2004-12-31 / Sports

Sports Memories From A Year Gone By

By Elio Velez


Editor’s Note (oh that’s right I am the editor): Every newspaper and magazine from New York to Los Angeles has published a sports year in a review article. I’m going to join in the fun.)

Beach Channel

Makes a Cinderella Run

When the PSAL baseball playoffs began, the Dolphins were seeded 18th and defeated South Shore in the first round. In 2002 and 2003, they were eliminated in the second round. 2004 could have been a repeat when they traveled to Manhattan to play #2 ranked Graphic Arts.

.It was the emphasis on performing as a team that enabled them to pull off a 12-11 victory and advance to third round. Their run to Shea Stadium and to the PSAL championship was almost stopped before their game against Gompers in Brooklyn.

The school van had gotten into an accident earlier that day and couldn’t take them to Moe Finklestein Field in the Flatlands. The players then cramped into head coach Thomas Kazalski, assistant coach Walter Chaluisant and another parent’s car to make the 4 p.m. start.

Down 2-1 with 2 outs in the top of the seventh, the Dolphins tied the game and Charles Novak hit a two run double to give them a 4-2 extra inning win.

It was that extra effort to fight through adversity and win that gave them so much confidence. It did not matter that Beach Channel was facing higher seeded teams. They felt as if no one was better than them.

When the Dolphins defeated Morris at St. John’s 6-3 to advance to Shea, I witnessed the truest sense of exuberance and excitement.

The 6-5 championship defeat was an excruciating loss for the Dolphins. They kept battling and battling and Gregory Perdriel’s game ending unassisted double play missed by inches of becoming a game tying single. Beach Channel lost but their wild ride to get to Shea will be something I can’t forget.

Playing Rugby Is

Not A Kids Sport

On Thanksgiving weekend, I had the privilege to watch the New York Rugby 7’s, one of the most prestigious rugby tournaments in the country. Men and women from college, club and professional teams from around the country and world played in the all day event.

Many players from the FDNY rugby team, who were playing in the heroes division of the tournament, come from Rockaway.

When FDNY head coach Bob Johnson said that I might be playing in one of the first matches, my first reaction was to laugh. Johnson, who is head coach/player with the Fisheads is one of the biggest contributors I have in this sports section. He knows the sport backwards and forwards. For me, watching rugby on MSG or Fox Sports World was my only experience. It doesn’t make a veteran of the sport.

As the FDNY was manhandling the Stockholm Police, Bob kept looking at me with a grin on his face. Up by a huge margin at the time, and with the possibility of playing three more games left in the day, I knew Bob wanted to rest his regulars.

With shorts that surprisingly fit my svelte frame and learning the fundamentals for at least running with the ball and tackling, I got out there with a few minutes left. The ball felt like a rock when it was thrown to me. Once the adrenalin got pumping, I felt like Jerome Bettis running with the ball.

But then reality hit when a Stockholm defender knocked me down. I was in the middle of a scrum with guys trying to pry the ball loose from me like it was a chocolate cake they wanted to badly eat. Fighting them off, I passed it to one of my FDNY teammates and kept the ball alive.

A few minutes later, the game was over and FDNY trounced Stockholm 48-7. Eventually, the Marine Corps from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania would beat FDNY in the finals. It was a great experience to watch and play with them even if it was for a few minutes. My respect for the sport grew tenfold because of the hard work and dedication that goes into it.

Brooklyn Cyclones

The summer is one of my favorite times of the year, especially when the Cyclones start the season in Mid June. The faces s change every year in Rookie short season A ball. It’s not a secret throughout the New York Mets organization that the Cyclones are the crown jewel that must be always kept polished with the best players. They’ve never had a losing record in four years.

What remains the same are young players who want to learn to get to the next level. Not every player will eventually make the major leagues. I’ve been around the Cyclones enough this year to know who might make it to the show and those who will fall short of the goal.

It was great getting to know Toronto born outfielder Derran Watts, whose leadership and maturity will eventually make him a manager in the future. Outfielder Dante Brinkley’s enthusiasm to excel in all aspects of the game and fight through injuries made him a high profile prospect.

I was amazed at the cool pitching style of Evan MacLane, the energy of outfielder Ambiorix Concepcion, who will be a top flight major league player and the defensive brilliance of catcher Aaron Hathaway.

Manger Tony Tijerina is a claming presence who relates well to younger players. Hitting coach Donovan Mitchell, who will return in 2005 under new manager Mookie Wilson, was always available to talk to about the game.

The front office led by head of media relations Dave Campanero was always helpful. Broadcaster Warner Fusselle is a fountain of information and one of the nicest men I have ever met. I hope that in the summer of 2005, the Cyclones will once again envelop my writing time. Until next year, Peace.

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