His name first appeared in the pages of the Hudson Reporter as a member of the 2004 West New York National Little League team that captured the District 7 12-year-old Little League All-Star tournament championship.
Back then, Kermy Amparo was the team’s “resident speedster,” an outfielder who had the unique ability to throw with both hands.
In 2011, Amparo’s name made it to the sports pages again, this time as the starting point guard for the Memorial High School boys’ basketball team.
Back then, the story said that Amparo was “the most athletic kid we have,” according to Memorial head coach Ryan Raparelli. “He’s also our best on-the-ball defender.”
That season, Memorial was on a huge eight-game win streak that catapulted the Tigers into the Hudson Reporter Top Five, thanks to Amparo’s exploits. One game, Amparo calmly made two free throws with five seconds left in the game to defeat Bayonne by a single point.
This week, Amparo’s name appears in these pages again – only for all the wrong reasons. And for the second straight week, a North Hudson athletic program has to grieve over the loss of one of its own.
Amparo, who recently turned 22 years old, was stabbed to death on a Jersey City street early Sunday morning, the result of an altercation outside a party on Manhattan Avenue that apparently had already broken up.
What actually transpired is still under investigation and details are still rather sketchy, but allegedly Amparo and his friend went to this party at 4:30 a.m. Sunday. The party was ending, but then Amparo and his friend allegedly got into a heated argument with others leaving the party. A fight allegedly ensued and Amparo was left with a mortal stab wound to his upper body, near his heart. The wound was so severe that Amparo later died in the Jersey City Medical Center.
Two days later, Jersey City police arrested two Jersey City residents and charged them with aggravated assault and unlawful use of a weapon for stabbing Amparo’s friend. The charges could be upgraded as the investigation continues, but for now, there have been no murder charges against the two arrested individuals.
Late Monday night, more than 200 people converged at a park on Boulevard East in West New York for a candlelight vigil to honor the memory of Amparo, who had attended New Jersey City University for a stint and had a brief stay with the men’s basketball team at NJCU.
It marks the second straight week that a vigil was held for a fallen athlete in northern Hudson County. Last week, Union City mourned the loss of former Soaring Eagles football player Josue Romero, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident.
The news of Amparo’s death really hit home in West New York, including for a former coach who had just seen Amparo just hours before his death.
“I was walking my dog on Bergenline Avenue and I saw him all dressed up going to McDonald’s,” said long-time West New York baseball coach Tim Nagurka. “It was about 10:30 at night. I asked him where he was going all dressed up and he said he was going to a party. He said he was going to stop by my house. I hadn’t seen him in a while.”
Nagurka was devastated by the news.
“He worked for me at [West New York] Recreation since he was 12 years old,” Nagurka said. “When I got the news, I cried like a baby.” “He was a great kid. He was one of the best. At first, I didn’t believe it. But now knowing I’ll never see him again hurts. It’s just unfair.”
Nagurka said that he went to Amparo’s home to try to console his parents.
“They’re having a tough time,” Nagurka said. “I just went to pay my respects.”
While Amparo gave up playing baseball after his freshman year at Memorial, he remained a solid basketball player.
“He had great passion and enthusiasm,” Nagurka said. “He would always tell me, ‘Coach, relax, enjoy life. Don’t let the little things get to you.’ He’s the one who taught me that. He was always in a great mood.”
Hussein Abdelmaksoud is a former teammate of Amparo and a good friend.
“What can I say?” Abdelmaksoud said. “We went way back. We won a championship together when we were 12 or 13 years old with the West New York Pre-Prep All-Stars. We went to Houston together. We grew up together, played high school basketball together. I’m a year older. He always worked hard. He was lightning fast. He was my point guard. He made me develop into a better player. He just loved to play. All I can remember is that he always had a smile on his face. He always had a positive attitude and made everyone else feel comfortable.”
Abdelmaksoud recalled one conversation he had with Amparo in high school.
“He told me that he wanted to play college basketball,” said Abdelmaksoud, who had a fine career at Rutgers-Newark and is now pursuing a Master’s degree in education. “He still had that drive and determination. I just saw him a couple weeks ago. It’s awful.”
But Abdelmaksoud knew that there was something suspicious about the incidents prior to the stabbing.
“It wasn’t a good area and nothing good can happen at 4 in the morning,” Abdelmaksoud said. “You never know what can happen. It’s unfortunate. We don’t know what really happened.”
All we do know is that another young former athlete is gone way too soon and it’s a tragedy that has rocked the Hudson County sports community…
On a positive note, there is good news to report about former Hudson Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep basketball coach Bob Ryan, the former owner of the Hamilton Park Ale House in downtown Jersey City.
Ryan, who now lives in Charlotte, NC, was critically injured in a car accident in Myrtle Beach involving a drunk driver almost two months ago and suffered brain trauma as a result of the accident, which also injured Ryan’s wife.
Ryan was recovering in a Myrtle Beach hospital and was recently transported back to a rehabilitation facility in Charlotte. His daughter, Colleen, posted a video of Ryan on her Facebook page.
In the video, Ryan appears a little gaunt, but that’s because he’s getting his nourishment from a feeding tube. But in a hoarse voice, he spoke – and it was the most uplifting moment in recent memory.
“I like to say thank you to the many friends who have sent prayers and words of encouragement since the horrible accident,” Ryan said. “I want you all to know that I’m doing well. The Ryans are going to handle this well.”
With that, Ryan raised his fist up to show that he’s still Jersey City strong.
“Many thanks for the prayers,” Ryan said in the video. “They’ve meant a lot.”
Seeing Ryan recover means a lot to a lot of his close friends and family who still are in Hudson County. Keep up the great work, Bobby. We’re all rooting for you in a big way. It’s great to see him on the long road to recovery…--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.