Their moment in the sun

Six Hudson County sports figures are inducted into Hall of Fame

As a sports umpire, Michael Lynch of Bayonne has a number of words to live by, but has one hard and fast rule.
“I’m a traditionalist,” he said. “If I make a call on the field, I’ll take that call to grave.”
He said he dislikes the new professional baseball rules that allow for calls to be reviewed.
“Tom Dewey once said people learn from their mistakes,” Lynch said. “People make mistakes. You got to go on from there and get on with life. These days people want to get everything right. But that’s not life.”
Lynch was one of six Hudson County sports figures inducted in the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association’s Hall Of Fame held earlier this year.
The Hall Of Fame highlights coaches from all sports in both public and private schools. Inductees are selected based on “exceptional coaching skills during their careers, along with strong ethics and integrity.”
The NJSCA is part of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
The 23rd Annual NJSCA Hall of Fame held its luncheon at Pines Manor in Edison in March inducting legendary coaches, umpires and sports writer as part of 2017 ceremonies, but Lynch, who wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of those he’s worked for decades, waited until after the close of the school year in June to promote them.
“I think this is great news to have six people from Hudson County recognized by the association,” Lynch said. “At a time when we’re hearing a lot of bad news, this seems important.”

“I think this is great news to have six people from Hudson County recognized by the association.” – Michael Lynch


But this was more than just a local accomplishment.
“For those of us who’ve been involved with New Jersey scholastic sports for a long while, this event is tremendously nostalgic,” said Steve Timko, NJSIAA executive director. “In many cases, the individuals we’ve inducted were fixtures on the high school athletics scene for decades, and had a profound, positive impact on thousands of young people. It’s an honor simply to be associated with them.”
Inducted were Mike Lynch of Bayonne, Jim Hague of North Bergen, Tom Eagleson of North Bergen, Mick Mariniello of Hudson Catholic in Jersey City, Sheila Rivera of Secaucus High School, and Blane Papaccio of Bayonne.
The hall of fame had its beginnings in 1961, when the NJICA honored all football coaches with undefeated sessions.
In 1964, the program was opened up to coaches of all sports, past or present, who had been nominated for their county by their peers.
In 1993, the honors award program was renamed Hall of Fame and included all past inductees.
In 1995, NJSCCA assumed sponsorship for the hall of fame for all head varsity coaches in public and non-public NJSIAA member schools.

Tom Eagleson

Eagleson was state coach of the year for his work in softball, Lynch said.
“I’ve umpired for Tom for 30 years, he’s one of the most knowledgeable coaches and a real gentleman,” Lynch said.
Eagleson retired after 33 years of coaching the North Bergen Bruins. He also retired as a teacher after 43 years.
His record of victories placed him within the top ten coaches in New Jersey History. His team won 19 league titles and 13 county championships. In fact, the Bruins never had a losing season under his coaching.
He started as a baseball pitcher at Jersey City State (now NJCU). He later acquired a taste for softball after college.

Mariniello is always full steam ahead

Mariniello was named state coach of the year for in Hudson Catholic
“Nick is a coach at Hudson Catholic. He’s always been full steam ahead,” Lynch said. “He’s had major impact at Hudson County and Hudson County basketball. He is an athletic director and a basketball coach.”
He is credited in turning around what was seen as a downtrodden boys basketball program and shaping the team into an annual contender.
Before coming to Hudson Catholic, he had a proven track record with Bloomfield Tech.
Starting with a college baseball career at The College of New Jersey and later a career in business, Mariniello became a coach in the early 1990s under the tutelage of Mike Leonardo, the former coach at Marist High School in Bayonne.
He is seen as someone that focuses on details and organizational skills, which has led his teams to numerous victories and state championships.

Rivera created a volleyball dynasty in Secaucus

“Rivera does volleyball. I officiated a few of her matches,” Lynch said. “She was coach when I was athletic director at Holy Family, and Secaucus won the Hudson County championship.”
Sheila Ulrich Rivera was seen as a standout athlete when she played at Secaucus High School and later St. Peter’s College, in which she had been inducted to both schools’ hall of fames.
She excelled in three sports, but as a star player on the volleyball team, she was destined to become a leader as a coach.
Over two separate stints as the head coach at Secaucus, she accumulated a 232-43 record in 10 seasons.
Secaucus, Lynch said, is the best in the state in volley ball.
“I’m really glad she finally got recognized as a coach,” he said.

Jim Hague documented it all

“Jim Hague is at the top of his game,” Lunch said. “He’s a legend and he has great writing ability.”
Hague is a long-time sportswriter in northern New Jersey as well as a public address announcer for Rutgers University and local high schools.
He attended St. Peter’s Prep (Class of 1979) and Marquette University before becoming a sportswriter in 1983, when he took his first professional job with the Morristown Daily Record. He went onto write for the Hudson Dispatch, and in 1991 became the sports columnist for the Hudson Reporter newspaper chain, where he has also garnered several awards.
He also writes for The Observer of Kearny, the Associated Press, and spent 12 years working for Dorf Feature Services.

Blaine Papaccio was NFHS Football Official of the year

“Blaine was a soft ball umpire in the 1970s and a basketball referee,” said Lynch, “and did it all good. Even football.”
Papaccio, the head rules interpreter for New Jersey high school football, is one of those people who goes by the book and knows the rules as well as anybody. He knows where players should be on the field when they start, and what they should be doing.

Lynch was NFHS Baseball Official of the year

Although known best for being an umpire Lynch served for a brief time as the athletic director of Holy Family High School in Bayonne.
A retired teacher of fifth to eighth grades from the Bayonne School District, Lynch also served as an elementary school guidance counselor for about 11 years.
Lynch has a long involvement in local sports, serving as a baseball and softball umpire for more 40 years and a volleyball official for 20 years.
Lynch, who said he intends to remain involved, is helping to bring in young people, especially women, to become umpires.
“I want more females to become umpires,” he said. “We have men umpiring softball and it’s a girl’s sport.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at