Sports columnist Marc Maturo’s official column
Red Raider grad, packing a dream, bound for college
North Rockland High School graduate Nick Connell of Garnerville is a hard-working, thoughtful young man with his head properly fixed on his shoulders, but he’s also a young man with big dreams.
“If I get better and bigger and stronger, then if I can take it to the next level, I’ll take it. I still have that dream of one day stepping on an NFL field,” the 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back says.
Connell, who is bound for Western New England University (WNEU) in Springfield, Mass., said he is inspired athletically by the recently retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
“I know that I have to work hard, and I got to take what I want, nothing will be handed to me,” Connell continued. “When I listen to him (Lewis), he gives me energy and purpose.”
Purpose in life, of course, seems to flow naturally for Connell. Nick’s academic purpose in life, he said, comes from his parents, Evelyn and Jaime, and even more directly from his older sister Tiffany Rivera, an alumna of Albertus Magnus HS and Dominican College.
“If I follow suit from anyone it will be my sister,” said Nick. “She’s my academic spirit.”
Tiffany, who earned a masters degree in occupational therapy, has been working two years at Helen Hayes Hospital in Haverstraw.
It’s small wonder that Nick – who said his parents impressed upon him to have “Plan B” in the event a pro career doesn’t materialize — wants to major in physical therapy, and one day open his own business to help support the family.
Knowing all this, is should not surprise an interested reader that Connell was drawn to WNEU not so much by its football team, although that played a role, but also by the university’s health/science facility on campus.
“I don’t know anyone (on the team), but I just fell in love with the brand-new health/science facility,” Connell said earlier this week as he prepared for a senior trip before resuming regular workouts at World Gym in Garnerville, and a running program at the high school. “I want to pursue a career as a physical therapist. I love football, have always loved football, but like I said, I also love academics, thanks to my parents. I have a Plan B.”
Connell, who won a Section 1 championship as a junior under head coach Tom Lynch, also won a national Pop Warner championship in 2008 when the North Rockland Red Raiders edged an opponent from California, 28-26. Not incidentally, Connell scored two big touchdowns along the way.
As a three-year varsity starter, Connell earned honorable mention all-State, first-team all-County and all-Section during his high school career.
Connell will report to the Golden Bears’ football camp in Springfield, Mass., on August 14, as WNEU, which went 6-4 last season, preps for its season and home opener on Sept. 7 against nearby Springfield College. Game time at Golden Bear Stadium is scheduled at 1 p.m.
Springfield College, coming off a very-fine 8-3 campaign, features linebacker Danny Macalena of Congers and Clarkstown South HS; tight end Billy Walsh of New City; and defensive lineman Chris Warren of Sloatsburg and Suffern HS.
“I’m excited,” says Connell. “I can’t wait to get back on the field. I don’t mind going to be by myself because I never get homesick, not that I won’t miss my friends and family. But it’s Chapter Three in my life, and I’m going to give it everything I have. I’m going to cherish every moment.”
GOOD BASEBALL, GREAT CAUSE
Vincent Crotty of Montebelo and Christopher Konkowski of Airmont died tragically in an automobile accident in March 2010. But the Suffern High School baseball players have not been forgotten, and never will be forgotten because of many and varied memorial events — such as the Crotty/Konkowski Baseball Tournament, hosted by the Rockland Royals (nee Suffern Blue Devils).
The Royals, competing in the North Jersey Amateur Baseball League (NJABL), are co-managed by Vinnie Randazzo and his son, infielder Jared Randazzo. The club’s general manager now, as then, is Pete Crotty, Vincent’s dad who became a good friend to the elder Randazzo.
“He’s a really good friend,” said Randazzo. “They (Vincent and Christopher) were all set to play for me that summer. It was really a bad thing, it was devastating. The tournament is really good baseball, but much more important, it’s absolutely for a great cause, for sure.”
The fourth annual tournament gets under way with opening ceremonies on June 28 at 7 p.m. at Vincent Crotty Memorial Field (87 Chestnut St., Suffern). Immediately following, the Royals take on the New City Outlaws. There are four games scheduled at Suffern High School on June 29 with another round of games, including the final, set for June 30, also at Suffern HS.
The Blue Devils won the first championship, with the Outlaws winning in the second year. The Astros won last year, and return as defending champion, but the Royals, said Randazzo the Elder, are “on the move.”
“We were at .500 … lost four one-run games, but reeled off a few wins and are 9-6 in the league and 14-6 overall,” he noted.
Asked if that would make the Royals the pre-tournament favorite to claim the crown, Randazzo replied with a heartfelt laugh: “I consider myself the favorite in every tournament, but others might have a different opinion.”
June 28: Royals vs. Outlaws, 7:30 p.m., Vincent Crotty Memorial Field, Suffern.
June 29 (all games at Suffern HS): Astros vs. Sullivan County Spartans, 10 a.m.; Rutherford Rays vs. Spartans, 12:30 p.m.; Astors vs. Rays, 3 p.m.; Outlaws vs. Hackensack Hurricanes, 5:30 p.m.
June 30 (all games at Suffern HS): Royals vs. Hurricanes, 9 a.m.; semifinals, 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Final, 4:30 p.m.
For more information on the foundation access: http://www.vincentcrotty.org/events.php
THIS & THAT
FANS OF WOMEN’S BOXING can help send a team of Metro-area athletes to the National Golden Gloves in Florida by attending the Women’s Excellence in Boxing Committee’s inaugural fundraiser, scheduled June 29 at the Mercedes Club in Manhattan. First punch will be thrown at 8 p.m. Access http://themercedesclub.eventbrite.com/#.
THE ROCKLAND COUNTY COACHES ASSOCIATION feted several of the area’s top coaches at its annual barbeque at the Pearl River Elks Club. Among the honorees were Mike Carlacci, Laurie Mayernik, Bruce
Miller and Lorraine Moylan, all of Pearl River. Also honored were Vince Louther and John Pardy, Clarkstown South; Greg Borchers and Greg Grasso, North Rockland; Eamon
DePeter, Nyack; Dave Sachs, East Ramapo; Gene Kousoulas, Tappan Zee; and Barbara Vano, St. Thomas Aquinas College.
RRR KEEPS ROLLING: Summer workouts, conducted by the Rockland Road Runners, continue each Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Pearl River HS. The sessions are geared for all fitness levels, and overseen by an experienced staff that will answer individual training questions before, during and after workouts. The workouts will continue until August 28, but please note that two off-site workouts scheduled this year — at Bear Mountain on June 25 and Rockland Lake on July 23 — will be held on Tuesdays rather than Wednesdays to avoid conflicts with other events at those locations.
REGISTRATION IS OPEN for Rockland FC, a countywide youth soccer organization for boys and girls U8 through U16. Teams compete in the Westchester Youth Soccer League, reported to be the second-largest in the state. Rockland FC is a local club for local players, and the 2013-14 season includes fall, winter and spring schedules. For more information access www.rocklandfc.com, or call 845-821-7311.
THE RECREATION AND PARKS department in the Town of Clarkstown provides a bevy of youth and adult leagues. For information access http://www.town.clarkstown.ny.us/html/recreation_parks_sports.html.