Lukasiewicz will be toiling away in the hot Arizona sun, trying once again to earn a spot on the Angels' Opening Day roster. So "Big Luke," Secaucus High School Class of 1991, will not be able to attend the fourth induction ceremonies of the Secaucus High School Athletic Hall of Fame, which he will be inducted into March 20, with the festivities beginning at 7 p.m.
"Unfortunately, the dinner is at the worst time of the year for me," Lukasiewicz said via a phone interview from the Angels' spring training site in Mesa, Arizona. "I really wished I could have been there. It's an unbelievable honor and when I got the call. I really wasn't expecting it. I was shocked that I was voted in so quickly. It really means a lot to me and hits home. It feels good to know that there are people back home who still think of me."
The Lukasiewicz family, who still reside in Secaucus, will be there in full force to receive the award for Mark, as will the other eight inductees, all of whom carved out a legacy of greatness in their athletic careers at Secaucus High.
Other inductees include Ken Mack (Class of 1986), the school's all-time scoring leader in basketball; Leslie Flora-Bavaro (Class of 1990), one of the best softball and volleyball players in the school's history; Keith Birchby (Class of 1990), who still holds many track and field records; Mark Cutola (Class of 1983), who was a standout pitcher for the baseball team, like Lukasiewicz; Anthony Rinaldi (Class of 1983), who was Cutola's catcher; Sally Catanzaro-Vitulano (Class of 1990), who was a premier softball slugger, and former coaches Tom Giorgio (tennis) and Frank Bartletta (softball).
Most of the inductees were surprised with the honors, much like the most famed of the inductees was when Hall of Fame chairman and athletic director Stan Fryczynski made the call to inform them.
"Stan called me at my job [as a sixth grade teacher at Robert Waters School in Union City]," said Mack, whose 1,263 points still stands as the school's best mark. "It was nice news. I was really surprised. It's going to be a nice little reunion, because I know everybody. Secaucus is really a nice little sports town and I'm still calling it my home after all this time."
Mack, who played college basketball at Utica before transferring and spending three seasons at St. Peter's College, is now an assistant coach at Union Hill, under his friend and former teammate Charlie Rousell.
"All of the athletes are pretty close in age," Mack said. "A lot of my friends will be there. Getting an honor like this really reminded me of what it was like growing up in Secaucus. It brought back good memories. It should be a nice turnout."
Flora-Bavaro, now a resident of Park Ridge and a married mother of two children, ages five and two, also had no idea why Fryczynski was trying to reach her.
"He was trying to call me for two weeks and I couldn't get back to him," said Flora, who is also a very close friend to fellow inductee Catanzaro-Vitulano. "I couldn't figure out why he wanted to talk to me all that time. It's a big honor and I'm very excited about it."
The 31-year-old Flora-Bavaro, who is a pharmaceutical service liaison for Merck & Company, said that it will be a special night for her entire family, all of whom have roots in Secaucus athletics. Her brother, Peter, is an assistant football coach at the school and her twin sisters, Ashley and Lindsey, are seniors at the school and standout volleyball players in their own right.
"We've always been a big Secaucus family," said Flora Bavaro, who played volleyball at Fairleigh Dickinson. "My Dad has always been a big supporter of us, so this will be nice for him also."
Bartletta, who coached both Flora-Bavaro and Catanzaro-Vitulano during their softball heyday, remembers when he was first told by former Secaucus athletic director Ed Rittberg that he was to be the softball coach.
"I wanted to be a basketball coach and I was told I was coaching softball," Bartletta said. "Back then, softball wasn't a big thing. I figured they had to be kidding me when they told me. Who would have thought I would stay 17 years and loved every minute? I was lucky to have some great, great kids, and going in with Leslie and Sally makes it all much better. I never could have expected this. I kept a scrapbook of the articles of those days and I have a lot of good memories."
Bartletta, who retired from coaching in 1990, remains a guidance counselor at the school, but is retiring at the end of the school year after 33 years.
"It's a nice going-away present," Bartletta said. "Every day when I walk into school, the first thing I see is the Hall of Fame plaque with everyone's name on it, including so many of my players. It will be an honor to see my name there."
Fryczynski, who is also a member of the Hall of Fame, will serve as the evening's Master of Ceremonies.
"The school is only 27 years old, so we have to be careful inducting members to a Hall of Fame," Fryczynski said. "They have to be the best of the best. It took a lot of time, researching the candidates, but we have a good group this year. It's going to be a fun night, bringing them all back. I can't wait to see them again. I know every one of them. I had a lot of fun, contacting each one and hearing their responses, the happiness. They were all very humbled. With a night like this, it really makes you wonder where did all the time go?"
Fryczynski said that the Hall of Fame induction dinners are run sporadically in order to allow the pool of candidates increase, insuring that the Hall of Fame would not become a watered-down affair. He said that the next induction dinner won't be for another six years. This will be the first induction dinner since 1999.
The Board of Education and the Patriot Booster Club co-sponsor the evening.
Lukasiewicz will be there in spirit, but he knows he has a bigger concern, earning a spot with the big league club - which there is no guarantee.
"I'm in the same boat I was last year, having to fight for a spot," Lukasiewicz said. "I feel like I've been pitching pretty well so far. There's only one other lefty in the camp, so it all depends if [Angels' manager Mike] Scioscia wants to take more than one lefty."
Added Lukasiewicz, "I have a lot of family and friends back home in Hudson County, rooting for me, checking the papers daily, reading the box scores, keeping track of how I'm doing."
There will be a room of those people next Thursday night.
Tickets for the Secaucus Athletic Hall of Fame induction dinner at the Radisson Suite Hotel are still available and can be purchased by contacting Ed Ferguson at (201) 865-6812. Tickets are $50 each and the checks can be made payable to the Patriot Booster Club.