By Jerry Del Priore
In the book tilted When Dreams Never Die, author Gary Robert Wallace depicts the life of former well-regarded Canarsie resident and local standout baseball player and coach Salvatore Aprea.
Aprea put up impressive stats as a pitcher and outfielder with Tilden High School and Holy Family Senior CYO travel team, which included winning the Lou Gehrig MVP Trophy at the fifth annual Journal-American baseball game at the New York baseball Giants’ Polo Grounds. It prompted the New York Yankees to ink the then-18-year-old to contract on his graduation day.
Nicely intertwined into the biography, the book begins by telling the tale of Aprea’s parents’ journey from Italy to America for a better life. Moreover, it vividly evokes memories of his childhood days in Canarsie, to his pursuit of the major leagues in the Bronx Bomber’s farm system.
He also talks about his travel league coaching career and the players he helped mentor and mold into better athletes and humans, including his son, Sal Aprea Jr., and grandsons, Daniel Sprock and Bobby and Steven Egeberg.
As for the area children, “He was given kids that he coached major league advice, which he learned first-hand from the guys he played with (in pro ball), which no coach was doing at the time,” Aprea Jr, explained. “Baseball has always been his love, and loved given back (to kids and the game).”
Aprea—who spent six years under contract with the Yankees, two of which was devoted to the United States Army—played four seasons in New York’s minor league system before his father’s illness curtailed his dream.
Though reluctant to tell his story at first, Aprea, 82, said he wanted to inspire other people to not wallow in despair when plans don’t work accordingly, and implores the masses to find a new aspiration in life instead.
“A good friend here in Arizona kept after me for almost a year to tell my story, about having a dream, and having to walk away because of physical problems at home with my dad,” the New Jersey-born Aprea recollected. “I wrote it with one stipulation: that if there was even one person who had a dream as I had, and for whatever reason, had to walk away, to encourage that individual to never give up hope. It didn’t have to be baseball. It could have been any dream.”
Andy Rizzo, former longtime Canarsie High School football announcer and friend of Aprea, said he was honored to be part of the book.
“He was an excellent role model for the Canarsie kids he coached,” Rizzo said of the baseball tutelage Aprea provided to the local children, including his son Joseph Rizzo, now a well-known deejay (DJ Riz) and former three-sport athlete at Canarsie High School, along with being a football standout at Nassau Community College and Hofstra University.
“He carried himself with great dignity. I am proud to be part of his book, which should be read by all who lived in Canarsie.”
More than baseball, the book looks back at old-time Canarsie and other parts of timeless Brooklyn, with accompanying vintage photos. It also delves into Aprea’s Italian-American working-class upbringing, and includes candid interviews with his wife, Ida.
To purchase a copy of When Dreams Never Die, published by Wallace Publishing House, on December 18, 2015, log onto http://www.Lulu.com.