Well, get used to the sight of radar guns being put to a more benign use this spring when Robbie Aviles is on the mound.
The Suffern (Suffern, N.Y.) junior right-hander made his season debut Thursday with nine strikeouts in five innings, scattering five hits during a 15-0 baseball rout of Tappan Zee. His every move was scrutinized by more than two dozen scouts and bird dogs taking note of the velocity and movement on every pitch.
Such is life when you possess a 93 mph fastball and are regarded as a potential top-100 selection in Major League Baseball’s entry draft in June. In this particular instance, however, the circus atmosphere that’s likely to prevail for the remainder of the high school season was somewhat muted out of respect to the families of two fallen Mounties teammates.
Hundreds were on hand as Vincent Crotty and Christopher Konkowski, who died in a car accident on their way to a Suffern practice late last month, had their numbers retired. Their fathers threw out the first pitch and their mothers were presented flowers from the Tappan Zee captains.
"The scouts were pretty intimidating seeing them all back there, even by the bullpen," Aviles told The Journal News. "My main focus has been, all that's great, but Vin and Chris is what's on our mind. The whole season's just for them, nothing else. We don't care what we do."
Anthony Simon doubled and tripled in his first start at shortstop for Suffern. He was manning the position that belonged to Crotty, who was a friend since childhood.
"Right now I'm starting to get the chills talking about it," he told the newspaper. "I felt something. I felt his presence there. He was watching over us."
Football: We now return you to our unscheduled programming
You can no longer say there’s underlying tension in Section III. It’s officially bubbled to the surface now, and soothing the hurt feelings isn’t going to be easy.
One of the truisms within the New York State Public High School Athletic Association is that the larger schools may not cast more votes than their smaller counterparts, but they invariably wield more clout. They generally field more teams in a wider variety of sports and operate on larger budgets. Their coaches, ADs and district superintendents get appointed to a lot of positions within leagues and in the sections.
In the case of Section III, most of the schools fitting that description are within a 15-mile radius of Syracuse. Not coincidentally, Rome Free Academy and Proctor (Utica), about 40 miles to the east (which puts them about as close to some Section II schools as to the Salt City), are feeling a bit abused these days now that their football series looks like it’s been mothballed again.
The RFA-Proctor series has not been played continuously, but it does date to 1891 – making it the oldest football rivalry in the state – and remained strong even when Rome Free Academy went unbeaten in 30 straight meetings. It was revealed last month that the schools, which play in different Class AA divisions, were not paired against each other by the blind draw that determined the one nonleague game on their 2010 schedules. People at both schools were incredulous over that development and quickly asked to be accommodated.
They thought the issue had been resolved and even appeared to have the support of the two Syracuse schools whose schedules would have been affected. And then they learned last week that the Section III football committee had called a figurative illegal procedure penalty.
"All parties are not on the same page right now. That's all I can say," Fayetteville-Manlius coach and committee member Paul Muench told The Observer-Dispatch in Utica.
Liverpool AD George Mangicaro called the first revision a "schedule manipulation" that should not have been allowed because procedures hadn’t been followed.
"I would love to be optimistic, but at this point, (the section) has no respect for the rivalry," RFA head coach Ted Swavely said. "It's all about Syracuse. I watched it as a player and I've watched it as a coach. They draw a line in the sand and say, 'Hey, we're Syracuse.' "
How important is the issue to folks in Rome and Utica. With the state in the midst of a budget negotiations deadlock while wrestling with a projected multi-billion deficit, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo of Rome found time to write to Section III Executive Director John Rathbun, suggesting "the fact that RFA and Proctor have of late been subject to the will of the rest of the Class AA schools who are clustered on one side of the section is unfortunate."
Further complicating the situation is the fact that RFA and Proctor are both trying to leave the Central New York Counties League and gain admission to the Tri Valley League for most other sports (football is one of a handful of sports administrated on the section level rather than by the leagues). Playing in the TVL would spare the two schools lots of long trips to Syracuse each year, with the western schools also able to take some long bus rides off the schedule.
But the Tri Valley League has twice rejected the membership applications in the last year on the grounds the applicants are two large to be good competitive fits. Now, though, one would have to wonder if RFA and Proctor might want to stay in the CNYCL and maybe start scheduling some home basketball games to start at 8:30 p.m. in the dead of winter.
That would make for some long nights for the Syracuse teams.
Girls lacrosse: Junior already over 100 goals
* Junior Taylor Moore scored five goals Thursday as North Rockland (Thiells, N.Y.) beat Pearl River 13-7. That put her over 100 goals as a varsity player with nearly two full seasons to go.
*Chenango Forks (Binghamton, N.Y.) made history Wednesday by beating Johnson City 12-11 for its first varsity triumph. Amber Villecco scored five goals and Mandi Dordell added four for Forks, which never trailed. Chenango Forks has played varsity lacrosse since 2004, and the losing streak was believed to be near 100 games.
Football odds and ends
* It looks as though Ishaq Williams will be the state's hot recruit this fall. The 6-foot-5 defensive end at Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) is on the wish list of all the Division I programs in the Northeast as well as the likes of Miami, Alabama and Oregon.
* Former Our Lady of Lourdes coach Mike Lindberg is expected to take the same position at John Jay, replacing the man who replaced him, according to the Hudson Valley Sports Report. Pending approval by the Wappingers school board, Lindberg will take over for Brian Walsh, who left after last season to accept an offer to coach football at Lourdes. Lindberg was 4-4 in 2009 and said he resigned after being uncertain about whether he would be retained at Lourdes.
* Rich Ward was named coach at Marlboro Central (Marlboro, N.Y.), his alma mater. Ward stated his coaching career as an assistant at Cornwall and has spent the last three years as the defensive coordinator for Army's sprint football team. Marlboro is coming off a 2-7 season.
* Former Schenectady player Ron Wise has been appointed the new coach at Cairo-Durham, taking over from Dom DeMaria after previously coaching at the lower levels at Bishop Gibbons and Schenectady and on the staff at Hudson Valley Community College. Cairo-Durham was 1-8, 1-8 and 3-6 the past three seasons.
* As an 11-year-old, Matt Benton was a team manager for the Johnstown football team. Now, he gets to manage the entire Sir Bills program. The Greater Johnstown School District school board approved him as the replacement for Bob Kramer as varsity coach.
Benton is the fifth head coach there since 2000. Kramer took over in 2005 as the fourth coach in five years and posted a 12-33 mark after inheriting a club that had been 1-26 over the previous three years. Johnstown was 0-8 last fall. Benton, a teacher in the Amsterdam School District, has been on the Johnstown coaching staff since 2007. His wife Denise coaches girls lacrosse at Johnstown.
John Schiano, who has written about high school sports in western and central New York for more than 25 years, covers New York for MaxPreps. He may be reached at