Category Archives: Columns


Column: Changing meanings, changing tastes

What is now called “cool” used to be “hot.” A “square” deal used to be a fair deal, but now it is not chic to be “square.” And as the changing of word usage goes, so does the changing of architectural styles.

Here in Rye, we have the historic Square House. The original reason for the name, I’m told, was that the building began as one square room. It is also square in the sense that it has no gables or gingerbread adornments. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. Those who built it in the 17th century evidently did not feel it needed extra decoration.

I have taken great pleasure in watching the construction of a brand new square house on Forest Avenue across from Rye Town Park. It keeps company with its nearby neighbors, two square or rectangular houses with the added attribute of being built from brick, reminiscent of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

I like brick construction and I am delighted to see that the house around the corner from us, on the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue and Halls Lane, is being given a brick skin to match the original brick façade facing Stuyvesant that has been preserved. And whenever I stroll down Pine Island Road, I am awed by the brick home recently built by former Mayor Ted Dunn and his wife.

In the early 1930s, a Democratic former bricklayer named Jack Kelly ran for mayor of Philadelphia and came close to winning, even though the GOP had dominated local elections for half a century. His company’s slogan, seen around town, was “Kelly for Brickwork.” He had an actress daughter named Grace, who became a princess. My wife’s parents were invited to her wedding in Monaco, where my mother-in-law donated one of her sculptures for the palace.



Column: What happened during summer’s ‘lazy days’

The “lazy days” of summer for Bronxville government, when residents’ needs decrease sharply, have been replaced by an aggressive program of infrastructure repair and improvements to take advantage of the slower village pace and traffic.

Chief among summer projects was the reopening of the Parkway Road Bridge. Though long in negotiation, it was brief in repair time. Thanks to financial and municipal partnerships with the City of Yonkers and the Town of Eastchester and the state through the intercession of Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, we have a bridge that now meets all NYSDOT structural and safety standards.

Road paving and curb reconstruction continued at an aggressive pace with parts of Midland Avenue, Garden Avenue and all of Stone Place, Studio Lane, Paxton Avenue, lower Milburn Street and a section of Kraft Avenue being resurfaced. Kraft Avenue was delayed so Con Edison could install an enhanced gas line to facilitate the needs of the soon to be opening Diner.

Literally as I write, our downtown crosswalks will be repainted and major intersections “re-stamped” to provide more clarity and safety for crossing.

More money than ever was spent this summer on a sewer cleaning and relining program. Based on the decades of buildup found in the system, we can only believe that drainage during storms will be improved significantly.

Meetings were held with our School Administration, professional engineers, FEMA officials and state and federal elected representatives to seek sources for additional funding to meet the 2016 costs of the flood mitigation project. Though there have been no firm commitments yet, we are confident the project will go forward if in perhaps a modified form.

The Kensington Road Project developers overcame the hurdles presented by the interfacing with all of our monopolies: United Water, Con Edison, and the MTA. The site is clear of all contaminants and work on the parking garage has begun in earnest. The sales office will open at 19 Park Place by mid-October.

An unusual number of our street trees, especially in the business district, did not survive the summer. As a result, in the coming weeks, you will see replacement trees planted throughout the village with a concentration in the downtown. The planting program was delayed due to the continuation of the oppressively hot weather.

Our traffic engineer is making finishing touches on proposed changes to the intersection at Midland Avenue and Pondfield Road to improve traffic flow and, most importantly, increase pedestrian safety especially for our schoolchildren walking to and from campus.

In partnership with Town Supervisor Colavita, we are very close to finalizing an agreement with county government to create an additional playing field on the Scout Field property. The plan will be fleshed out in the coming weeks.

The village board also codified some changes to our zoning code to make our village more business-friendly. Changes included allowing more food establishments to offer outdoor dining. Updating our zoning codes to better conform to the retail realities of 2015 is now an ongoing process.

The board’s decision to extend on-street-only meter hours was made in July in anticipation of a slow rollout so residents, merchants and visitors could acclimate to the new regulation. Even as of today, we continue to issue warnings, not tickets, until parkers are accustomed to the change.

The rationale for the change is threefold. We monitored the use of evening on-street parking and found that a majority of parkers were using the “free” spaces to head into Manhattan for the night and not for frequenting our restaurants or extended-hours stores. In order to ensure that the cars parked in front of our stores are patronizing them, meters have been programmed so they may be filled just once to cover the entire period of 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. so no one needs to leave a nice local dinner or movie to “feed” the meter.

All of our village lots continue to be free in the evenings, so the free parking option always remains. As an example, someone would have to fill the meter to park directly in front of the movie theater or have the choice to park in the nearby Kraft Lot for the free.

We might be late to the game, but we join all of our neighboring communities in extending parking meter hours into the evening. Although we are confident that the meter hour charges will free up spaces for the advantage of local businesses, the change also clearly has a financial benefit as well.

Projecting conservatively, the increased revenue on the village government side of the tax ledger will equate to a percentage point in tax savings. Given that Westchester County was recently rated the third most expensive place to live in the nation and Bronxville ranks near the top of locally taxed communities, every revenue increase/tax decrease is significant and sought out.

If you have any questions or thoughts about any of the above initiatives, please reach out to me at

Mamaroneck’s Peter Matt looks upfield against Mahopac on Sept. 4. The high school football season opened up last weekend with some intriguing matchups. Photo/Mike Smith

Column: Hooray for opening day

Aside from the beginning of the sectional playoffs, there are few weekends on the scholastic football calendar that are as eagerly anticipated as Week 1. On Sept. 4, the 2015 Section I football season kicked off in earnest and after taking in a full slate of intriguing games, I simply cannot wait to see what happens this year.

Opening day is exciting in any sport, be it field hockey, soccer or lacrosse, but football, by virtue of condensing a section’s worth of games into just two days, is a unique beast. There are no staggered openings in football season, just wall-to-wall gridiron action for about 48 hours each weekend.

The fact that I can’t be everywhere, I think, is what makes football season so much fun for me from a professional standpoint. While I stand on the sidelines, furiously tweeting updates from one game, I’m also checking social media for updates on the contests I can’t attend, and scouring the newsfeeds of students, parents and fellow journalists just to find out what the heck is going on around Westchester.

And there’s always a lot going on during football season.

This past weekend was no different. The opening game of the year saw an injury to an official delay the game for 25 minutes and a fourth quarter comeback in which the visiting team scored 21 points in just four minutes.

Rye traveled to Somers later that night, only to have an electrical malfunction darken the field in the third quarter, prompting a postponement until the following morning. New Rochelle and John Jay—perhaps the top two teams in Class AA—squared off in a knockdown drag-out fight that ultimately went the Huguenots’ way after senior quarterback Greg Powell found the relatively unknown wideout Rashon McNeil for a 51-yard score late in the fourth quarter.

Obviously that’s a lot to unpack in just three games.

More important than last weekend’s results, however, are the storylines they have put in play for the rest of the year.

Can Rye’s T.J. Lavelle lead his team back to the Class A finals?

Can Eastchester continue to punish teams with its running attack?

Will the Huguenots once again be the team to beat in Class AA?

The wonderful thing about opening weekend is that it simply poses these important questions, setting the stage for the season to come. Now it’s up to each team to answer the call.

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Column: Just a little patience is all we need

There is a great Guns N’ Roses song from the late ‘80s called “Patience” that tells us that if we “take it slow, it’ll work itself out fine, all we need is just a little patience.” I think it’s one of the best rock songs ever made and I turn it up every time it comes on the radio without the need for the “Sweet Home Alabama” type of reminder. I’m doing that Axl Rose swaying thing with my head right now, singing the lyrics to myself.

The Rye City Council has been dealing with a number of problems this year during the usually quiet summer months that call for “just a little patience.” The proposed rock chipping legislation is an example, of course, but I’m also referring to the turf problems we have suffered at the Rye Golf Club, RGC, this summer.

In May, the city and the RGC membership were the unfortunate victims of a contaminated fertilizer product that we unknowingly sprayed on our greens. We had sprayed identical products for many years without an incident. This year, however, because the product was contaminated, instead of performing its usual function, the product actually killed most of the grass on our greens. As a result of the severe damage, we were forced to close the greens on June 1 and the staff at the RGC has been working hard to bring them back ever since. We thought it would take about 12 weeks to repair the damage and we asked for members to be patient.

The greens reopened this past weekend as promised. To those who were patient, thank you.

RGC Manager Jim Buonaiuto, Golf Course Superintendent Chip Lafferty and their hardworking staff have done an excellent job dealing with this difficult problem and deserve the thanks of every RGC member for their Herculean efforts. They have done everything right every step of the way and are the reason that the course has reopened so quickly and looks so good. I have spent a good deal of time at the RGC during this situation and I am fairly certain that Jim and Chip work longer hours than any other city employees, with the possible exceptions of our new City Manager Marcus Serrano and his assistant city manager, Eleanor Militana who always seem to be around and on top of things as well. Thanks to all of you and your staff for getting this done.

That’s only part of the story, however. The rest of the story will take place over the next few months as we continue to seek recovery from the manufacturer of the defective product that has caused us so much harm. Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc., TKI, is the product manufacturer and the council and city staff have been working with them to attempt to settle our claims without the expense and delays of litigation. Once again, we have done all we can to submit our claim and the supporting proof of our losses and we are hopeful that TKI’s insurance carrier will make us whole. The claims resolution process will take place over the next few months but the initial indications for a reasonably quick resolution appear to be positive at this point.

So, those of you demanding refunds from your non-RGC-member fellow taxpayers and threatening lawsuits against the city, here I go again with the head swaying and singing my song:

“… little patience, mm yeah, mm yeah / need a little patience, yeah / just a little patience, yeah / some more patience, yeah / need some patience, yeah / could use some patience, yeah / gotta have some patience, yeah / all it takes is patience / just a little patience is all you need.”


Column: School safety tips and more reminders

I hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day weekend and that families have successfully settled in to the routine of the new school year. In addition, I hope you were able to take a moment to appreciate the hard work of all the men and women who contribute to making our country one of the most productive and desirable locations in the world.

As the fall season nears and a new school year commences, I would like to remind our community to be conscious of back-to-school safety tips. Parents should instruct their children on safe practices for walking to and from school. Drivers should be aware of children who may be distracted while walking or biking through our neighborhoods on their way to and from school. In addition, drivers should be alert to school bus traffic and flashing lights that indicate loading or unloading students. Parents and community members can all do their part in keeping our children safe as they begin the new school year.

Please be aware that National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. This day is recognized throughout the United States and brings attention to the importance of registering to vote. The League of Women Voters of Harrison will be on hand at the Harrison Public Library, Harrison Shopping Center and DeCicco’s with voter registration forms and absentee ballot applications beginning at 10 a.m. According to Harrison League President Lola Geiger, anyone who was not registered previously, or who has moved, or who has changed his or her name needs to fill out a voter registration form. If needed, please be sure to stop by at one of the aforementioned locations where representatives will be available to answer any of your questions.

Westchester County will be organizing a 9/11 memorial ceremony on Friday, Sept. 11 at The Rising at Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla at 7 p.m. In commemoration of the lives lost on the 9/11 attacks, the anniversary program will include an honor guard, a wreath-laying ceremony and a recitation of the names of the 111 county residents and 12 former residents who lost their lives on that tragic day. In addition, the county and the Volunteer Center of United Way are urging local residents and business people to participate in volunteer services as a way to honor those whose lives were lost.

In closing, I would like to remind residents to refrain from putting any toxic materials on their property as a way to deter unwanted animals. A pesticide label, located on packaging of all pesticides and most toxic compounds, is deemed a legal document and expressly outlines appropriate use and application. If humans or animals are injured, due to misapplication, liability may result. Please proceed with caution.

My next “Lunch with the Mayor” will be on Sept. 11 and I will be at NY Pizza Station, located at 370 Halstead Ave. I will be at this location from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and look forward to meeting with residents and talking about issues facing our community.


“Harrison Happenings” will be on hiatus for the duration of the 2015
election season. The column will return following Election Day, Nov. 3. 


Column: World Series needs change

An Eastchester player throws a pitch during the District 20 Little League tournament in June. Sports Editor Mike Smith finds the Little League World Series to be compelling, but he does have a few issues with the final rounds. Photo/Mike Smith

An Eastchester player throws a pitch during the District 20 Little League tournament in June. Sports Editor Mike Smith finds the Little League World Series to be compelling, but he does have a few issues with the final rounds. Photo/Mike Smith

I hope you will forgive me for the dated, early-2000s reference, but I have to say it: the Little League World Series has jumped the shark.

For years, I’ve been an ardent supporter of the entire tournament, including the ESPN-televised portion of it, but this year certainly highlighted some of the problems the LLWS needs to address if it wants to grab my interest going forward.

First things first, they need to move the fences back at Lamade Stadium. Again.

Now, I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but in the 20 or so games played at Lamade Stadium from Aug. 20 to Aug. 30, I’d estimate that teams hit roughly a bajillion homers. And that’s a pretty conservative guess.

They’ve moved the fences back before. In 2006, field dimensions went from 205 feet to 225 feet all around. It’s a start, but it hasn’t nearly been enough. I understand that it’s tough to come up with appropriate distances for growing kids. Especially at this age-range, 11 to 13, there’s a huge discrepancy in the physical maturity of all the athletes. But in a tournament that regularly features players like Pennsylvania slugger Cole Wagner, a 5-foot-11, 160-pounder who could easily have piloted Red Land’s team van to Williamsport without any state troopers taking notice, maybe it’s time to think about another park expansion.

It’s not entirely my curmudgeonly anti-homer sentiment driving this argument either. I like dingers as much as the next guy. But the proliferation of round-trippers in this tournament brings with it a dearth of outfield play. Because most balls that cleared the infield in Williamsport have yet to return to earth, fans were robbed of the chance to watch some of the world’s best young outfielders chase down liners in the gap. There’s a lot of excitement in baseball, but with the fences so far in, we only get to see half
of it.

But even the home run conundrum pales into comparison to what I’ve begun to think of as the biggest problem in the LLWS: the coverage. In the past, I’ve written about how the raw, unbridled emotion of these World Series games was one of my favorite parts of the event. The wild celebrations, sure, but also those unscripted moments of sorrow from the kids on the losing teams. Scenes like Sean Burroughs laying face down in the outfield back in 1992 or last year’s Providence team crying as they listened to a rousing postgame speech from their coach come to mind. But this year, for some reason, I felt that the constant need to find the emotional shots bordered on voyeuristic.

During the final inning of Pennsylvania’s loss to Japan, the Red Lands team was forced to bring in catcher Kaden Peifer after it ran out of pitchers. Predictably, Peifer struggled, plating a run on a wild pitch. When the Pennsylvania coach came out to speak with him, Peifer was in tears—understandably—as he felt his team’s chances slipping away. He kept turning, but ESPN cameras kept turning with him, making sure to highlight the emotion of the moment. Despite the scene playing out between the lines, the entire thing struck me as intrusive. ESPN knows what their viewers expect from LLWS coverage, and they weren’t going to miss their money shot.

I understand that it’s a tricky dance to cover games with young athletes—I’ve taken some heat for including reaction photos in some of my high school sports coverage—but for me, including photos of teams commiserating after losses was something that added flavor to my piece, not the main focus of a worldwide multimedia conglomerate.

So, will I watch the Little League World Series next year, even if neither of these issues is addressed? Probably. When I become a parent, would I want my son to take part in this tournament? Of course I would. But there’s always room to make things better. Especially for
our kids.



Column: Summerfest: a uniquely Rye celebration

Here in Rye, we celebrate as a community the secular occasions of July Fourth, Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. On Thanksgiving and religious holidays, we each observe according to our own traditions and beliefs. But there is one day observed just in our community and open to all, and that is Summerfest.

Germans can have their Oktoberfest, when fall is in full swing and the beer is flowing, but we in Rye are hesitant to bid goodbye to summer. We want to wish hail and farewell to the warmer months before the equinoctial storms howl and bid us to check for warmer clothing.

And so it is that for the past two decades, Rye has said a fond farewell to summer with our community event called Summerfest. The original brainchild of two young men of Rye, Douglas Carey and Michael Kennedy, Summerfest provides an annual field day of fun for kids of all ages.

This year’s Summerfest is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 6 and will be held as usual at Recreation Park on Midland Avenue close by Midland School. The opening event, at 2:30 p.m., is the Jack Curran Memorial Bare-handed Ball Game. Contests, races and booths begin at 3 p.m.. The performance of live music for dancing and reminiscing begins at 5 p.m.. The Post Road Market provides ample snacks.

Some individual events at Summerfest are the bean bag toss, face painting, the peanut scramble, the 30-yard dash, potato sack races, decorating cupcakes, the water balloon challenge and the cupcake eating contest. By the time all this is over, many participants are feeling weary but sorry that Summerfest will not come again until next year.



Column: A hometown hero and some reminders

I would like to bring your attention to a former Harrison resident and highly decorated member of the armed forces. Lt. Col. Daniel Bidetti was born and raised in Harrison, where he attended Harrison schools and Archbishop Stepinac High School. He graduated from Norwich University and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in May, 1999. In 2004, Daniel, as the company commander for the 173rd Support Battalion and Airborne Brigade, was deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2006 he was promoted to major and was deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009. In July 2015 he was selected to be lieutenant colonel. In addition to the Bronze Star Medal, Daniel has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. He also has his Airborne Wings and a Combat Action Badge. It is my honor to recognize the outstanding commitment and sacrifice Daniel has made. As you can see, we have a lot to be proud of in this hometown hero.

For your viewing information, please make note of the following FiOS options: Channel 1960 will be featuring Town/Village of Harrison news and channel 1961 will be featuring Harrison Central School District news.

It’s never too early to think about fall. The Harrison Recreation Department’s goal is to create a fun environment where youngsters can learn and play. Kindergarten Kickers and First Grade Strikers offer a six-week, Saturday program for soccer skill building. There will be demonstrations and practices and each session will end with a scrimmage. The program starts on Sept. 19 and ends with a soccer picnic in the beginning of November.

The Harrison Swim Team, entering its 30th season, is currently accepting applications. The team will be returning to the Westchester/Fairfield Swim League, which consists of teams in the Westchester and Southern Connecticut area. Students from kindergarten through twelfth grade are eligible. Registration is rolling and evaluations are on Oct. 15 at the LMK pool at 6 p.m.

Please be advised of the following sanitation schedule change. The schedule change, during the week of Sept. 7, is as follows: Garbage and recycling normally collected on Monday, Sept. 7 will be collected on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Tuesday’s collection will be made on Wednesday, Sept. 9. There will be no bulk trash collection on Sept. 9.

In closing, as election season approaches, my regularly-featured mayor’s column in the Harrison Review will be on hiatus during the election campaign season from mid-September through mid-November. Primary Election Day is Thursday, Sept. 10 and I encourage all residents to get out and vote. While there is a contested race in progress, the paper cannot give one candidate an advantage over the other to promote their campaign platform through a weekly column. If you are interested in receiving the column during this interval, please email and indicate that you would like to receive it. I look forward to sharing my views on significant issues and important events. Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

My next “Lunch with the Mayor” will be on Friday, Sept. 4 and I will be at Trevi Ristorante, located at 11 Taylor Square in West Harrison. On Friday, Sept. 11, I will be at NY Pizza Station, located at 370 Halstead Ave. I will be at both locations from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and look forward to meeting with residents and talking about issues facing our community.


Column: Two magnificent gifts from two great women

Two women who lived in the Town of Eastchester for most of their adult lives would make incredibly generous gifts that have greatly enhanced the quality of life in our community. These very different individuals who came from dissimilar backgrounds unknowingly shared a common bond. Their names are Carmela Vaccaro and Frieda Riggs. Here are their stories.

Carmela, who spent most of her adult life in the north end of Eastchester, was the matriarch of one of the oldest and biggest families in the Town of Eastchester. She had six children, 43 grandchildren, and more than 75 great-grandchildren, many of whom still live in the town. But that is but a small part of what made this very special person so unique. Carmela was born in a mountain village in Italy, two hours east of Rome. The oldest of six children, Carmela carried much of the responsibility in the family.

Carmela and Donato Vaccaro, like their parents before them, had six children. Sadly, Donato died of peptic ulcer in 1947 and Carmela had the responsibility of caring for the family. Fortunately, her sons Luke and Leslie took over the successful shoe store business that their father had started in the Village of Scarsdale. Scarsdale’s Vaccaro Shoe Repair was founded in 1928 and remained a family-run business and fixture in the community for 83 years, closing in 2011.

Her home and garden, family, faith and love of community were her four great passions. She attended Mass every day at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. She participated in Bible classes and prayer groups and avidly took part in the social ministry of the church. Day and night, her home was always open to her children and numerous grandchildren. Her son, Les, remembers riding a horse on the property and playing with the chickens, goats and rabbits along with eating the wonderful fruits and vegetables from her garden. She always wanted all the people in her neighborhood, especially the children, to be healthy and happy.

Frieda Riggs was deeply committed to the cultural life of the Bronxville community, maintaining the high quality of the Bronxville school system, and the preservation of Bronxville’s architectural and historic heritage. Frieda Wildy Riggs was born in Nebraska in 1907, the third of four daughters. Her father, Calvin Wildy, started out as a homesteader, then turned banker. When her father realized he was losing his sight, he moved his family to Colorado so that his four daughters would attend the University of Colorado at Boulder. Upon graduation, Frieda came to the east and received a master’s in social work from Byrn Mawr College. For Frieda and her family, a quality education was always a priority.

Before obtaining her degree and beginning her career in social work in Westchester County, Frieda spent a summer working at Yellowstone National Park where she met a young man named Arad Riggs. In 1932, they got married. After marriage, they moved into the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon. Arad, a promising attorney, took the train to Manhattan and Frieda took a bus up Route 22 to White Plains where she had a job with the Westchester County Department of Social Services. But Frieda, as she rode the bus, took special notice of the Abijah Morgan house, the oldest home in Bronxville at the northeast corner of White Plains and Pondfield roads. In 1937, the asking price of the home from the bank was $12,000 and with help from her family, Frieda and Arad were able to purchase the house. She lived in the house continuously for 53 years until her passing in 2000.

Upon moving into Bronxville, Frieda immediately became involved in community activities even though she continued to work for the county Department of Social Services until the end of World War II. In the 1950s she served on the Bronxville Board of Education. She also was a member of the board of the Bronxville library and emphasized the importance of collecting and preserving important works of art. She also was an active member of the Reform Church of Bronxville. Frieda was deeply committed to quality education, the cultural life of the Bronxville community, and the preservation of Bronxville’s architectural and historic heritage.

The year was 1950 and Carmela Vaccaro had been a widow for three years. The town offered Carmela $68,000 for a portion of her property adjacent to her home on 68 Bell Road. Realtors today believe that that property would be worth close to $2 million. Instead, Carmela decided to donate the land to the school district, accepting only $7,000. The town agreed and the land became Cooper Field, a playground at the former Cooper School. In the late 1970s, the closure of Cooper School left the field in danger of being developed. But in 1980, town officials negotiated an agreement to rent the property from the school district for $1. In 2002, Carmela passed away at the age of 99. Three years later, the Eastchester Board of Education voted to erect a sign renaming Cooper Field as Vaccaro Park. Carmela’s wish in 1950 to have a place where “children make happy sounds” had come true.

Frieda Riggs also had a dream come true. Her life had been dedicated to doing whatever she could to preserve the cultural and historical heritage of the village where she had lived for most of her adult life.

In 2000, Frieda made a testamentary gift of the oldest house in Bronxville, the Abijah Morgan house, to the Bronxville Historical Conservancy. The house was subsequently sold subject to a restrictive easement that preserves the historic aspects of the building, and the proceeds of the sale and income thereon are continuously applied to the conservancy’s mission. The mission of the conservancy is to further the understanding and appreciation of the history and current life of Bronxville. Today the programs, publications, lectures, and special events of the conservancy foster an awareness of the village’s architectural and cultural heritage.

Sadly, these two wonderful women who lived well into their 90’s are no longer with us. But the bond that they share, making the community that they love a better place, lives on.


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Column: Feelin’ old and tired

Sports Editor Mike Smith, top row, far right, and his baseball team battled valiantly this summer, but a championship wasn’t in the cards for the Mud Hens. After a long summer, Smith is starting to feel his age. Contributed photo

Sports Editor Mike Smith, top row, far right, and his baseball team battled valiantly this summer, but a championship wasn’t in the cards for the Mud Hens. After a long summer, Smith is starting to feel his age. Contributed photo

Over the last few years in my column, I’ve written countless pieces about the ability that rejuvenating power sports has and about the power of athletic competition to make anyone feel young again. But man, oh man, do I feel old today.

As you, dear reader, are no doubt aware, I’ve spent the last nine years of my life playing and coaching on a men’s baseball team in New York City. It has been fulfilling and rewarding, and during those precious few at-bats when I actually square up a fastball, it’s a throwback to a time when playing baseball was without a doubt the most important thing in my life.

After our 7-2 defeat during Sunday’s championship game, however, I felt every bit of my 30 years.

I think the wheels began to come off last week, during what can only be described as our “miraculous” run to our first-ever championship appearance. With a new playoff format that forced us to play four nine-inning games in less than 48 hours, it was crazy enough that my guys and I were able to leave the field—by and large—under our own power, much less with more baseball still to be played the following weekend.

Playing 36 innings of baseball in one weekend is tough enough for an 18-year-old. But for a team comprised mainly of players on the wrong side of 30 whose main source of exercise during the week is taking the stairs, not the elevator, to our desk jobs? It’s absolute lunacy.

Sure we came out of the weekend with a chance to hoist the trophy, but the cost was high. We lost three players to balky hamstrings alone, we lost our flame-throwing ace to a strained UCL, and we spent about 15 minutes in the penultimate game as our third baseman lay prone in the infield, screaming bloody murder as he tried to work through a calf muscle cramp that probably wouldn’t have been a big deal for someone half his age.

When you’re winning, you can sort of fight through those setbacks. Eventually, however, it’s going to catch up to you.

I, like most of my teammates, spent the last seven days trying to simply survive my workweek, feeling more like a desiccated, latex-clad extra on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” than a Major League star. The promise of hoisting a trophy was enough to carry us through.

Once that promise of glory is gone, however, that’s when you start to feel the nicks, bruises and aches of an entire season of baseball.

After the game, my teammates and I retired to our local bar to toast to another great year of baseball and commiserate in the latest loss. The defeat itself wasn’t that bad. We were simply beat by a better team. But taking stock of what we had left was a different situation entirely. Our left fielder, a loyal teammate for the past seven years, was heading out west to take a job in Oregon. Our center fielder, a guy I’d played with since college, let me know that he didn’t have another year left in his legs. Our longtime ace, when asked if he was coming back for another year, glanced at his elbow, smiled wanly and just shook his head.

The game catches up with all of us. Heck, even I don’t know if I’ve got one more year of baseball left in my increasingly broken down body.

I feel old right now, and tired. But I guess that’s how you’re supposed to feel at the end of a long season.

Opening Day isn’t until April. I got a lot of time to rest up.


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