senior, Midfield: Kelly was part of a state Class B championship team in 2008, but the season ended in the Suffolk semis a year ago. The faceoff master signed with powerhouse Virginia. He’s out injured, but should be back for the playoffs.
Christian Kennedy, Cold Spring Harbor, Senior, Midfield: IL’s No. 37 prospect. An All-Nassau pick a year ago, Kennedy has 10 goals in six games this season. Committed to Georgetown.
Matt Kunkel, Ward Melville, Senior, Defense: A three-sport athlete and an All-Suffolk selection as a junior. He’s considered a lock-down defender. Signed with Duke.
James Lang, Hicksville, Senior, Defense: Key member of Nassau Class A championship team last season and defensive MVP of the county final. An All-Nassau pick and Under Armour Long Island All-Star. Signed with St. John’s.
Cam Lee, Cold Spring Harbor, Junior, Midfield: This lefty is an important cog in the Seahawks’ attack. Lee is already committed to Duke.
Joe Leonard, Hicksville, Junior, Attack: Leonard scored three times in the Nassau Class A title game, including the winner, to beat Baldwin a year ago. Once again Leonard is among the Nassau scoring leaders with 18 goals and 26 points. Already committed to UMass.
Dylan Levings, Plainedge, Senior, Midfield: All-Nassau player for county Class B semifinalist last season. This faceoff dynamo is an Under Armour Long Island All-Star. Committed to Yale.
Joe LoCascio, St. Anthony’s, Junior, Midfield: IL’s No. 29 junior. Has 13 points so far. Both his father and uncle were D-I lacrosse players. Already committed to Maryland.
Zach Losco, Hauppauge, Senior, Midfield: Ran the 55 meters during the indoor track season, so he’s a burner. Among the Suffolk scoring leaders this season with 13 assists and 26 points. Headed to Penn.
Sean Mahon, Chaminade, Junior, Midfield: IL’s No. 37 junior has been a leader at each level. He was Chaminade’s freshman (2008) and JV (2009) team MVPs. Has 7 goals so far.
Brandon Mangan, Wantagh, Senior, Attack: This two-time All-Nassau pick scored 56 goals and 29 assists a year ago. He’s an Under Armour Long Island All-Star. Committed to Yale.
Will Mazzone, Ward Melville, Junior, Attack: IL’s No. 26 junior. Mazzone has 10 goals and 19 points in a deep lineup. Committed early to Army.
Kieran McArdle, Connetquot, Senior, Attack: Great assist man has formed quite a one-two punch with fellow senior Matt McQuade. He currently leads Suffolk with 28 assists and 46 points. Signed with St. John’s.
Sean McCann, St. Mary’s, Senior, Midfield: All McCann has done is explode for 30 goals in five games, leading the CHSAA and propelling St. Mary’s to a 5-0 start. He’ll join brother James at Belmont Abbey College.
Dan Mellynchuk, Sayville, Senior, Defense: Helped Sayville to the Long Island Class B title a year ago. Signed with Maryland.
Maxx Meyer, Half Hollow Hills East, Senior, Midfield: Long stick specialist is IL’s No. 24 prospect. He was a Newsday All-Long Island pick as a junior, contributing 12 goals. Committed to Penn.
Chris Moriarty, Cold Spring Harbor, Junior, Midfield: Scored in the Nassau Class C title game a year ago. Has 5 goals and 7 assists this season. Already committed to Penn.
Brandon Noblett, East Meadow, Junior, Attack: An outstanding center in football, this brick wall on the lacrosse field is physical — and deceptively fast.
Zach Oliveri, Connetquot, Senior, Goalie: This elite stopper has Connetquot soaring with 17 saves against Sachem North and 15 more against Ward Melville. Signed with UMass.
James Pannell, Smithtown West, Sophomore, Attack: An IL Rising Sophomore with great instincts. Naturally, older brother Rob plays at Cornell. He has 14 assists and 27 points so far.
Ryan Payton, Floyd, Senior, Attack: Talented lefty is among the top Suffolk goal scorers with 18. Signed with Manhattan.
Michael Pellegrino, Connetquot, Junior, Defense: IL’s No. 19 junior is a two-time All-Suffolk pick and a physical presence. Already committed to John’s Hopkins.
Kyle Rebman, Baldwin, Senior, Attack: Led Baldwin to a Nassau Class A title game in 2009, tallying 59 goals and 26 assists. He’s currently second in Nassau with 39 points and third in goals (23). The All-Nassau pick signed with Jacksonville.
Mike Rooney, East Islip, Senior, Attack: QB for county finalist football squad. He’s already proving to be a great one-two tandem with teammate Kevin Wendel. Rooney has 29 points and 16 assists in six games.
Tim Rotanz, Shoreham-Wading River, Freshman, Attack: Started as eighth grader on senior-laden team. He’s a 5-11 lefty, the son of coach Tom Rotanz and plays like it. Great vision and hard driver to the cage. Rotanz has 15 goals and 11 assists in five games.
Jimmy Ryan, Ward Melville, Senior, Midfield: Missed the entire regular season with a back injury as a junior. Ryan has gotten off to a solid start in 2010 with 5 goals and 7 assists in seven games. Played RB in football. Committed to Colgate.
Eric Schneider, Massapequa, Senior, Goalie: IL’s No. 33 prospect had 15 saves in a big win over defending Nassau Class A champ Baldwin this month. Schneider was an All-Nassau pick as a junior. Signed with John Hopkins.
Tom Schreiber, St. Anthony’s, Senior, Midfield: Newsday All-Long Island pick and U.S. Lacrosse All-American as a junior and IL’s No. 4 prospect. He led the Friars to a CHSFL football title at QB, so he’s tough and clutch. Headed to Princeton.
Brendan Schroeder, St. Anthony’s, Senior, Attack / Midfield: This sure-handed talent played WR on a championship football team and is IL’s No. 49 prospect. He’s headed to Navy.
Derek Sganga, Eastport-South Manor, Junior, Defense: This lefty has gotten rave reviews from rival coaches for causing havoc. An excellent defender with a knack for timely goals too.
Kevin Teresky, Whitman, Junior, Attack: Played in the Long Island Showcase last summer. He is the second-leading goal scorer in Suffolk with 24.
Doug Tesoriero, Syosset, Senior, Midfield: Helped Syosset reach the state Class A title game as a sophomore. Off to a fast start with 14 goals in seven games for the Braves. Committed to Cornell.
John Urbank, Chaminade, Senior, Defense: IL’s No. 36 prospect and a key part of Chaminade’s run at a 2010 state CHSAA title. Signed with Georgetown. Younger brother Paul is a rising sophomore.
Kevin Wendel, East Islip, Junior, Midfield: It’s been a big junior year so far. This prolific scorer has already amassed 20 goals and 27 points in six games. And he’s already committed to Navy.
Alex Zomerfeld, Comsewogue, Senior, Midfield: Three-year starter and All-Suffolk pick a year ago. He’s a selfless player, just as happy getting the assist as scoring, according to coach Pete Mitchell. QB on the football team. Signed with Bryant.
Originally published at MSG Varsity.com
April 1, 2010
Title: Who’s On First?: Never fear baseball fans, the next big thing is warming up in the on deck circle
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: April 2010
Start Page: 44
Word Count: 893
With a vicious uppercut swing, the baseball jolted off the bat and sailed over the right fielder’s head. He stopped giving chase after only a few steps toward the outfield wall. Fans on the grassy berm began to back peddle, attempting to track the flying object. But it sailed past them too.
The mammoth grand slam landed beyond the picnic tables and bounced over yet another fence before disappearing into the palm-filled Florida landscape.
“A bomb for Ike Davis!” SNY announcer Kevin Burkhardt shouted excitedly, as if it were 1986 all over again.
No one made a bigger splash at Spring Training than Ike Davis. The New York Mets prospect sprayed the field and showcased game-changing power throughout his March audition in Port St. Lucie, Fla., doing his best to lay claim to the first base job.
His March 4th grand slam against the St. Louis Cardinals was just one of the many promising moments for Mets fans everywhere. It also highlighted a central theme of America’s pastime: Prospect watching. Whether your team is in first place or on the way to losing 100 games, promising minor leaguers keep the faithful going.
“Wait ‘til next year!” was once a popular refrain in Brooklyn among Dodgers fans. The Mets have picked up the torch of late. No team suffered more cruel and freak injuries a year ago, prompting a flood of not-ready-for-prime-time rookies to take the field.
Carlos Delgado was just one of the veterans who broke down and left a void. The Mets opted not to bring back the slugging first baseman, handing the job to Daniel Murphy during the off-season and dispatching former great Keith Hernandez to work with the youngster at fielding the position.
But first base is not Murphy’s natural spot and it may be only a matter of time before the Mets turn to Davis, the 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft out of Arizona State. The left-handed Davis, 23, batted .309 with 13 homers and 43 RBI in 207 at bats last season at Double-A Binghamton. He’ll likely start at Triple-A Buffalo. Who’s on first? Look for Ike Davis to relocate to Flushing at some point in 2010.
No rookie made an impact for the New York Yankees on the road to a 27th World Series championship. Sure, Francisco Cervelli filled in admirably for catcher Jorge Posada last May and Ramiro Pena hit for average at third base while Alex Rodriguez was out. Those were the highlights.
The Yankees, as always, used their best prospects as poker chips in off-season trades to acquire Curtis Granderson and Javier Vasquez. So talented outfielder Austin Jackson and hard-throwing pitcher Arodys Vizcaino are gone. Barring injury, you won’t see many players shuttle between Scranton, Penn., and the Bronx this summer, either.
But the Mets are another story. If recent history is any indication, expect a revolving door of endless possibilities. Truth is, there are plenty of youngsters to get excited about for Yankees and Mets fans alike, starting with Ike Davis. With that in mind, here is Long Island Pulse Magazine’s prospect watch:
New York Mets
Ike Davis, 1B: This power hitter is the son of one-time Yankees pitcher Ron Davis, and a former hurler himself in college. His career path compares favorably with Brewers star Ryan Braun. The lefty lengthened his swing and kills right-handed pitching. Outlook: Citi Field by the All-Star Break.
Fernando Martinez, OF: Not to be outdone by Davis this spring, Martinez maintained his status as one of baseball’s brightest prospects with a strong March. He’s already seen time in the big leagues and been sidetracked by injury. But people forget Martinez is just 21 and still developing. He was the Caribbean Series MVP in February. Outlook: He’ll be the first injury replacement from Buffalo.
Jenrry Mejia, RHP: Manager Jerry Manuel compared the 20-year-old Dominican to Mariano Rivera. Perhaps an overstatement, but not by much. His pitches touch mid-90s and Mejia possesses the same cutter Rivera dominates hitters with. But the Mets must balance his overall development with filling an immediate need in the bullpen. Outlook: September call-up.
New York Yankees
Jesus Montero, C: Called the organization’s best hitting prospect since Derek Jeter, an injury by Nick Johnson may be all it takes to get Montero to the Bronx. MLB.com ranked this Venezuelan as baseball’s 19th best prospect and projects him to first base or DH. He boasted a .539 slugging percentage at Double-A Trenton. Just 20, he’ll start the season in Triple-A Scranton. Outlook: September call-up.
Austin Romine, C: Jorge Posada is getting old and Francisco Cervelli suffered a concussion this Spring, which means an opportunity could be just around the corner. The Yankees’ minor league player of the year, Romine, 21, hit .276 with 13 homers and 72 RBI in 442 at bats at Class A Tampa. He is a defensive catcher with a solid bat and could develop into a fixture behind the plate. Outlook: September call-up.
Zach McAllister, RHP: With Arodys Vizcaino traded, McAllister becomes the best pitching prospect in the system. The Yankees’ minor league pitcher of the year, the 22-year-old starter opens his fifth pro season just an injury away from the fifth starter spot. He went 7-5 with a 2.23 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 121 innings at Trenton. Outlook: With the aged Andy Pettitte and fragile A.J. Burnett one pitch away from breakdown, who knows?
March 1, 2010
Title: New Yorker’s Guide To Spring Training: Take in a Yankees and Mets exhibition while enjoying Florida’s warm distractions
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: March 2010
Start Page: 39
Word Count: 1,041
Forget that heart-warming parade through the Canyon of Heroes. There’s another good reason to thank the baseball gods Spring Training is finally here: It’s been a damn cold winter.
For New York baseball fans, the Grapefruit League offers an excuse to make a March pilgrimage to Florida, the land of sun, sand and amusement parks. The Yankees call Tampa home while the Mets make spring camp on the east coast in Port St. Lucie, part of MLB’s 15-team contingent in the state. The rest play in Arizona.
Whether you drive down or jet in, there’s nothing like a week chasing your favorite baseball team groupie-style through the Sunshine State. And the economic downturn—Florida has been particularly hard-hit—means everything is on sale and seats are aplenty.
Catching big league stars and rookies alike in the relaxed atmosphere that is Spring Training has been a favorite pastime of mine going back to my days as a teenager in Tampa Bay. I showed up an hour before game time in Kissimmee last March and got a first-row view behind home plate to the Marlins-Astros. Former President George H.W. Bush sat two sections over. More importantly, it was my first look at unknown Chris Coghlan. He homered, and by season’s end was the surprise NL Rookie of the Year. Score!
Of course, some tickets are tougher gets. The two-time NL champion Philadelphia Phillies have a state of the art complex in Clearwater and a rabid fan base. And I paid a premium (but hardly New York prices) for a Phillies-Blue Jays game in Dunedin a day later. Basking in the sun while chomping on peanuts and watching Chase Utley homer was worth every penny.
Newly renamed Steinbrenner Field, off busy Dale Mabry Highway in the heart of Tampa, used to be an impossible ticket. Not in recent seasons, although the Yankees bringing home world championship No. 27 in November, their first since 2000, may change the equation.
Showing up at the box office shouldn’t be a problem (that means you, Mets fans), especially on the road. But a little planning goes a long way. And if you happen to start your journey in South Florida, don’t forget to visit the loved ones in Century Village. Here is Long Island Pulse Magazine’s guide to Spring Training:
New York Yankees
Home: Tampa, Fla.
Stadium: George M. Steinbrenner Field
The Skinny: The defending champs will be a top draw, so prepare to battle crowds—and the media—if you stop by to watch morning workouts. At least this camp should be controversy free. Getting autographs is an art. BP and main fields after workouts are best bets. The minor league complex across the street is good too for up-and-comers. Just bring a Sharpie and patience. As for games, it’s rare to see a full lineup. But one tip is to look for ace pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. When they pitch, the regulars should start. The Yankees face NL champ Philadelphia five times this spring. Sorry haters, the Mets and Red Sox aren’t on the schedule. But get a first look at new additions Nick Johnson, Javier Vazquez and Curtis Granderson. Also, a great alternative is an Orlando vacation. The Yanks play the Braves and Astros in Kissimmee and the Tigers in Lakeland. You might book a cheaper flight there, too.
Five Key Games: Rays at Yankees, March 5, 1:15pm; Yankees at Twins (Ft. Myers), March 7, 1:05pm; Yankees at Phillies (Clearwater), March 22, 1:05pm; Phillies at Yankees, March 26, 7:30pm; Orioles at Yankees, April 2, 1:15pm.
Top Attractions: Adventure Island, Tampa (water park); Busch Gardens, Tampa (theme park); Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa (zoo); Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg (modern art); World Woods Golf Club, Brooksville (world-class golf); Pass-A-Grille Beach, St. Pete Beach (nicest beach).
Worth Noting: Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City (March 4-12); Spring Breakers flood Clearwater Beach; Hooters off Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. in Clearwater is the original; Ybor City is famous for hand-rolled cigars (try La Herencia De Cuba); March offers great snook, redfish and speckled trout fishing in the Bay area.
Swank Accommodations: Renaissance Tampa International Plaza, Tampa; Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, St. Petersburg; Don CeSar Loews, St. Pete Beach.
New York Mets
Home: Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Stadium: Tradition Field
The Skinny: After a pair of disastrous seasons, the hopeful tone of Spring Training should prove soothing. Also, there will be plenty to see, from the arrival of Jason Bay to the recovery of stars Jose Reyes and Johan Santana (Carlos Beltran will most likely still be inactive). According to one beat writer, autographs are easy to get. Arrive early, roam the open grounds and be on the lookout because David Wright could be lurking around the next corner. Game day traffic is horrific. As with the Yanks, scan the probable starters for Johan Santana. The Mets will field star power whenever their ace pitches. Just remember, there’s not much exciting about Port St. Lucie other than the games themselves. But it will be Spring Break in Daytona. So hit the road with the Mets instead. The Cardinals and Marlins share a facility to the south off I-95 in Jupiter while the Nationals play just north in Melbourne. The family-friendly Orlando area features the Braves, Astros and Tigers. Fly Southwest from Islip to West Palm Beach for convenience and a good deal. Or into Fort Lauderdale if you plan on hitting South Beach. And the Miami waves are surprisingly warm compared to say, Daytona.
Five Key Games: Mets at Braves (Kissimmee), March 3, 1:05pm; Red Sox at Mets, March 11, 1:10pm; Cardinals at Mets, March 15, 1:10pm; Twins at Mets, March 19, 1:10pm; Mets at Marlins (Jupiter), March 26, 1:05pm.
Top Attractions: PGA Golf Club, Port St. Lucie (golf); Navy Seal Museum, Fort Pierce; Manatee Observation and Education Center, Fort Pierce (wildlife tour).
Worth Noting: Drive A1A, one of America’s most scenic roads; The St. Lucie Inlet is diverse and offshore fishing promises sailfish and dolphin; Bike Hutchinson Island trails or kayak the St. Lucie or Indian rivers.
Swank Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn at PGA Village, Port St. Lucie; Courtyard by Marriott, Jensen Beach; Marriott Hutchinson Island, Stuart.
February 1, 2010
Title: Pride And Passion: Charles Jenkins carries the Hofstra basketball program—and a weighty past—on his shoulders
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: February 2010
Start Page: 48
Word Count: 907
Charles Jenkins literally carries a burden on his back. And it has nothing to do with basketball.
The junior guard on the Hofstra University men’s basketball team wears No. 22 in honor of his brother, Kareem Albritton, who in 2001 was shot and killed in Brooklyn at the too-young age of 22.
The violent death of a family member is something you never really get past. Just ask his coach, who understands better than most because he endures the weight of his own loss.
“I’ve talked to him intimately about it,” Hofstra coach Tom Pecora said. “I lost my first wife in a car accident. His brother was killed in a shooting. The point is, it’s how you live your life after that. It’s all about the dash. When somebody dies, the gravestone shows the day they were born and the day they died. It’s all about the dash. What did you do in between that? And I’ve asked Charles, ‘What kind of mark are you going to leave?’”
Jenkins can’t escape his past. He knows this. His coach knows it. All the Hofstra star can do is acknowledge and honor it.
So Jenkins, 20, embraces this fact, melding the tragic with the remarkable. When he became the first sophomore since Chris Mullin of St. John’s University in 1983 to win the Haggerty Award as the New York Metropolitan area’s best basketball player, he used the opportunity to speak about his fallen brother.
“I try to keep it in mind every day I step onto the floor,” Jenkins said. “That’s why I wear the number 22. He died when he was 22. He’s a major influence in my life. I play for him.”
The 6-foot, 3-inch, 220-pound Jenkins plays with a drive that’s transformed him into one of the nation’s top guards and turned Hofstra into a contender. The Pride will challenge for the Colonial Athletic Association title and berth in the NCAA Tournament after going 21-11 a year ago.
It began on the road in November against No. 1 Kansas, the first top-ranked team Hofstra had ever faced. Kansas routed the Pride, 101-65, but the experience proved invaluable.
“There are a lot of tough places to play in the CAA,” Hofstra center Greg Washington said. “But none of them will be like the crowd at Kansas. Drexel and UNC Wilmington—those are hostile environments. But Kansas is a different world. You step on the court and it’s like, ‘This is where Danny Manning played. This where Paul Pierce played.’
[Charles Jenkins] handled it like a man. He kept his head up and was always looking to make a play. 23 points is pretty hard to come by playing the No. 1 team in the country. He earned it.”
Then came a loss to perennial Big East power and 12th-ranked Connecticut, a game that the Pride actually led with 4:15 left.
“I thought that we had them,” said Jenkins, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “I thought we were going to win.”
No one has played a tougher early-season schedule. And facing the likes of Kansas guard Sherron Collins and UConn guard Jerome Dyson, each seasoned seniors with national reputations, Jenkins proved he belonged on the same stage. If Hofstra earns its fifth 20-win season over the last six years, it will be because of lessons learned facing these heavyweights in November.
“We will never play in a tougher environment,” Pecora said. “So for the rest of the year I can use that as a point of reference. ‘We’ve been to Allen Field House. The reason we went there is to be prepared for tonight.’”
Pecora has a disciple in Jenkins. The guard was born in Brooklyn, but grew up in Rosedale near Green Acres mall and starred at Springfield Gardens High School in Queens. St. John’s showed interest, but the Hofstra coaching staff found Jenkins early and developed a relationship that bloomed.
Mining for guards is a Pecora specialty. Coaches fell in love with Jenkins’ physical presence and work ethic. And at a mid-major program like Hofstra, outhustling and outmuscling the big boys is how you win. Jenkins is a hard-driving, physical guard who is a magnet to the basket.
“It makes it easy for you as a coach when your best player is your hardest worker,” Pecora said. “On the court. Off the court as a leader. In the weight room. With everything he does, he’s not only vocal, he leads by example. The guys have no choice but to fall in line.”
Jenkins, an All-CAA player as a sophomore, is the only returning player in the country who averaged at least 19 points, four rebounds and four assists per game last year. And he’s put up similar numbers for the Pride this season.
He became just the second player in program history to crack 1,000 career points as a sophomore and is on pace to finish his career as Hofstra’s all-time leading scorer. But the only statistics Jenkins cares about are wins and losses.
“We’re young and athletic and like to get after it,” Jenkins said. “We can have another 20-win season. It just depends on us.”
As the leader of the Pride, it’s a responsibility on Jenkins’ shoulders. When you consider his weighty past, you realize there’s nothing he can’t handle. Jenkins stares down bigger demons each time he slips on his No. 22 jersey, a reminder that every day is precious.
September 1, 2009
Title: Run Hard, Sell Hard: Stony Brook football hopes to win games and fans behind a pair of dynamic runners
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: September 2009
Start Page: 51
Word Count: 1038
Conte Cuttino and Ed Gowins cut intimidating figures without ever strapping on a pair of shoulder pads. The running backs possess a stat sheet that should be the talk of the nation. Their presence in the same backfield is something to behold.
There is nothing subtle about Gowins, from the tattoos landscaping his massive arms to the oversized diamond earring, emitting a sparkle as blinding as any sunset. Just imagine how the former Bellport High School star plays. It’s in-your-face power running for four quarters.
“They feel [me],’’ said Gowins, who was named National Freshman of the Year by College Sporting News. “That’s one of the things I like to do. When I see someone in front of me, I run them over. The second time they’ll think twice about trying to tackle me.”
So why is this dynamic duo getting so little attention? The truth is the foundation of Stony Brook University football might as well have been built on swampland. Sales jobs don’t get much harder.
College football may reign supreme in Los Angeles and Omaha—and every burg south of the Mason Dixon. But in the tri-state area, and Long Island in particular, the sport garners about as much respect as soap box racing.
And that’s understandable. Stony Brook finished 2008 with a losing record. The Seawolves have never won a postseason game in 25 years of existence. They have never even beaten big brother Hofstra, another small fish in the sea that is New York sports.
It’s all part of a muddied past, one whose narrative arc has been on a steady ascent.
The expectations are starting to simmer. For the first time, Stony Brook is a fully-funded, 63-scholarship program—on par with the rest of the Football Championship Subdivision (the oversized and overly confusing name of what was formerly known as NCAA Division I-AA football).
Stony Brook enters its second year in the competitive Big South Conference. And with the most dangerous running back tandem in college football, the program has created some insider buzz. With Cuttino and Gowins plowing through opposing defenses this fall, Stony Brook could be on the verge of a breakthrough season.
“I just let them play,’’ third-year coach Chuck Priore said. “I tell them all the time, ‘Just go play. If you both do your role as football players, then good things will happen to you.’ They are both talented enough.”
The team started 2008 off 1-5 and scored all of 10 points over three consecutive games, the last a 33-0 domination by nationally-ranked Liberty. Then Priore unleashed Cuttino and Gowins in the second half of last season with record-breaking results.
It turned on October 19, a 20-19 home win over Charleston Southern. Cuttino racked up his biggest performance to date with 107 rushing yards and redshirt freshman quarterback Dayne Hoffman tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass with 1:06 left. Gowins broke big runs on the winning drive.
“It probably took a little time to get things going,’’ said Cuttino, a senior from Uniondale. “Eddie and I were able to get things done at the end in a big way.”
Stony Brook won four of its final five games to finish in a second-place tie in the Big South Conference. And the Seawolves transformed from a sputtering offense to an unstoppable ground attack.
“Once we were able to settle in on a plan and mature as an offense, Conte and Eddie’s performances helped catapult us to success,’’ Priore said. “We were able to put things together, and those two kids the second half of the year were very impressive.’’
On November 9, the Seawolves cranked out 635 yards on the ground in a steady downpour to pound host Iona, 68-9. Gowins ran for 278 yards and three touchdowns while Cuttino had 205 yards and three scores. The Football Championship Subdivision team record for rushing yards in a game is 681 by Missouri State in 1988.
It was a banner day for Stony Brook. Coincidental or not, Iona announced 12 days later it was dropping its 42-year-old football program altogether.
The Seawolves closed the season one week later with another rout, a 40-26 win over Virginia Military Institute. Stony Brook totalled 622 yards of offense, paced by Gowins (250 yards and three touchdowns) and Cuttino (234 yards).
Gowins amassed 713 yards and eight touchdowns over the final three games, an avalanche of offense. His 1,310 yards set the school’s single-season rushing record and earned Gowins national recognition. Cuttino, who became Stony Brook’s all-time rushing leader with 2,807 career yards, finished fourth in the conference in rushing (1,243 yards) and was named an All-Big South second-teamer.
“We complement each other in a big way,’’ the shifty Cuttino said. “Eddie has bulk but is deceiving because he has speed. As far as teams trying to game plan against us—it’s hard. We can do many of the same things. He has a bigger body, a bigger frame. But it doesn’t matter who is in the backfield. Coach doesn’t have a problem with Eddie going outside or with me running inside.”
Gowins spent a year in prep school before returning home to play at Stony Brook. His first collegiate carry went for a 22-yard touchdown. Paired with the equally electric Cuttino, who knows what the two can accomplish with another year of experience.
Priore must replace both receivers and two linemen. And Hoffman suffered through growing pains at quarterback a year ago. The Seawolves (5-6 overall, 3-2 Big South) are picked to finish second behind two-time champ Liberty in the Big South.
But the schedule is unforgiving, with September games against defending Patriot League champ Colgate and Ivy League winner Brown. The Seawolves open the season September 5 at Hofstra. Even though Stony Brook is 0-12 lifetime against its cross-Island rival, at least the game is local. Seven of the team’s first ten games are on the road.
“Execute our game plan and we have the potential to win the conference,’’ Cuttino said. “We need to stay focused and do our job.”
Stony Brook football is a tough sell. But Cuttino and Gowins offer a persuasive argument. Getting the players to believe is an important first step on the road to better days.
August 1, 2009
Title: Fishing Mecca; World-class fishing awaits in Montauk
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: August 2009
Start Page: 52
Word Count: 992
A murky shadow at first, Kevin Faulkner’s eyes grew the size of dinner plates as the creature materialized into view. The mere sight of a great white shark inspires fear and awe and is equal to its myth. A monster seemingly as big as the 26-foot boat circled just beneath the surface in the waters off Block Island.
Just as quickly, it was gone.
“It was a surreal experience,’’ Faulkner said. “There was a lot of jumping around by me. Definitely the biggest thing I’ve seen in the water. I’m not scared of the water. But if this thing swam up to you, you’d die of fright.’’
While Faulkner didn’t hook the legendary shark, its mere presence is why Montauk is known as a world-class fishing destination. And it’s why Faulkner sits in traffic nearly four hours simply to experience the magic that is Montauk.
The 38-year-old contractor from the Poughkeepsie suburb of Dover Plains could sail out of any harbor along the Hudson River or Long Island Sound. Yet he suffers the stop-and-go trek through the Bronx, over the Throgs Neck Bridge, along the Long Island Expressway to the traffic-choked villages of the South Fork. The view along the way melds from concrete jungle into Pine Barrens, and finally rolling hills and beach dunes known sparely as The End.
The rich and famous transformed Southampton and East Hampton into destinations for the jet set. Montauk is less pretentious than its neighbors to the west, a laid back beach resort at its core. Surfers and families flock to the white sand and roiling surf. But it has long been known as a fishing Mecca, luring hardcore anglers such as Faulkner.
“I’d drive eight hours to get there,’’ Faulkner said. “Montauk is a very unique place. I’ve fished a lot of places with a lot of people. It’s pretty much unanimous. There’s nothing like Montauk. We’re just lucky it’s here.”
The waters surrounding Montauk yield spectacular fishing year round and offer something for everyone. There’s Zen-like surfcasting along the rocky shoreline guarded by the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Charter a boat to hunt sharks in the open ocean. Or come as you are and hop on a party boat for six hours of guilt-free fishing in the rips (turbulent currents) just offshore.
While it’s not equal to Key West or Oahu or San Diego in its diversity, migrating fish populations make Montauk a veritable feast of fluke, flounder, striped bass, sea bass, bluefish, tuna and yes, sharks of every stripe.
Frank Mundus put the East End village on the sport fishing short list for adventurers in 1951 when he harpooned a reported 16-foot, 4,500-pound great white. It was a feat that inspired the character Quint in the novel and film Jaws, which spawned a cultural phenomenon.
But great white sharks are the white whale of Montauk fishing, more salty story than everyday occurrence. Still, the legend is grounded in fact. The 17th annual Mako/Thresher Mania Tournament, which begins August 6, highlights Montauk’s connection to monster fishing.
“I think it’s reputation for shark is well deserved,’’ said Lee Ellis, 39, who lives and works in East Hampton when he’s not out on his boat “T-Bone” off Montauk. “There’s been a lot of shark hunted out of there. It’s a great place for a person to go out and get the biggest fish of their lives. Shark fishing is a great adrenaline sport.’’
Yet the region’s real rep is built on an army of weekend anglers intent on landing plentiful—and feisty— striped bass and blues.
“During the summer time, we get a lot of tourists in Montauk,’’ Capt. Carl Fosberg said before taking out the “Viking Starship” for a summer night fishing trip in search of bluefish and striped bass. “There are a lot of first-timers. It’s family-friendly and fun fishing. We supply them with everything they need. We make sure they enjoy themselves. It’s about getting the kids fishing.’’
A memory that sticks in his mind is the frigid conditions of a March fishing trip 60 miles offshore. A 9-year-old boy was one of the few anglers undeterred by the weather.
“It was really cold. The kid was die-hard,’’ Fosberg recalled. “He would not leave the rail. He was fishing the whole time. And he ended up catching the biggest fish on the boat.’’
A 25-pound tilefish was the prize that day.
“When you see a kid smile—so proud of himself—it’s a nice moment because you know that kid’s going to be hooked into fishing for the rest of his life,’’ Fosberg added.
It begins at one of the marinas dotting Lake Montauk, which spills almost directly into the Atlantic. Most boaters make a beeline east of the lighthouse, setting up between the mainland and Block Island.
Try night fishing from August into September. The Viking Fleet (vikingfleet.com), which features an $85 trip from 7pm to 1am, is the best bet. Bring a sweater because it can get cool. Sunsets are intense and there’s nothing like a full moon on the water. It will be an unforgettable experience either way.
“That’s what makes fishing so great,’’ Ellis said. “It is something different for everybody.”
Guide Bill Wetzel, a veteran surfcaster, said the fishing is the best he’s seen in the last decade. The ample rain and east winds have been a surf fisherman’s dream. And with 50 miles of sandy beach and rocky shoreline to roam, getting a line in the water is simple.
“Anybody can get started,” said Wetzel, who likes August best. “All you need is a rod and waders.”
There aren’t as many boats on the water this summer. One of the unexpected bonuses of a sour economy, say regulars. It’s also been great fishing so far. If you can stomach the slow crawl along Route 27, The End will reward your patience. From land or sea, Montauk offers world-class fun for every angler. And that’s no fish tale.
June 1, 2009
Title: The Cheap Seats; Can’t afford tickets to see the Yankees or Mets? Try a minor league game instead
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: June 2009
Start Page: 48
Word Count: 1,167
So you couldn’t afford those $55,000 seats the New York Mets were offering up at newly minted Citi Field. Well, even Bernie Madoff had to eventually turn his—and himself—in. Speaking of rip-off artists, the $5 bottled water at the reincarnated Yankee Stadium ain’t much better.
And let’s not get into how much the Yankees ponied up for three free agents this offseason. For the record, slugger Mark Teixeira and pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett netted a combined $420 million. Ka-ching!
Then there is the eww factor. A-Rod’s steroid scandal. Roger Clemens’ petulance in denying ever using performance enhancers. A-Rod’s messy divorce. The Mets refusing to drop the toxic naming rights deal with bailout boy Citigroup. A-Rod’s twisted fling with Madonna. We love to hate A-Rod. The list goes on.
Yet there is an alternative universe where the grass is just as green, the crowds manageable, prices downright cheap and the outrageous acts are choreographed. We’re talking minor league baseball, of course, where the boys of summer never grew up.
The Mets and Yankees ensured New York remained a minor league dead zone for decades. Then in 2000 came the independent Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, along with New York-Penn League franchises in Brooklyn and Staten Island. In fact, 18 minor league teams lie within a four-hour drive of Long Island.
Each has parks filled with character and teams populated by characters. Where else can you see rising stars and venerable veterans take hacks from just five rows away? Views of the Coney Island boardwalk and the New York City skyline—from Brooklyn and Staten Island, respectively—are breathtaking. And the promotions—from the sensible all-you-can-eat plan in Staten Island to regular fireworks displays courtesy of Grucci after Ducks games and the Lamaze-inducing “salute to pregnancy” night in Brooklyn—offer something for everyone.
The money you spend on gas will be more than offset by the price of admission. And the experience? Priceless. Road trip anyone? Start with these three local gems:
Long Island Ducks
Where: Citibank Park (seats 6,002) in Central Islip.
When: 70 home dates, April-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $10.
The Skinny: Baseball might lay claim as America’s pastime, but for cash-strapped Long Islanders, the Ducks offer an affordable alternative to the pinstriped barons in Flushing and the Bronx. Despite having appeared in just one championship series since the team’s inception in 2000, the Ducks have consistently been one of the top draws in the minors. Citibank Park may have an unfortunate name, but it’s easy accessibility and great sight lines make it family-friendly. For the more adventuresome, go see the Ducks in Bridgeport. The Port Jefferson Ferry docks next to the ballpark of the rival Bluefish. The caliber of play in the Atlantic League is generally considered somewhere between Double- and Triple-A. But you never know what will happen, such as the August 2007 day when former All-Star Jose Offerman charged the mound and attacked the pitcher with his bat. Offerman was banned from the league, but former Mets great with an occasional bloated ego Gary Carter has signed on as the new Ducks manager.
Player Watch: Follow Ducks outfielder Preston Wilson, 34, as he tries to work his way back to the bigs. The former Met farmhand and stepson of New York icon Mookie Wilson slammed 36 homers for the Colorado Rockies in 2003. MLB teams regularly dip into the Atlantic League talent pool to sign players with a hot hand, a fact Wilson is banking on.
Best Promo: Ehy! Italian heritage night celebrates the Island’s preeminent culture from a flag giveaway to food, music and more. June 13 vs. Newark Bears.
Where: KeySpan Park (seats 7,500) in Coney Island.
When: 38 home dates, June-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $8.
The Skinny: This short-season Class A affiliate of the Mets is where top draft picks usually get their first taste of pro ball. Connected to the boardwalk, and with the Wonder Wheel and the Coney Island seascape as the backdrop, this picturesque park has one of the best atmospheres anywhere. Start in the neighborhood. The oldest continually-operated aquarium in the United States is the nearby New York Aquarium. Get a hot dog at the original Nathan’s Famous a block away. Hit boardwalk staples such as the paintball-charged “Shoot the Freak.” Take a tour of the Brooklyn Baseball Gallery and Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame housed at the park. Perhaps even spot a former Dodger great signing autographs. But the best part of the Cyclones experience is their free-spirited promos, from a Barack Obama bobblehead to a pot-luck “Garage Sale” giveaway. Oh, and there’s the beach. Whatever your excuse, the Cyclones are a must-stop on any minor league tour.
Best Promo: “A salute to pregnancy” featuring pre-game Lamaze in centerfield, a craving station of pickles and ice cream, and many other tie-ins. And if you agree to name your child Brooklyn or Cy, the team promises free tickets for life. July 19 vs. Auburn Doubledays.
Staten Island Yankees
Where: Richmond County Bank Ballpark (seats 7,171) in St. George.
When: 38 home dates, June-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $6.
The Skinny: The Yankees have won four New York-Penn League titles since relocating to Staten Island in 1999. The short-season Class A affiliate of the Yankees has cultivated a fierce rivalry with the Cyclones. Like Brooklyn, Staten Island is usually the first stop for touted Yankees prospects. Robinson Cano and Chen-Ming Wang are two current big leaguers who started off as Baby Bombers. Take the scenic route to the game: The Staten Island Ferry terminal is next door. The dense neighborhood has also been designated a historic district. Season ticket holders get all-you-can-eat concessions, and by season’s end begin resembling the mascot, Scooter the Holy Cow. Cross the Verrazano at your own risk, but the park is worth a visit.
Best Promo: The Yankees put on a fireworks display after each game. And with the Statue of Liberty in the distance—who could ask for more? For an unforgettable seat to the Independence Day fireworks over New York Harbor, get tickets to the July 4 game against the Lowell Spinners.
Minor league baseball is thriving in the Northeast and within an easy drive of Long Island. Most are within three hours, including several Yankees and Mets affiliates. So hit the road and see tomorrow’s stars today. The list:
Triple A—International League
|Pawtucket Red Sox||Pawtucket, RI||Boston|
|Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees||Moosic, PA||Yankees|
|Lehigh Valley Ironpigs||Allentown, PA||Philadelphia|
|Rochester Red Wings||Rochester||Minnesota|
Double A—Eastern League
|Connecticut Defenders||Norwich, CT||San Francisco|
|New Britain Rock Cats||New Britain, CT||Minnesota|
|Trenton Thunder||Trenton, NJ||Yankees|
Class A—South Atlantic League
|Lakewood Blue Claws||Lakewood, N.J.||Philadelphia|
SS Class A—New York-Penn League
|Brooklyn Cyclones||Coney Island||Mets|
|Staten Island Yankees||St. George||Yankees|
|Batavia Muckdogs||Batavia||St. Louis|
|Hudson Valley Renegades||Wappingers Falls||Tampa Bay|
|Long Island Ducks||Central Islip|
|Bridgeport Bluefish||Bridgeport, CT|
|Newark Bears||Newark, NJ|
|Somerset Patriots||Bridgewater, NJ|
|Camden Riversharks||Camden, NJ|
April 1, 2009
Title: Confessions of a Mortgage Predator; Selling greed and mortgages during the real estate boom
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: April 2009
Start Page: 62
Word Count: 1,642
“Hi, my name is Joey Walnut and I’m calling about your mortgage with Ameriquest,’’ proclaimed a young man into the phone receiver, hoping the voice on the other end would respond with curiosity and not rage.
In a white-washed office space in a non-descript strip plaza off a traffic-choked artery in Nassau County, Joey begins each cold call in similar fashion. A swig of Vodka-spiked Pepsi between prospects takes the edge off. He repeats the process more than 100 times each evening, following a list of random leads and reading off a tight script.
“It’s really not an easy job to call people at their house at night,’’ said Joey, a college grad. “It really isn’t. So a few drinks would loosen you up. And some people would do coke because it makes you go insane and you’d pound away at the phone.’’
Think Jim Cramer insane. And the goal was mad money.
The payoff comes six to eight weeks later when leads turn into closings and his company collects up to 10 percent of the loan when all the fees are tallied. That’s a $30,000 chunk of gold on a $300,000 mortgage. Everyone gets a piece of the pie, right on down to a cool $5,000 windfall for so-called loan officers like Joey.
These cocaine cold-callers were living the high life, indeed.
Joey — his name has been changed to protect his identity – worked at various mortgage brokerages for three years beginning in late 2004. And while his story may not reflect the industry as a whole, it is emblematic of a decade-long real estate boom that turned homes into ATM machines and saw greed swell to towering heights.
“I was amazed at how many people were involved in the loan and knew this wasn’t helping the situation for the person,’’ said Joey, who is still in sales but got out of real estate in 2007. “Bank reps. The bank taking on the loan. Brokers. Underwriters. Lawyers. The title company. There’s just a lot of people getting paid on each loan.’’
Buy a new car. Consolidate debt. Take an extravagant vacation. A lower monthly payment. There were a million reasons why homeowners looked to refinance. The nexus of rising home values, low interest rates and loose banking practices spawned the great mortgage grab. Long Island, home to mortgage heavyweight American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. and in the shadow of the world’s financial hub, proved to be fertile ground for brokers.
All of which made the subsequent housing collapse all the more spectacular. American Home, the region’s sixth-largest employer, imploded in August 2007. Mortgage companies were the first to suffer as home values leveled off and lending guidelines tightened. The misery spread quickly.
Twenty-five banks nationwide have been shut down by federal regulators and 2.22 million homes sank into foreclosure a year ago, according to Hope Now Alliance. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller U.S. national home price index recorded an 18 percent drop in home values in the fourth quarter of 2008.
While New York hasn’t been as hard-hit as Arizona, California or Florida, the sting can be felt on every corner of Long Island as the real estate bubble gave way to a wider recession. The housing market alone has amassed some grim statistics. Suffolk endured 5,855 foreclosures last year, according to RealtyTrac, the fourth-highest in the state. Nassau saw 4,099 foreclosures a year ago.
“Banks and brokers created the problem. It’s not the borrower’s fault,’’ said Syosset-based attorney James G. Preston, who oversaw 30 closings a week at the peak in 2004. “They sucked these people in.
“If you look at the people selling this stuff they’re kids — young men and women just out of college. It’s like selling stock. They were motivated by money. They were quintessential sales men. Give them a product and let them go.’’
Looking back, the housing bubble was hard to miss. There were legitimate people such as Preston earning a living on the gold rush and prospectors such as Joey panning for riches with the backing of dubious operators.
Some mortgage brokers struck it rich. But especially banks, which played the ultimate game of zero accountability. They outsourced their sales force to mortgage brokerages and then spun off the loans to Wall Street as mortgage-backed securities, raking in a percentage off each transaction – all without consequence.
“One of the real problems is the disconnect between the person selling the loan and the people who owned the loan,’’ said Preston, whose business has gone from 90 percent real estate to just 10.
Banks needed to show sales growth. But when you’ve already leant to everyone with good credit, what do you do next? You create financial products for everyone else. The result fed the rise of mortgage brokers and forced anyone who owned a home to fend off nightly calls – and the temptation — to refinance.
Joey was lured to the mortgage game by the friend of a friend, who bragged of $250,000 paydays and backed it up by driving a red Ferrari.
He started as a cold caller and graduated to loan officer within three months. All while working in an office space straight from a Hollywood script — a large vacuum with folding tables, phones and chairs and little else. This is the pit where newbies as young as 18 earned their stripes as cold callers who made more than 100 phone calls a night looking for leads. At least 97 percent of those never amounted to anything more than voice mail or irate hang-ups.
“Some people drank and some people did drugs,’’ Joey said. “It was out in the open. It was like nothing. My boss said, ‘If you have to do coke to make money, then do coke.’ That was the mindset.’’
The point was to relentlessly pursue the next lead. The cubicles off to the sides were staffed by loan officers, who armed with someone’s credit history, shopped potential customers to banks in search of favorable rates. Shadowy managers lurked in offices at the back, pushing everyone to do whatever it took to close.
“It was a shitty version of ‘Boiler Room.’ Just nowhere near as much money,’’ Joey said. “We’d go into the meeting room and the boss would say, ‘Do I have to throw my fucking keys on the table?’ He’d throw the keys to his Beamer and then the keys to his house. Just like ‘Boiler Room.’ ‘Is this what I have to do to get you guys to work?’”
Closing meant using tactics that bordered on illegal. Initial meetings were marked by blank pages in place of good faith estimates, which were supposed to disclose all closing costs. Inflating incomes of borrowers for what are called stated income loans was not uncommon. Few mortgage companies operated this far out on the edge. Joey happened to break in at one with all the cred of a pro wrestler.
They targeted mostly working class minorities in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens. And they pushed the most profitable mortgages, such as the crippling MTA loan.
“This loan killed people,’’ Joey said. “The real interest rate was 7.5 percent. But they only paid one percent interest. The rest – 6.5 percent – would get added on to their loan balance. So if the real amount they owed was $1,500, they would only pay $1,000. The extra $500 would get added to the loan. They weren’t paying down the house and the loan amount was going up every month.’’
In the end, this loan also helped kill off the once-lucrative mortgage industry.
“Obviously, there were a lot of people out there pushing that because of lot of people are in trouble today,’’ said Peter J. Elkowitz, president of the Hauppauge-based Long Island Housing Partnership, a non-profit which helps negotiate better terms for struggling homeowners.
Don’t blame Joey, who got close to clients and gave them his cell phone number. It was the system that was corrupt. Joey tried to be genuine through the entire process – up to the point of disclosing the true extent of closing costs. This was a strange dance brokers engaged in with homeowners.
Many clients knew what they were in for. They had refinanced before and came back for more. Such was the magic of rising home values. Take the case of a truck driver from East Islip who regularly checked in on the status of his loan.
“He called up drunk once and said, ‘I need this money so bad.’ I think he had a gambling debt,’’ Joey said. “When we got to the closing he didn’t care about the fees. We charged people so much money. But in many cases they are taking out $50,000. All they are thinking about in their head was, ‘I’m going to get a check for $50,000.’’’
It would be easy to shake an angry fist at predatory loan brokers. Or point a finger at the banks, which have bankrupted countless families while siphoning off bailout money at the expense of us all. But when “Greed is good,’’ is co-opted as the mantra of an entire generation, you know the root cause of the real estate bubble is much deeper and complex than anyone is willing to admit.
One thing everyone can agree on is the great cash grab is over. Everyone somehow feels dirtier for it. Even the cocaine cowboys who put homeowners into loans they couldn’t afford — they internalize the guilt while offering up Suzie Orman-like insight.
“The fault lies with everyone,’’ Joey concludes. “There were so many people involved. It wasn’t just us. The banks were approving these loans. The lawyers were closing these loans. The people who we were refinancing knew they were going to get an adjustable rate and that it would adjust in two years. Everybody had their own reason to do what they were doing.’’