Alberto Vasquez is Hudson Catholic through and through.
Vasquez might be a Jersey City police officer most of the time, but the other part of his life is dedicated to his high school alma mater, where he once was an All-State baseball player, and now serves the school as its head baseball coach.
So last week, when Vasquez was among four honorees to be added to the school’s Sports Wall of Fame, he was greatly moved.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Vasquez said. “For me to be on that wall with the others, at a place where I went as a student, where I played as an athlete and where I now coach, it’s just beyond words. I’m always there. Hudson Catholic is my life. Words can’t express the gratitude that I have.”
Vasquez was honored along with long time bowling and soccer coach Frank Becht, basketball and baseball standout Paul Lee and renowned swimmer George Macchia.
Also, the school honored current basketball coach and athletic director Nick Mariniello by naming the gymnasium floor after him.
Vasquez’s name and baseball uniform No. 6 now hangs on the wall near the names and uniform numbers of basketball legends Jim Spanarkel and Mike O’Koren, two teammates in the early 1970s who went on to become NCAA All-Americans who later played in the National Basketball Association.
“Spanarkel and O’Koren, they’re superstars known worldwide,” Vasquez said. “For me to be on the same wall with them is just a fantastic honor. Somewhere down the line when my daughter comes here she will see my name when she comes into the school.”
Vasquez said that he was especially pleased to have Vin Bello, Vasquez’s youth baseball coach who is currently the head coach at Pope John of Sparta, Mike Zadroga, his high school coach and Tim Blackwell, the assistant coach at Rutgers University, where Vasquez played college baseball, all in attendance for the ceremony.
“I had my family and friends there as well,” Vasquez said. “It’s just an amazing feeling to have my name up on that wall forever. It meant a lot to me to have the guys who gave me a lot of insight as I was growing up as a baseball player there as well. They taught me, they motivated me and did a lot for me. I was so excited that they were there.”
Vasquez also had some of his former teammates, some of his former players and some of the current Hawk baseball squad there to honor him.
“I didn’t do this by myself,” Vasquez said. “I’m always about my players. I don’t like the spotlight being on me. Everything I do is done for my kids. They’re all successful in their own right. I want to make sure that my players are successful in their lives. If they can’t be successes at the next level, at least they can be productive members in society. That’s what coaching is all about.”
Mariniello was feted by another Hudson Catholic alum Jack Curry, who is better known now as the lead analyst on the YES Network’s pre-game and post-game coverage for New York Yankee broadcasts. Curry introduced Mariniello and spoke of Mariniello’s achievements at the school, literally helping to keep the school open when it was believed on the verge of being shut down forever due to budget restraints.
“It’s a great honor,” Mariniello said. “It was more important for me to share the night with my former assistant coaches and former players. It’s about them more than it’s about me. Without my players and coaches, my name wouldn’t mean anything. I’m a very excitable guy when I coach, but I don’t get excited easily. It meant so much for me to have my former players from Bloomfield Tech [where Mariniello formerly coached] and Hudson Catholic. It was very important to share it with them.”…
The sport of high school football in New Jersey lost a true titan, a giant, a legend beyond compare last week when long-time Brick Township head football coach Warren Wolf passed away at the age of 92.
Wolf is known for being ranked second in overall coaching victories in New Jersey state history with 364, trailing only the late Vic Paternostro from Pope John of Sparta. Of those victories, 361 of those came at Brick, the other three came at Lakewood, where Wolf spent the last year of his coaching career in 2010.
However, it was a little known fact that Wolf was born and raised in West New York and got his coaching start working as an assistant to the legendary Joe Coviello, considered by many to be the greatest football coach in Hudson County history.
Wolf spent 10 years as Coviello’s dutiful assistant, then made the move down the Jersey shore to coach at Brick in 1959, where he remained for an astounding 51 seasons. Wolf and Coviello had a special bond and remained close right up until Coviello’s death in 2002. In fact, Wolf spent many years writing a book about Coviello entitled “Joseph Coviello: Master Mentor” that was self-published in 2004 and is available on Amazon Books.
From a personal standpoint, I was very blessed to know Coach Wolf very well over the years and he always went out of his way to take my phone calls whenever I called. He never forgot his West New York roots and was extremely proud of his background. Coach Wolf had a tremendous life, one that has no peers. He lived a fruitful life and had a fabulous family, but it’s still sad when a true gentleman of high school football passes….
The Great Hagueini was a perfect 2-0 last week to go 7-1 with his picks this season. It leaves only one game left for the old wide one to predict. So without further ado, here’s Hagueini’s final selection for the 2019 playoff season. And remember, don’t use this selection for any monetary wager, unless it’s for a chicken parmegiana sub on a long roll and a 32-ounce bottle of Pepsi with your Uncle Looie.
Don Bosco Prep vs. St. Peter’s Prep, Non-Public Group 4 state championship: The two teams met in October, with the Marauders coming away with a 26-22 victory. However, the Ironmen have gotten the best of the Marauders in the state playoffs, winning eight of 10 prior matchups, including five out of six in the state championship game. The lone win for the Marauders came in the 2005 state title game, which is a long time ago.
The Marauders have danced with the devil in each of the two state playoff victories and have not looked sharp in either win. But they have displayed the flair for the dramatic, winning four times this season with comeback victories in the final minutes.
Can the Marauders pull a rabbit out of the hat one more time? Hagueini thinks it’s unlikely. Don Bosco 24, St. Peter’s Prep 13. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com