NYC Parks Rec Director Bill Lynch Memorialized Through Girls Hoops Tournament


By Jerry Del Priore

Lynch Collage

Bill Lynch Collage.

When Bill Lynch, a longtime recreational director with the New York City Parks Department, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 61 in January, Ed Auguste felt compelled to do something to honor his memory. 

On his death bed, Lynch told Auguste, another a parks rec director, that he needed to carry the torch as the new commish. It was a nickname Lynch garnered through his deep community ties that he formed, and the tireless work of organizing countless basketball leagues for players of all ages throughout the five boroughs.

On Saturday, the same day as Lynch’s birthday, Auguste, with the help of community members, held the first annual Bill Lynch Memorial Classic Girls 17U Basketball Tournament at Hamilton Fish Park—where the two worked for five years—on Manhattan’s Lower Eastside.

It was Auguste’s way, he said, of celebrating the memory of a man who mentored him in basketball refereeing and taught him the rec league ropes. Plus, more importantly, was a positive guiding force in his life.

“He gave me the blueprint and the tools to learn how to run these leagues,” Auguste, 36, said. “So, I’m paying homage to him and keeping his legacy and memory going.

“He was more than just a co-worker. He was a father and a role model to me.”

Lynch’s daughter, Allison flew in from Florida for the special in event, which, she said, was bittersweet for her. However, once the action tipped off, she began to channel her dad and his everlasting love for the game and the children he served.

“Well, it was very overwhelming,” Allison said of the feeling she experienced at the beginning of the tournament. “But once they started playing, I started embracing him, I started becoming him. I started feeling that passion he had for the kids. It didn’t mean anything for him about a paycheck. This is what he was here for—for the kids.”

The hope is to turn the tournament into a full-fledged girls’ basketball summer league next year, according to both Auguste and Allison.

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The LM Gators pictured with their first- place trophies.

The ML Gators dribbled away with the tournament’s first-place trophy, beating Alfred E. Rec Center, 33-15, in its first game and Millennium Phoenix, 31-15, in its second tilt of the day.

Millennium’s Shakina Riddick, who plays for the PSAL’s Seward Park Campus, captured the tournament’s merit award for her outstanding performance and stellar sportsmanship.

Tournament officials awarded the Gators’ Kayla Bridgeman, due to her excellent play, with two tickets to see the New York Liberty take on the Los Angeles Sparks Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

 

 

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Humphreys, Gonzalez Lead Fireflies’ Pitching Staff


By Jerry Del Priore

M.G.

Columbia starter Merandy Gonzalez is 6-1 with the Fireflies.

Starting pitchers Merandy Gonzalez and Jordan Humphreys have been enjoying tremendous seasons for the Single-A Columbia Fireflies (New York Mets) of the South Atlantic League thus far.

Gonzalez tossed six innings of two-run ball, surrendering six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in Thursday night’s 3-2 win over the Lexington Legends (Kansas City Royals) at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

The 21-year-old righty and former Brooklyn Cyclone picked up his sixth victory of the year and for the sixth time in eight starts this campaign, he completed six innings. After his sparking performance, Gonzalez (6-1) now sports an impressive 1.75 ERA.

Humphreys (7-1, 1.57 ERA), another ex-Cyclone, went the distance against the Charleston RiverDogs, recording 10 whiffs in Columbia’s 3-0 win in the first of two Wednesday at Spirit Communication Park.

The right-handed soon-to-be 21-year-old helped the Fireflies register their seventh shut-out victory of the year.

Columbia dropped the second game of the day, 10-5, in a five-inning, rain-shorten affair.

 

 

Columbia Catcher Ali Sanchez Rides Golden Arm to Success


By Jerry Del Priore

Ali Sanchez

Ali Sanchez has gunned down 55 percent of would-be base stealers this season with the Fireflies.

There’s no denying that Columbia Fireflies’ catcher Ali Sanchez sports a cannon for an arm.

Last season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, Sanchez nailed 48 percent of would-be base stealers. This year so far, the 20-year-old backstop has surpassed last season’s numbers, gunning down 11 runners in 20 attempts (55 percent – second-best percentage in the South Atlantic League). 

In addition to his strong arm, the New York Mets’ brass believe Sanchez is a good pitch caller and adept behind the plate in blocking pitches in the dirt.

Sanchez’s above average defensive skills are rarely seen by a player his age. In fact, many pro baseball insiders feel he possesses the defensive skillset to play at the major-league level someday. The problem is: he hasn’t hit much in his minor league career.

This year, Sanchez is batting .207 in 92 at-bats through 27 games with the Fireflies. Last season, the Venezuelan fared slightly better, hitting .216 in 171 at-bats in 46 contests with the Cyclones.

His saving grace is he’s young, so he has the time to develop into a decent hitter.

Sanchez’s career offensive numbers are: .255 with three home runs and 66 RBI in 611 at-bats in 172 tilts, with most of his offensive production coming early in his career.

He suffered a hand injury last June, so that could be part of the reason for his offensive drop-off.

But the 2013 international free agent Mets’ signee’s defensive abilities are good enough to possibly ride to the majors.

However, make no mistake, Sanchez will need to hit more in order to expedite his major league pursuit, and stick there if he makes it to “The Show.”

The National Sport of Afghanistan: Buzkashi, a Goat-Grabbing Game


By Jerry Del Priore

Buzkashi

Buzkashi players battle for supremacy.

This is from the corner of the unusual, at least by American standards, especially mine.

Afghanistan’s national sports isn’t soccer, the world’s most popular sport, nor is it cricket, second in popularity to soccer.

It’s a rough-and-tumble, hazardous game called Buzkashi (goat grabbing or pulling), in which horse-mounted players attempt to place a goat or calf carcass in a goal. I doubt PETA would approve of this sport.

Turkic peoples in northern Afghanistan predominately play the game. The game is believed to be played in Afghanistan since the days of Genghis Khan, the Mongol warrior whose army swept across Asia in the 13th century.

While Buzkashi hasn’t been banned in Afghanistan, the decline in the number of playing horses under the Taliban regime has forced a drop off in the sport, according to internet sources.

Customarily, games could last for several days, but in its tournament-version, Buzkashi match time is limited.

March 21st is called Nowruz, which is the first day of the Afghan New Year and the kickoff of the Buzkashi season. It’s a public holiday in Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan

Did this get your goat?

 

 

Former Brooklyn Cyclone Paul Sewald Gives New York Mets’ Pen Relief



By Jerry Del Priore

Paul Sewald

Pitcher Paul Sewald with Las Vegas.

It’s no secret that the New York Mets’ bullpen has been overworked of late, if not longer.

But right-handed reliever Paul Sewald has provided a proverbial shot in the arm for the Mets’ beleaguered bullpen.

The ex-Cyclone pitcher’s major league debut on April 8th didn’t go so well, as he surrendered three hits and two earned runs in 0.1 innings of work.

Since then, however, the Las Vegas, Nevada, native has only permitted two earned runs over 11.2 frames.

In total, Sewald has posted a solid 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings in nine games with New York.  

With the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s (PCL), the former University of San Diego product posted a 1-0 record with 2.08 ERA and limited batters to a .206 average in 8.2 innings before his call-up.

Sewald, chosen in the tenth round of the 2012 MLB June amateur draft by the Mets, went 0-2 with a 1.88 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 28.2 innings in 16 contests with Brooklyn in 2012.

 

 

 

 

Fireflies’ Michael Paez Continues Red-Hot Streak Against West Virginia


By Jerry Del Priore

Michael Paez is thumping .423 over his last eight games

Michael Paez is slugging .423 over his last eight games.

Columbia Fireflies third baseman Michael Paez sustained his blistering pace Friday night, going 1-3 with a double, RBI, and walk in a 3-1 loss to the West Virginia Power at Spirit Communications Park.

 

Paez, a former Brooklyn Cyclone, is slugging .423 over his last eight games. For the season, the Miami, Florida, native is batting .288 with five homers, 25 RBI and 18 bases-on-balls in 125 at-bats in 36 contests.

With the Cyclones, Paez, 22, hit .190 with two dingers and 11 RBI in 179 at-bats in 46 games.

The New York Mets drafted the Coastal Carolina University product in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB amateur draft.  

Paez isn’t the only player streaking: Fireflies shortstop Andres Gimenez singled, extending his on-base streak to 15 tilts. Paez plated Gimenez two batters later to account for Columbia’s only run in the game.

Lab Museum United Girls Basketball’s Rianne John Headed to SUNY Purchase College


By Jerry Del Priore

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Rianne John and Purchase College Head Coach Eddie Varrell

When playing college basketball became a possibility for Lab Museum United’s Rianne John, she had her heart set on attending Division-3 SUNY Purchase. All she had to do was pick up her SAT score, and the rest would take care of itself.

Consider it accomplished as John, a Brooklyn native, is headed to Purchase College in the fall to study and play the game she loves, the John family recently announced.

“I’m really excited,” said John, who will graduate from LMU on June 28th. “It’s something new, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Her father, Richard John said the entire family was more than satisfied with the way things shook out for his daughter after having other schools in the mix, including Division-2 Niagara University and Buffalo State College as well as LaGuardia Community College. But they ultimately landed the school at the top of their list.

“That was our first choice,” Richard John said of Purchase. “We’re happy with the way things worked out.”

John’s former high school head coach Michael Lloyd is ecstatic for his former power forward, who, he said, will get the chance to suit up for a great coach in Eddie Varrell and improving program. 

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Rianne John and Lab Museum HS Head Coach Michael Lloyd.

 

“I’m excited about the opportunity Rianne has to play at the next level, especially at a fine institution like Purchase,” Lloyd said. “I believe in Coach Eddie, his system, beliefs, and value system. They are headed in the right direction and I’m happy Rianne will be a part of it.”

Although not a polished played when she first entered Lab Museum, Lloyd said John bought into the Lady Gators’ hoops system in every way possible.

“At Lab Museum, we put a premium on player development, college placement and community service,” he said. “Rianne is living proof of the player development program we’ve established. She’s improved each year mainly because she took full advantage of the program.

“Rianne joined the program as a sophomore having never been on a team,” the four-year coach continued. “She was able to bridge the gap by attending additional workout sessions and participating in the offseason. As a result, she was selected to represent Manhattan in the Wheelchair Charites All-Star Game.”

John averaged 9.3 points and 10.12 rebounds per game in 17 contests, helping the Lady Gators to an 18-0 record and first place finish in the PSAL’s A West Division. Plus, a trip to the Class A Championship game—a 59-40 defeat to James Madison at Baruch College.  

Musician Joe Litzi’s Early Love for Smooth Jazz Drives Him to Tickle the Ivories


By Jerry Del Priore

Joe Litzi

Philly-Based Musician Joe Litzi.

     At the tender age of 5 years old, already showing a little piano prowess, Philadelphia-based musician Joe Litzi fell in love with smooth jazz music in the most unconventional way: by hearing it played on the weather channel. 

     “We bought Joey a small piano for Christmas when he was three, and was amazed at how he would hear a melody and be able to play it,” Joe’s mother, Paula Litzi recollected. “He took songs he knew and played parts of them on his little piano.”

     At around seven, Litzi asked his parents if he could start taking piano lessons. Seeing an early, genuine passion for music, they obliged, and lessons, which included classical training, lasted through the eighth grade.
     “When he was seven, he asked if he could take piano lessons,” Paula Litzi said. “He loved playing, so, of course, we found a piano teacher who lived nearby and he began taking weekly lessons for quite a few years. He practiced without effort.”
     Litzi said he was listening to and playing music beyond his young years, influenced by his parents’ musical taste.
     “I picked up a lot of stuff kids weren’t listening to at the time because of my parents’ good taste in older pop music,” Litzi, 30, said. “I credit my parents for my early exposure to some of the best music of all time.”
     Furthermore, Litzi discovered a Philadelphia jazz station, which fueled his desire for the genre even further.
     “During the early to mid-nineties, Philly radio began a jazz station which Joey loved and  began listening,” Paula Litzi recalled. “He took a real liking to many of the artists, which lead him into the jazz category of music.”
     Wanting to take a break from the rigors of classical training, Litzi ceased lessons to allow more self-musical expression and experimentation.
     “I kind of wanted to focus on being a kid and not have to practice all the time, playing classical,” Litzi explained, adding that classical music has a rigid, set structure. “I wanted to focus on pop and jazz.”
     From there, Litzi started to teach himself smooth jazz. But in his freshman and sophomore years of high school, he took a respite to concentrate on his studies.
     But Litzi joined the Archbishop Ryan High School Jazz Band in his junior year at the request of a friend. He spent his last two years of high school rehearsing for competitions in the fall and competing at many Cavalcade of Bands events from February to March.
     Litzi said the competitions were judged by distinguished jazz professionals from the high school and college communities within the greater Philadelphia area who bestowed the team with favorable scorings, ranking them with “outstanding” approximately 90 percent of the time.
     Plus, he said, it provided him with a wealth of music knowledge and several found reminiscences.
     “We did well,” he recalled. “It was a really, really good experience for me, and provided a lot of great memories.”

     As most promising musicians realize, however, the reality of making a living comes knocking hard, slicing into the love of producing music. But Litzi he’s manufactured a more time adjustable way of earning money through his Amazon delivery driver job and his eBay Motors store while he pursues music with a fervor.

J. Litzi

Joe Litzi behind the keyboard.

      “I always had other jobs that took up most of my time,” the self-professed gearhead said. “But now I’ve engineered a way to make more money in a more flexible way so I can put the necessary time into my music.”
     Litzi conservatively estimates that he’s played over 500 shows in his lifetime, and averages one or more gigs a week. He often joins Jean Therapy–a six-piece jazz/rock fusion band fronted by Jean Lenke.
     In addition, he’s played at some of Philly’s top hot spots, including the Hard Rock Café, Warmdaddy’s and Chris’ Jazz Café. Plus, Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and the Atlantic City Sheraton.
     In the process of cranking up his musical career, Litzi is hell-bent on turning his passion into a prolific musical experience.
     “I want to make this a full-fledge career,” he said. “I am not going to settle for less.”
     To listen to the piano stylings of Litzi, log onto http://www.joelitzi.com and/or www.soundcloud.com/joe-litzi. Plus, follow him on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/JazzPianoJoe.

Former Brooklyn Cyclone Hurlers Rainy Lara, Tyler Badamo Continue to Post Stellar Numbers for Independent Bridgeport Bluefish


By Jerry Del Priore

Lara

Rainy Lara with the B-Mets.

Bridgeport Bluefish righty pitchers Rainy Lara and Tyler Badamo have exceled during the early going in 2017, through four and three starts, respectively.

Lara, a New York Mets’ 2009 free agent signing out of Bani, Dominican Republic, is 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 24.2 innings of work.

Lara notched his second victory of the season after firing six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out a pair against host York Revolution Saturday night en route to his third quality start in 2017.

Badamo, a 24th-round selection of the Mets in the 2014 amateur draft, is 1-1 with a 0.00 ERA in 16 frames.

T. Badamo

Tyler Badamo with the Columbia Fireflies.

Lara, 29, spent the 2012 campaign with the Brooklyn Cyclones—New York’s short-season New York-Penn League affiliate—recording a stellar 8-3 record with a 2.91 ERA in 68 innings in 12 contests. The six-foot-four, 240-pounder owns a 44-34 mark with a 3.66 ERA with 489 strikeouts in 642 innings in 133 tilts (111 starts) in affiliated baseball.

Badamo, 24, went 5-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 81.1 frames in 14 starts with Brooklyn in 2015. For the six-foot-one-inch, 210-pounder’s affiliated minor league career, he’s 9-10 with a 3.22 ERA with 141 K’s to 41 walks in 190.1 innings in 37 games (31 starts).

Warriors of Wrestling Brings the Beatdown to Brooklyn


By Jerry Del Priore

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Ex-WWE Star Billy Gunn on the Mic at W.O.W’s Brooklyn Beatdown Event.

Last night’s Warriors of Wrestling’s (W.O.W) Beatdown in Brooklyn show at St. Finbars Catholic Church featured some fine local talent along with former WWE superstar Badass Billy Gunn.

Like most independent wrestling shows, I didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately for the crowd, W.O.W. did showcase some of its best grapplers along with the aforementioned Gunn, to host an overall solid event.

Here’s a breakdown of the action:

SIX MAN TAG MAIN EVENT

Gunn joined Tony Booze and Frankie Getz as they took on The Apostles of Chaos – “King of Chaos” Logan Black, Chris Benne and “The Living Weapon” Jason Sinclair — in a six-man tag main event.

After a high-octane back-and-forth affair Gunn hit his famouser move to secure the one-two-three for his team.

HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH

The heavyweight title match pitted W.O.W Champion Jasin Karloff versus No Limits Champion Chris Steeler.

In arguably one of the night’s best matches, Karloff pinned Steeler after delivering an impressive F-5 to his opponent.

EIGHT-PERSON TAG WAR

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Darius Carter Taunts the Brooklyn Crowd.

Joey B, Juba, Jose Salvador and Sonny Kiss squared off against The Hostile Collective (Darius Carter, JustNeph, Abdul Nasir and Katred).

This match highlighted some of the top indy wrestlers on the circuit, such as Kiss and the Monster Juba on one side, and Carter and JustNeph on the other.

In the end, Carter pinned Salvador after The Hostile Collective beat him down in the center of the ring when they dispersed their opponents through the church’s gymnasium.

TK Luthor V. versus Christina C-Bunny Sarni

An inspirational wrestler due to dealing with her hearing impairment like a champion, C-Bunny, a former hip-hop and NPC Bikini Competitor, put up a good fight. But Luthor cheated and utilized the ropes for leverage to secure the victory over the Brooklyn-born Sarni.