Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
By J. PAUL LOMBARDO
Special to the OBSERVER
It was the summer of 1998, (No, I’m not bursting into a remake of Bryan Adams, Summer of ’69) when Sally, Jon and I were about three miles from our destination of Cooperstown New York. We were heading for a week’s vacation which was to include camping at a Family Camp Ground just outside of the Home of Baseball, and visits to the Home of James Fenimore Cooper, The Farmers’ Museum, and of course, Doubleday Field and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
About those three miles short of Cooperstown, travelling on Route 28 (if I recall), we saw something on the right which caused me to hit the brakes hard to check out what looked like a baseball lover’s dream village. Correct in my assumption of it being something connected with dreams, we stumbled upon the Cooperstown Dreams Park (est. 1996), a multi-field baseball park where, at that time, 48t teams of 10 to 12 year olds each week came to play in a minimum of eight games against teams from all over the USA, Canada, and Mexico, where they lived in a baseball village of camp-like barracks named for Baseball Hall of Famers. (The girls’ barracks was named for the Rockford Peaches of the AAGPBL.) There were two entrances for each barracks, one for each team, each side named for a different HOFer, with a doored wall separating each end, where teams sharing the same hut could meet and get to know each other. There was a huge tent where meals were served for the week, a medical facility, and showers and rest room facilities as well. Outside this part of the village (which, by the way, was off limits to anyone but players and coaches), there were 10-12 year olds walking around in either red or blue jerseys and white pants competing on 10 baseball diamonds, all with lights, and intermingled among them were a Souvenir Stand tent, and an Administration Building with offices that kept this place running. That was my first stop. (Footnote to this story…the Dreams Park has more than doubled in size and presently takes in more than 100 teams per week.)
I turned to Sally and said, “we have to find out about this place,” so I entered the administration building ready to inquire about this amazing place. Jon was 10 and I asked him if he thought he might want to play here, and after he quickly said, “Yes,” I got all brochures and paperwork necessary to see just what this was about and what we’d have to do to play there. For the remainder of our vacation, I couldn’t wait to get back home and start making calls to put together a team to experience what we’d seen. It looked like an enormous task, but very doable with some grunt work. I told Sally this would be a one year thing as the task was huge. She was onboard and we set the wheels in motion.
The very next summer, we had a team of kids from Jamestown and a sponsor, the Jock Shop, and we were ready to experience the Dreams Park as the Jamestown Jock Shop Cooperstown Kids. The experience was so great, getting to share much more than coaching baseball with these kids as we also shared the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony that year with that first group. The induction of Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, Orlando Cepeda, Nestor Chylak, (I made it Mike Z!) Joe Williams, and Frank Selee was two days after our week ended, so we stayed, sleeping on a school gymnasium floor so we could experience that too. Because of this amazing experience, I hinted to Sally that I might want to think about doing it again in 2000. I think you can guess the rest. We went back a second year with a group from all over Chautauqua County, and because Jon still had another year of eligibility, we decided to make it a three-peat in 2001.
I was thinking about all those teams recently and decided to see if I could find out what the players were doing now, 18, 17, and 16 years later, so I sent out messages, emails, made some calls and I was able to get information on 31 of the 36 total (actually 31 total after considering repeaters) players who were a part of the Cooperstown Kids of ’99, ’00, and ’01.
The title of this narrative were words made famous in song by Simon and Garfunkle (Mrs. Robinson) famous from the 1967 movie “The Graduate.”
With some tweaking, I thought I’d ask and try to answer the question, “Where have you gone Cooperstown Kids?” Some of the info below may have changed, but this is what I found in my research.
(Team coached with Dave Rizzo and Dave DeStevens of Jamestown)
1.) Mike DeStevens – Living in Tampa Florida with his young daughter.
2.) Tom Foster – no information found
3.) Corey Kane – Living in North East, PA. Quality Control Mgr. @ DIE Engineering.
4.) Jon Lombardo – Residing in N. Chesterfield, VA (Richmond area) – Police Officer with the Chesterfield County Police Department. Also member of their Strategic Response Unit.
5.) Patrick Maloney – Married, living in Bemus Point, employed by UPS.
6.) Jordan Moran – Served internships in several law offices, most recent position I found was law clerk in Covington, Kentucky.
7.) Mike Prinzi – Married, two children, living in Williamsville, New York, Project Mgr. for a solar company.
8.) Matt Raines – Married, living in the Amherst, New York area, Assistant Principal at Kenmore West.
9.) Mike Rizzo – Engaged – Living in Charlotte, NC, Chief Engineer @ Hyatt House Charlotte Center City.
10.) Joel Rowe – no information found
11.) Jason Scott – no information found
12.) Brandon Sudol – Married, Resides in Virginia, studied math at the University of Virginia.
(Team coach with Ray Belliotti of Fredonia)
1.) Angelo Belliotti – Married, Legal Counsel with Jane St. Capital – New York, NY.
2.) Will Bobseine – Married, Works in the International Trade Administration as a China Trade Specialist with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.
3.) Daren Card – Married, Finishing his PhD at the University of Texas in the field of Hereditary Genetics, Planning a career in Academia.
4.) Jay Card – Working and living in Dunkirk, Graduated from the Environmental Science and Forestry School at Syracuse University, planning to relocate to the Adirondack area.
5.) Randy Chapman – Living and working in Jamestown.
6.) Mike DeStevens – see 1999
7.) Lucas Gustafson – Sales Engineer @ Concepts NREC – Living in Lebanon, NH.
8.) Cael Johnson – Married, Living in East Aurora, NY, Working for Moog Industries Motion & Fluid Center, supplier of motion control & electronic solutions to the military vehicle market.
9.) Jon Lombardo – See 1999
10.) Tom Lutz – New Construction Specialist for Blitch Plumbing in Charleston, SC.
11.) Brian Madison – Married, two kids, Resides in Jamestown, NY, Superintendent for Suit-Kote Corp. in Jamestown. Also, has his own Hunting Show on Television’s Hunting Network.
12.) Abe Rak – works in his family’s business, the Double A Vineyards headquartered in Fredonia, NY.
(Team coached with Joe Pucciarelli and John Schober of Fredonia, NY)
1.) Ryan Alonge – Married, two kids, living in Mayville, finishing his degree at SUNY Fredonia.
2.) Drew Brown – no information found
3.) Matt Eaker – Living in Fredonia, NY, Transition Specialist for the Chaut. Co. Job Corps.
4.) Cael Johnson – see 2000
5.) Adam Kubasik – no information found
6.) Cody Kyser – Married, living in Erie, PA, Co-Owner/Operator of five Tim Horton’s in the Erie area.
7.) Jon Lombardo – see 1999 & 2000
8.) Joey Pucciarelli – Married, living in Buffalo, NY, Kitchen Mgr. @ Sato Brewpub, a Japanese Brewery/Restaurant in downtown Buffalo.
9.) Abe Rak – see 2000
10.) Byron Sass – Chartered Financial Analyst and Fixed Income Analyst at Karpus Investment Management in Pittsford, NY.
11.) Andrew Schober – West Coast Regional Mgr. for Universal Stainless in Tustin, CA.
12.) Kevin Watson – Married, 1 child, 1 on the way, Independent Marketing Specialist representing Ashley Furniture.
So, that’s the almost complete story of all who played for the Jamestown Jock Shop Cooperstown Kids, these 36 local young men who are inductees of the Dreams Park’s American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame, and a look at where most of them are now, and what they are doing in their lives beyond baseball.
One of the things included in my coaching, teaching, and parenting practices was to relay to kids that twenty years from when they were playing ball, sitting in class, or growing up, no one would really remember much of what kind of player, or student, or kid they were, but people would be impressed or unimpressed with what kind of person they’d become, not necessarily talent-wise, but productive member of society-wise.
Point of note…most of these kids went on to play for some very successful high school baseball teams in this area, some reaching State Regionals, some State Final Fours, and the some of the Fredonia kids even came home as State Champions. That being said, I’d say, looking at where they are now, the Jamestown Jock Shop Cooperstown Kids became much more than AYBHOF players, they became pretty good Hall of Fame players on their Teams of Life.
Proud to have coached them all!