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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: April 2007

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Big smiles and surprises opening night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway

MALTA - Albany-Saratoga Race Director Bruce Richards was almost ready to throw in the towel before the 31st open¬ing night got underway Sunday at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta. The steady drizzle wasn’t making his life easy prepping the track for the rescheduled opening night and his equipment woes weren’t making the afternoon any bet¬ter.
He stuck with it, the rain stopped and the track became a racers delight and no one left The Great Race Place as the season kicked-off with stellar racing in all five divisions.

Ken Hollenbeck of Sloansville and his KKH No. 4 four-cylinder racer earned the first check¬ered flag of the season, captur¬ing the mini-stock feature with his only competition coming from a larger racer, Phil DeFiglio’s Schodack Auto No. 28 6-cylinder Chevy Cavalier.
Hollenbeck led the four-cylin¬der class in the 15-car com¬bined mini stock feature, taking another run at the track title with the win. The champion won five features last year at Albany-Saratoga.
"The track was real good," Hollenbeck said. "I’m happy tonight, I cured my overheating problems from last year."
DeFiglio not only had the fastest car on the track, he had the best looking vehicle, lead¬ing a class dominated by the Dodge Neon product.
"I was the first one to bring a Neon here," Guilderland’s DeFiglio said. "We won 10 races with it and the champi¬onship by 100 points."
He’s gone through three vehicles since Jason Duncan won that title for him, now he returns with a car looking for redemption at Albany-Saratoga.
"We switched to the Cavalier after that car got beat up," DeFiglio said. "That car hated this track. It led every race it was ever here and never fin¬ished. We built this car last year, came out last year, once and with a bad piston in the motor finished second and I fig¬ured the curse had been broken and now this."
Richards has not announced a big-block/small-block chal¬lenge at Albany-Saratoga for this season and he may not have to as the modified feature had every big name in dirt track racing without an invita¬tion sent to an outsider.
After the 358-small blocks warmed up with heat races and hot laps, a redraw re-slotted all the names along the 38-car field.
Ronnie Johnson and his JRP Motorsports No. 2 RJ started on the front line and stayed there for 35-laps leaving some big names and legends behind, barely.
The Duanesburg racer held off Matt DeLorenzo’s BBL Con¬struction No. 3D and dodged lap traffic on three different occasions to captured his first feature since July 14 of last year leading DeLorenzo, Brett Hearn, newcomer Matt Shep¬pard and his father, Jack John¬son across the finish line.

"Starting where I did it was no gimmie," Johnson said. "I knew I was surrounded by good company and I was really pumped for the race and drove as hard as I could. I couldn’t wait to see the checkered flag fall."
Johnson was the first racer to pocket the "Beat Brett Hearn Bonus" sponsored by Salisbury Chevrolet, going to the winning modified driver that manages to out-race professional driver Brett Hearn. Hearn must be racing on the final lap to claim the weekly prize money.

"That $500 goes to this race team," Johnson said. "For what we spend to race compared to what we take in the money doesn’t add up so it really helps. Dan Carlton, the manager of Salisbury Chevrolet, is a good friend of mine, hats off to him and I’m glad to take his money."
Dick Bisson appeared to be on his way to his first victory since 2004, but ended up giving way to the young guns in the division as Matt DePew and Dustin Delaney dueled their way to a 1-2 finish. The Delaney Construction No. 39D held the lead through lap 22, until DePew’s No. 667 took over for the final two laps.
"When I got by Bisson after Delaney, it gave me a clear track to run the line I wanted to," Depew said. "Then the track came to me and I could run the bottom a little better."
The two racers banged off each other on the front stretch on lap 23, giving the fans in attendance a thrill in the grand¬stands.
"We touched on the front stretch," DePew said. "I thought I had him clear when I came off (turn) four. I didn’t realize he was still there."
Porters Corner’s racer Kim Duell shared the front row with Lazzaro Auto Body teammate Vince Santoro and the two pro street stocks almost managed a 1-2 finish. Duell controlled the race for all 25 laps, but Dan Madigan intervened breaking up the finish.

Duell cruised to the victory followed by Madigan, Santoro and an impatient Bernie Com¬panion who reminded Santoro that he had more car than him several times on the closing laps with a few gentle nudges.
"I like to think it was all the driver, but it was the car and everybody that worked on this baby," Duell said. "We did a lot of work over the winter and took all our notes from last year. We tried some new things with the suspension and so far, it’s a tacky surface and a lot of cars go good on that, but this car was outstanding. I just couldn’t get over how good it drove."
It was almost a family affair in the limited division as the Monroe’s of Clifton Park, Jim the third and Jeff, appeared headed for a 1-2 finish. Ballston Spa driver Mike Ostrander held the lead for the first nine laps and found himself sideways on the backstretch, right in front of the younger Monroe driver. A review of the incident by the race tower put Ostrander to the back of the pack, but allowed Monroe to continue.
"I was surprised that Bruce (Richards) let me go to first, I thought he was going to send me and Curtis (Condon) to the back," Monroe said. "I didn’t think I had a part in it, I was just there. I was happy he let me go back to get the lead."
Monroe then had to hold of his uncle, Jeff Monroe, for the next seven laps before a move cost him the lead.
"I had to go high to get around him and see if anything was there," Jeff Monroe said. "There wasn’t."
The move allowed Mechan¬icville’s Dan Petronis to take the number two spot and pres¬sure Jim Monroe the final three laps.
"My dad and I worked five nights a week, every week over the winter between the two cars," Monroe said. "This is the same car, same chassis, just a new body, the same motor and we tweaked the set-up."
Racing bumper to bumper and side by side for the final three trips around the 4/10th-of-a-mile oval, the work paid off as Monroe took the final checkers of the night.
"The monkey is off my back," Monroe said. "All I wanted is one for the year and I got it. It’s a good way to start the season."

Pain at the pump for racer car teams

MALTA - Racing fans that travel to the five area tracks each weekend have felt a pinch at the gas pumps before each trip, but it still isn’t what local racing teams face each week.
Sunoco Standard Racing Fuel is the track fuel at Albany-Saratoga and Devil’s Bowl Speedway and carries a hefty price of $6.75 per gallon of fuel.
While the price may raise some eyebrows, it isn’t with¬out its merits. The precious purple flammable liquid brings with it an octane level of 110, more than 24 points higher than your normal unleaded regular.
"The $6.75 is the same as it was last year, even before the prices went up," Tom Rogers, crew chief of the David Peek No. 27 sportsman said. "If you want to go racing, you have to have the fuel."

Drivers and crew chiefs are all looking for a break at the pumps, during the week and on race weekends.
"It’s sickening that the gov¬ernment hasn’t done anything about it," Curtis Petteys said while waiting for fuel at Albany-Saratoga April 20. "Mr. Bush is an oil man and the oil companies make millions."
As an race promoter Bruce Richards can only pass along the fuel cost to his racers.
Richards has been a staunch supporter of the vari¬ous spec engine programs available. The sealed engines are dramatically less than their traditional counterparts and they run on unleaded pre¬mium at half the cost of racing fuel. Currently there isn’t a spec engine approved for the limited division and mini-stock divisions, but could be on the horizon.
Until then, the price of rac¬ing fuel becomes just a part of the cost of racing.
"Racers don’t care about the money," John Filarecki said. "If there is a part you needed, you’d get it."

Safety first at Albany-Saratoga Speedway

MALTA - Each opening sea¬son at Albany-Saratoga Speed¬way brings with it the same stressors citizens across the nation face with their own vehi¬cles, the annual safety inspec¬tion. Before any vehicle takes to the 4/10th-of-a-mile dirt oval in Malta, the cars stop by the tower for a once-over by inspectors Ron Carelson and John Cum¬mings.
The CVRA inspectors utilize a 19-point checklist for each car for all six racing divisions checking everything from window netting, body tin, fuel shut-off switches to the size of the fuel cells allowed in each class.

For the average driver, work¬ing horns, headlights, tail lights and a clear windshield are keys to passing inspections, at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway, they are forbidden. Each racing vehi¬cle must be stripped of any cos¬metic plastic (light covers), deco¬rative trim as well as glass all the way around the car. What is required: roll cages, painted drive shafts and numbers on the side and top of the vehicle that can be easily spotted by the race tower.
"This is the hardest week," Carelson said after five hours of inspections. "It’s better to use today for inspections and prac¬tice then waiting until race night. They (drivers) want to get through inspection and get on the track."
For the two safety experts, vehicles in the open wheel and pro street stock divisions roll through the inspections process faster than racers in the full fend¬er limited and mini stock classes.
"They are designed to race that way," Carelson said. "In the other classes you are trying to take a car designed to go drive straight and try to make it turn left."
The tools available for the lim¬ited and mini stock classes along with the level of involvement to make it race-ready also cause challenges when passing inspec¬tion.
"A lot of them are prepared by backyarders," Cummings said. "We’ve already told two of them to go home because they had bad welds."
During the inspection after¬noon April 20, the duo checked off more than 150 of the 250 regis¬tered vehicles for this year’s rac¬ing season.

"It’s been going pretty smooth," Cummings said. "We’ve been so hard on them before, we’ve been telling them the same thing for three, four years, they’re starting to learn."
Each year brings a new wrin¬kle to the inspection process, reminders of changes to the rule book or safety inspection process. This year it was longer tow chains and tow hooks on the pro street, limited and mini stock divisions at the request of the Gary’s Auto Body on-track safety crew.
"He wanted longer chains on the front and the back this year," Cummings said. "It’s just to get the cars off the track faster."
Cars that don’t meet all the requirements during the inspec¬tion afternoon have to return next to the inspection shed before their next trip out to the track. Most are allowed to prac¬tice because their infractions are minor, including larger numbers on the racer and longer tow chains.
"Most of the re-inspections are minor stuff," Carelson said. "The sportsman and modifieds have the least, the mini stock, the four- and six-cylinders the most re-inspections."
The afternoon also brings with it a few surprises, some funny, some not as humorous.
"Mike Paquin’s limited still had his door handles on the doors," Carelson laughed about the Mechanicville’s No. 33 racer’s decorative handles still on two doors that are welded or chained shut according to safety regulations. "He still had the left side mirror on so he can see who’s coming."
Both items will be removed for race day, the Mechanicville driv¬er promised.
"I left them on their for them," Paquin said. "Just as a joke."
The duo takes their work seri¬ously, knowing an oversight by them could prove costly later in the racing season.
"It’s the most important thing that we do, so that they can come back next week," Carelson said. "If the cars not ready we send them home to do things right. It’s easier to send them home with their vehicle today than in the ambulance."

Going to school: Big Block style

MALTA - Some drivers had to wait an extra day to get behind the big block engine of profes¬sional driver Brett Hearn’s Wentworth Construction No. 20 due to rain at the Albany-Sarato¬ga Speedway in Malta. The driv¬ers had already attended the rac¬ers annual classroom session on safety and driving skills.
The afternoon of rain was nothing, as several waited their entire adult lives to get behind an open wheel racer and take it for a spin on a dirt track, tethered only by their five-point racing har¬ness. The rest of the ride was up to them.
From putting on a fire suit, climbing into the open-wheeled racer, to starting the big block engine and managing the two-speed transmission was all part of the experience for the drivers, young and old.
"We all missed a couple days of work, but for a once-in-a-life¬time opportunity I’d rather get fired," Mike Burdo of Gloversville said with a wide smile. "I’ve wanted to do this since I was 11 years old, I’m 41 today and it’s been 30 years, but it’s worth the wait."
The go kart racer competes at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park and Cayuga Creek, but never had the chance to compete at the bigger, faster, open wheel level.
"My wife and I sat on the couch one night around Christ¬mas and she said she didn’t know what to get me," Burdo said. "She said I’ve got every¬thing I’ve ever wanted, she’s out of gifts. She asked me if there is one thing in life left to do, what would it be. I said to drive a modi¬fied."
Burdo and a host of other rac¬ers, fans and pit crew member attended a three-hour classroom session with professional driver Brett Hearn and were now get¬ting their chances to drive around the Albany-Saratoga Speedway clay oval.
Many students are currently driving at Albany-Saratoga Speedway and have their own cars and agendas. For drivers like Burdo, the school provided Hearn’s personal No. 20 big block to take for a test drive through¬out the afternoon.
"For a couple of these guys they’re doing it just to for the thrill, get the experience of driv¬ing a big block," Hearn said from the edge of the speedway, watch¬ing the drivers. "Some of them are intimidated; some of them are in over their heads."
Hearn was on had to offer guidance to the regular Friday night drivers and offered support along with a caution flag or two if a novice driver looked a little too quick for their experience on the track.
"By about the third round (of laps) you know who you can and can’t trust," Hearn said. "In the past I’ve had my ordeals, this year’s field is looking pretty good."
Each driver pays for the class¬room session, the novice drivers pay for the chance to drive Hearn’s own big block along with leaving a $1,000 crash deposit.
"When you have money on the line, you don’t want to wreck it and you don’t want to make Brett mad," 20-year-old first-time driv¬er Jaron Van Anden of Sloans¬ville said. "You want to do the best you can. You don’t want to get in it too much and have someone yell at you, but you don’t want someone watching to ask you why you didn’t get on it."
Turning some of the quickest laps around the track was 16-year-old Canadian speedster Chris Raabe of Napanee, Ontario.
"I just wanted to come down and see what the big block was like," Napanee said. "I race sportsman at Brockville and Thunder Alley and we’re going to try running the Mr. DIRT Tour at the end of the year."
The teenager appeared ready to run any time with the larger engine package.
"With the bigger tires you got a little more stability, but the throttle response is a lot quick¬er," Napanee said. "It feels great, certainly a lot more motor than I have ever had in one of my cars. I’d certainly like to jump in one of these."
All three drivers could be mak¬ing a change after the driving school. Van Anden is looking to start some time in the sportsman division, Napanee could move up at any time with the right spon¬sorship support and Burdo could be seen at Albany-Saratoga next year. Even if they don’t, they’ll never forget their sunny after¬noon at The Great Race Place.

Let's Go Racing...2007 is the year for You!

Other area auto racing tracks may have a jump on Albany-Saratoga Speedway, but the 4/10th of a mile track is just saving the best racing for last.
The dirt oval opens up tonight for the 2007 dirt racing season and fans won’t be disappointed.
For the next 20-plus weeks it will be the job of both Saratogian publications to not only report the results of Albany-Saratoga Speedway, but also to inform you about the sport, its machines and the personalities behind the wheel.
Look to our Spinning Wheels pages to get Friday night’s racing action, track point standings, who’s hot on the track along with who are some of the new faces at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
We’ll be introducing our “Rookies to Watch,” including some new experienced names at the track, some names who are moving up in class and some “true rookies” who you’ll want to take notice of.
For the novice fan, don’t be worried about Spinning Wheels being over your head or full of gear-head jargon. I still have my oil changed by professionals every 3,000 days or 300 months, or whatever the sticker in the window says.
Albany-Saratoga has owned Friday night racing in the Capital District, bringing thousands of fans to the grandstands off Route 9 for years and every minute of your Friday night is filled with racing action.
With an admission price of $10 for adults, the action doesn’t stop until the last checkered flag is waved. Intermissions aren’t planned at Albany-Saratoga because the Malta “bull ring” was built for racing and every minute is planned to have cars going around the track, not sitting idling.
Don’t be scared away by the tiresome jokes of “making left turns” and the other nonsense that is all too often spewed by people who have never set a foot in the grandstands at “The Great Race Place.”
If you pay any attention to the four-legged athletes in August at the Saratoga Race Course, you have every reason to be at Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday night. How much can you really know about a horse that you are betting on in August? They’re also turning left, so what’s the delay?
Handicapping a horse race in August is just like handicapping a race at Albany-Saratoga Speedway (not that it’s ever been done in the press box on a Friday night). You pick a car because of its color, you pick it because of its number. You pick it because you know the name of the driver, the driver’s name is familiar, it’s a female driver or you know the main sponsor on the car. Just like August, you have just found a rooting interest for the next race.
It’s no longer about 24 cars making left turns, it’s about “your car,” “your driver” who’s passing, getting passed or to your shock, black flagged at the flag stand.
In just a few laps, you to can be a dirt track enthusiast and what did it cost you? A $10 admission cost, for a night filled with racing fun and excitement.
My wife, the soon to be Dr. Reda, was a non-believer. It only took her a few heat races, letting her know that Lori Cary drove the No. 96 and someone telling her that Chris Busta was “a real cutie,” that she was hooked. Every Friday if she’s not at “The Great Race Place,” there is a series of questions for me when I hit the door. Who won? How’d my girl do? How’d Chris do?
It’s there waiting for you each and every Friday night, so I challenge you, “Let’s Go Racing.”

Racing underway at The Great Race Place

MALTA — With the wave of the green flag tonight at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, the annual points race in all seven divisions will get under way and three of last year’s champions are ready to defend their racing titles with every horsepower their cars can put out each week at “The Great Race Place.”
To no one’s surprise, Brett Hearn from Sussex, N.J., returns as the defending champion in the modified division in the Vinny Salerno-owned Four-Star Transmission No. 4. Hearn has held the top division title for the past three seasons, wrestling it away from Ken Tremont, Jr., the 2003 track champion.
Hearn will be challenged each week by the likes of Jack Johnson, Ronnie Johnson and Tremont, Jr. Albany-Saratoga newcomer Matt Shepard will travel up the Northway to join the frenzy for his first year at the Malta track and sportsman champion Tim Hartman moves up in class to run with the big boys.
“The funny thing is three years ago when I ran the No. 4 for the first time, no one knew who Vinny Salerno was, he never ran at Albany-Saratoga,” Hearn said. “He made it easy for me. He has some good people with him, we managed to acquire a sponsorship, Delaney Construction, that part makes it easy for me and the place is awesome fun.”
The New Jersey professional driver returns with his spec engine package in the Four-Star Transmission No. 4 along with a new 358 racer ready to take to the dirt oval.
“This year our engine program has been slightly improved,” Hearn said. “The program is basically the same, the same car we ran the last three years. I’m not sure if we’ll break that (new car) out for the first string, the one we have is pretty good. But you can’t rest on your laurels too long either.”
With three-time sportsman division champion Tim Hartman from Niskayuna and his No. 22S B-Dry Systems of northern New York moving up to the modified division, the sportsman division will be wide open for a track championship and is filled with young guns.
“There is always somebody else that is coming along,” Hartman said. “Dustin Delaney, Chris Busta are guys coming up with good equipment. You can never back off, never let your guard down, there’s always someone to take your place.”
Hartman is confident that the next generation of driver will take his retired crown.
“If I was to pick anybody, it would be (Chris) Busta or Dustin (Delaney),” Hartman said. “They don’t drive over their heads. You have to be consistent. You have to finish these races to win championships.”
The pro stock division will be a battle of the experienced
The 2006 pro street stock champion, five-year veteran Lori Cary, in her Garrity Asphalt Reclaiming No. 96, is looking to repeat and prove to her detractors that last year was no fluke, but will again be challenged each week.
“There are a lot of good drivers with a lot of consistent, multiple winners in the class,” Cary said. “In the practice, Kim Duell was extremely quick, Cale Kneer and Bernie Companion was quick too.”
Cary’s championship season was almost sidelined after a rollover accident racing in June away from Albany-Saratoga compounded by a fall at home, fracturing her L5 vertebrate. She managed to return in time to claim the title at Malta.
“I still take injections in my back to avoid back surgery,” Cary said. “I’ll keep playing it year by year, but I have a professional back brace to wear. I felt good on Friday (practice) and I feel a lot better this year.”
She is hoping to prove herself again at Albany-Saratoga, this time as a two-time track champion.
“Being a female and a track champion, some say it’s a fluke,” Cary said. “I’d like to do it again at Devils Bowl or Albany-Saratoga. Like any girl competing in a male dominated sport, people say it’s luck. I want to win or be a runner-up to show them.”
It appears that the limited division and six-cylinder mini stock divisions will be up for grabs as Pete DeFiglio didn’t have his limited racer registered and Chris McCarthy didn’t have his paperwork into the CVRA by press time.
Ken Hollenbeck didn’t leave any doubts in the mini stock 4-cylinder class last Friday night. The 4-cylinder champion was registered, inspected and turning in some eye-popping times during his practice laps. With a car on the track along with a back-up he is guaranteed to be ready each Friday night to turn some laps.
“I got a new car at the end of the year and another new one, both Dodge Neons,” Hollenbeck said about his KKH Auto Sales No. 4. “This way I always have a car if something happens to fall back on.”
The Cobleskill resident recorded five wins last year at Albany-Saratoga and was perfect, three-for-three on his long trips to Fair Haven, Vt., to race at Devil’s Bowl.
“I raced at GlenRidge and won the track title there in 2005,” Hollenbeck said. “Albany-Saratoga is a lot nicer, I like that place a lot better. The competition is better, there are a lot more cars.”

Bounty for beating Brett "The Jet" Hearn

MALTA — For the modified division drivers this season at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, beating dirt track professional driver Brett “The Jet” Hearn not only means 50 valuable points for the win and $1,500 from the track, but an additional $500 from Salisbury Chevrolet.
Dan Carlton, Salisbury Chevrolet of Scotia’s general manager has underwritten another modified division purse enhancement. Last year it was back-to-back victories, this year it’s called the “Head Hunter Challenge.”
“I wanted to give some money back to the drivers,” Carlton said. “Brett (Hearn) was the only guy who won a lot of races regularly, we felt he was someone we were able to target.”

Both Carlton and Albany-Saratoga Speedway Race Director Bruce Richards talked with the three-time modified champion and Hearn was all for it.
“I think its pretty cool when the promoter allows the sponsor to put the money directly to the racer,” Hearn said. “It’ll create a lot of excitement for him, hopefully put more people in the stands and it’ll all be good. They’ll get a chance to run for $2,000 at Malta.”
The “Beat Brett Bonus” applies to all 358 modified features and requires that Hearn is on the lead lap to collect the money.
“The only concern that I had is that I didn’t want to be a target,” Hearn said. “To earn that $500 they need to beat me, not take me out.”
Salisbury Chevrolet is a major corporate sponsor at Albany-Saratoga Speedway and Carlton wanted to reciprocate from the business his dealership receives from the track.
“These guys spend a huge amount of money to race these cars, modified, sportsmen, all of them, they do it for the love of the sport,” Carlton said. “I get a great deal of business from that track, the pits and people in stands. The referrals from our involvement has been pretty incredible.”

Rookies of all ages take to Albany-Saratoga Speedway

MALTA — Opening night of any racing season brings with it a level of anticipation, nerves about a driver’s car, their own skills and the track surface. Tonight, several drivers will have to also deal with their own butterflies as a number of rookies take to the Albany-Saratoga 4/10th-of-a-mile oval with the moniker “rookie” attached to their name for the 2007 season.
Some of them are fresh-faced first-timers, some are new to Albany-Saratoga Speedway and some are cagey veterans moving up in class.
Angela Hoard of Manchester, Vt., enters the budget sportsman division with her Innovative Speed and Graphics No. 113 with a lot of pit experience, but not a lot of seat time in the open wheel class.
“I ran a Ford Mustang in a handful of Enduros four or five years ago,” Hoard said. “I can work on a modified, put it together no problem. Driving it, we’ll see.”
Her first spin on the Malta dirt surface wasn’t pleasant, but her confidence improved over the weekend.
“The whole experience Friday, getting in the car, getting buckled in, was overwhelming, an incredible rush. I couldn’t even go fast,” Hoard said. “I had a hard time getting the car in high gear. My dad took it out and couldn’t get it into high.”
After some adjustments, her No. 113 Bicknell chassis with its Chevy spec engine was ready for a full-throttled test.
“On Sunday, at Glenridge, that was awesome,” Hoard said. “I held back. I need to find more lead in my foot. I’ll get some laps down, see what happens as I get more confident.”

One of the youngest drivers at Albany-Saratoga this season is 17-year-old South Glens Falls student Justin Barber, who will be turning laps in his Barber Racing No. 37.
“I’ve raced radio control cars and my grandfather, Percy Barber, raced a long time ago,” Justin Barber said. “Ever since we’ve had a car, I’ve been working on it.”
Driving an open-wheeled racer is a different story.
“It’s nothing like I have ever experienced before,” Barber said. “You come off turn four and on the gas, it puts you back in the seat. It’s like a dream, a different feeling for sure.”
Even with 2006 champion Tim Hartman moving up into the modified division and an open race for a title, Barber
is cautious in his rookie stint.
“The plan is to not break anything,” Barber said. “I want to be competitive and try to get some top five finishes by the end of the year.”
Joining Barber will be Saratoga Springs driver Cory Gillian in his Truck and Auto Wares No. 42, who missed an opportunity to start in the low compression engine budget sports division.
“I had already bought my car, so I didn’t have a choice,” Gilligan said. “It wasn’t the smartest way to go.”
Gilligan grew up racing go carts and snowmobiles; now he’ll be competing behind the wheel of his Bicknell chassis and 358-modified engine.
“Friday was my fourth time in the car, I drove it a little last year,” Gilligan said. “I’ve got to learn how to drive on the slick stuff. When the track is all beat, it’s like driving on ice.”
Gilligan has his sights set conservatively for his inaugural year in the division.
“I’m shooting for a top 10, there are some good guys this year there,” Gilligan said. “The track is the hardest thing. I have a good car, I’ve got good help, I just have to learn how to drive.”
One rookie driver with more life experience than seat time, is Pep Corradi driving his No. 21P SWC Construction sportsman racer.
Corradi drove a sling shot for four years and has two features under his belt in the limited class at Fonda and Afton Speedways.
“Last Friday was my first real test,” Corradi said. “On Friday I was more afraid. It took me some time, get used to going with the two-speed transmission. I was a little nervous around some of the guys because I want to do good. After 30 laps I did alright. Passed the test, don’t know if I’ll pass the test every week.”
The 2005 sportsman champion at Glenridge Motorsports Park and 2006 runner-up Mike Ketchum will be driving the S&J Bodies No. 10 % for owner John Kollar in the sportsman division at Albany-Saratoga as another rookie arrival.
“I wanted want to get some more experience, do a little more travel, try different promoters,” Ketchum said. “I like a little competition, the more people, the better. You can only learn how to run by racing better people, get more publicity, get my name out there.”
Ketchum makes no bones about his expectations.
“This year, everything is focused on winning the championship,” Ketchum said. “I’m looking for mainly wins and the points come along with it. We don’t race for points, we race to win.”
Three-time Albany-Saratoga Sportsman champion Tim Hartman has a new title … 45-year-old rookie.
The Niskayuna driver and his No. 22 B-Dry Systems of Northern New York open wheel car joins the modified division for a shot to run with the best in the business on Friday nights.
“Mike Mueller from B-Dry was kind of pushing us a lot,” Hartman said. “I’m at the later stage of my career and my car owner, Bruce Shell said he would give me a year. This is his last year and then he’s going on to do different stuff.
“I just didn’t want to have any regrets, if I hang it up,” Hartman said. “As going as good as we have been going, setup wise, experience, the track, Bruce’s help, I don’t think I could do it without him. I think this is my best shot.”
Hartman is also looking to turn over the driver’s reigns someday to 14-year-old Tim Hartman, Jr.
“He’s chomping at the bit,” Hartman said. “He races go-cart now and reminds me that he could be driving sportsman at Fonda. We’ll see about that a year or two down the road.”
A rookie that is expected to make an immediate impact in the modified division will be Latham’s Matt Shepard and his McGee Transportation No. 44F racer.
“Malta on Friday’s is close to home and I’ve never hit any 358s, only big blocks,” Shepard said. “It seems like a nice racy track. It doesn’t seem to be rough on equipment.”
Joining a division filled with talent and experience, Shepard is looking for ward to the challenge.
“I’ve raced against guys like Brett (Hearn) for the past four, five years, I’ve raced against the best that there is,” I know those guys get around that place good. I have to try to get around better than them.”
Two veterans of the limited full fender division, Mechanicville’s Kevin VanChance and Saratoga’s Jim Monroe are moving up in class, to the pro street stock division on Friday nights.
“I did what I had to do in the other division, proved what I needed to prove,” VanChance said. “I wanted a different challenge.”
He’s applying the same plan with his Weathervane, Tractor Supply Company No. 21 pro street stock as he did in the limited class.
“I’m not going out there to run through people,” VanChance said. “I’ll race for wins if I feel comfortable. I’m going to race, learn and hope that it works for me again.”
Jim Monroe and his No. 94M Time Warner Cable pro street stock hasn’t given him any fewer headaches than his Road Runner powered limited race car did.
“I had a rude awakening this week, this car was out to lunch,” Monroe said. “These cars, if you want to get more right front weight, turn the bar, change one thing and create another problem, it’s a giant balancing act.”
Both VanChance and Monroe said they’ll take finishes at the back of the pack for a few weeks to come to grips with their vehicle set ups. Then, it’s off to the races.

A look at racing through the Race Director's Eyes

MALTA — Under sunny skies last week prior to eve of Albany-Saratoga Speedway’s annual inspection and practice afternoon, Champlain Valley Racing Association Race Director Bruce Richards was all smiles.
With the weather finally turning the corner for the Malta dirt track’s 31st season under the Richards family, increases in car counts through each racing division and the track in great shape, the face of Albany-Saratoga has good reason to smile.
“I think that we have a rock solid foundation of a program,” Richards said. “Right from the top right all the way down through. We see that in every year by the amount of enthusiasm and how many competitors we have.

“A lot of race tracks are faced with dwindling car counts and struggling to get by. We’ve been blessed and able to keep things affordable for the racers,” Richards “They are spending money, but they aren’t spending money like they are at other tracks. We can see that because
more and more of them are gravitating from the other tracks to Albany-Saratoga and Devils Bowl Speedway. They want to be able to race and they can’t afford to race at the other tracks.”
While prices have increased nationally in every aspect of entertainment, Richards is proud of his family’s commitment to their fans at the dirt track oval off Route 9 in Malta.
“This is the 11th year, I sound like a broken record, that we have not raised the adult general admission price,” Richards aid. “It’s still just $10 to get in, $2 for the kids and toddlers free. Parking is free and the food is very reasonably priced.”
Each year the Richards family has re-invested in their family of racing venues, from adding a victory lane for fans at Albany-Saratoga and replacing of its grandstands. This year, the family has focused on a two-season project replacing their grandstands at its Devil’s Bowl location.
The improvements this season impact the racers first, but will continue to assist in keeping the racing at its best each Friday night.
“We are adding a hot pit area to make it a little safer for a competitor to come off the track and change a tire,” Richards said. “We made the pits bigger, I don’t think many tracks can say that they’ve added pit stops the way we’ve added pit spots and we’re still going to be tight.”
Always the innovator, Richards had added a new class of competition at Albany-Saratoga and Devils Bowl Speedways, answering the demand in the open-wheel division with the creation of the budget sportsman class.
“I see a need for this younger talent that is coming up through the pool through the go-kart ranks and stuff that they want to go into the open wheel ranks,” Richards said. “They don’t want to go into the hobby cars and stuff like that. He’s an affordable way for them to get involved in an open-wheeled modified car with a crate engine or one of the other engine packages to get out there and get their feet wet.”
More than 20 cars have already signed up for the division and all limited to a low compression engine that runs on super unleaded gasoline, but operates in the standard chassis used for the sportsman and modified divisions.
With a low cost entry point, Richards hopes to attract new drivers for this year and the future at Albany-Saratoga.
“They can just change their engine package and go up through the ranks,” Richards said. “I know that is going to take off like crazy.”
With the addition of the budget sportsman class, racing will now start every Friday night at 6:45 p.m. 15 minutes earlier than it has in the past.
“The rule of thumb here has been that we run the show through and people take their own breaks,” Richards said. “Last year we took 10-15 minute breaks on occasion. This year I think you’ll see that as a thing of the past.”
While Richards has looked at ways to bring in new open-wheeled enthusiasts, he will work this year on finding ways to keep the two popular full-fender divisions, limited hobby stock and mini-stock, on the race track. Both divisions are limited to American-made vehicles. The limited racers are normally built from the ground up by its crews, combing parts from various cars taken off the road. The mini stock class races four- and six-cylinder racers that are eligible for racing with few modifications.
“It is getting harder to find parts for those cars,” Richards said. “There is a tremendous amount of work to put into building one of those cars. Down the road I would envision that they would be extinct.”
Richards said a change could occur within the next five years, giving his racers a chance to plan and adapt.
“One of my goals this year as the racing season unfolds, is to work with the mini-stock guys on a vision for the future for them too,” Richards said. “The new generation that is coming up through, I’ve seen it coming into here, these are bolt on people. Meaning they are not taking the car off the road or out of the junk yard and having to build the car from the ground up. Everything in today’s world is buy, bolt on, we want it on in five minutes and go.”
No one can say that Richards doesn’t have a sense of humor, his smile grows when he talks of his “Fun Bus” for kids and an opportunity to show off his pyrotechnic skills annually with his self-designed fireworks shows.
“Last year out grew the small bus and Krash Mender painted it up and from there we’re going to have some fun with the kids, getting it all gussied up,” Richards said. “That’s fun when the kids can come in and see what is going on, traveling through the pit area and onto the race track. This way they can safely to that and this year, everyone can see the bus, it’s big and orange.”
While the City of Saratoga has cancelled its Fourth of July fireworks show, Richards has picked up the slack, providing fireworks on two consecutive race nights, including the raceways only mid-week show, June 26. The night marks the return of Megasaurus, a fire-breathing car-eating machine along with a fleet of jet powered vehicles. Fans will have an eye-popping view of the American Thunder jet jeep, the Jet Barstool and the Cra-Z-Boy jet recliner. On Friday, June 29, the Race of Champions Tour will make a stop at Albany-Saratoga with a fireworks display on June 29.
For fans of small engines, high horsepower and winged racing, the Central New York Mini Sprints will take to the dirt oval June 1 and July 27 as part of the regular show. This will be the first year that Richards has not hosted a mid-week, open competition event as the one-year experiment as a DIRT affiliated track ended.
“We are focusing more on doing stuff and putting more into our regular racers pockets,” Richards said. “Our traditional date for sprint cars will now be a 100-lapper May 11 for the modifieds here and that is paying $5,000 to win. That’s a pretty hefty purse all the way through. I know the racers I talked to are excited about it.”
The Richards family has always reached out help with community organizations and that will continue this year. Throughout the racing season, theme-nights dominate the schedule with CDL night, a kids night/awareness night, a seniors night along with its bikers night with reduced admission.
“We’ve become an active member of the Malta Town and Recs Department,” Richards said. “We’ve opened up our fields and we have the baseball teams coming over here, soccer teams. Starting here next week we’re going to have new youth rugby starting practice and an adult rugby league too that being practicing on the field.
That has been key, being a good neighbor and working with the town and working with our neighbors,” Richards said. “That’s gratifying seeing them out there using the property and giving back to the community.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hockey House Update III: Restitution question moves court dates

The 13 individuals charged as part of the "Hockey House" vandalism that occurred at a recently vacated home in Halfmoon during March was once again moved.
This time, the move may be the costliest for the accused teenagers.
All 13 were scheduled to appear in the Town of Halfmoon court 5:30 p.m. April 24 but a call to Saratoga County District Attorney confirmed that the dates had again been moved.
According to Murphy, the exact amount of restitution has yet to be confirmed.
Currently the amount of restitution for the repair to the home is between $10,000 and $15,000. Murphy said he wanted a specific amount for the 13 defendants. He said the individuals facing felony charges, Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, a class E felony, would bear more of the costs.
Murphy was surprised that a sports reporter was following the case, but I explained that due to the implications at the high school's athletic level as well as the amount of damage, the newspaper felt that it deserved to be covered.
"I've been doing this for 19 years and it was shocking even for me," Murphy said. "To see something that senseless, we are taking it very seriously and will make sure that the people are held responsible and that the victim is fully paid."
The expected court date will be in late May.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Hockey House update II: False statement charges combined for three

On Thursday night in the Town of Clifton Park courthouse, the three individuals charged with a Class A misdemeanor, Making an Apparently Sworn False Statement in the Second Degree, had their day in court...sort of.
Judge Robert Ryback-D(who is up for re-election and facing a tough opponent) would only state for public consumption that he currently does not have anyone 19 or under facing any proceedings in his court.
Thanks judge!
What was confirmed, that James Christopher Curley, Ryan T. Farnan and Patrick M. Neilley each had their charges in Clifton Park packaged with their existing charges in Halfmoon which are scheduled for arraignment on April 24.
Saratoga County's District Attorney's office confirmed that was a possibility.
Now that all 13 individuals are scheduled for their day in court, April 24th, the judicial ball can start rolling and the 22 charges can be revealed in court and hopefully for myself more information about the case.
All 13 individuals are eligible for New York State's Youthful Offender status since the crimes are of a non-violent and non-sexual nature. That will be decided at the end of the proceedings, but pleas are expected to be entered on April 24th in the Town of Halfmoon Court.

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For the Lucky 13, let’s name names

When the Shenendehowa boys lacrosse team took to its home field April 19 versus rival Saratoga Springs, the squad took on its rival with 13 players suited up for the contest.
The flu didn’t attack the Plainsmen squad, the French club wasn’t overseas on its annual trip, the bulk of the squad wasn’t cramming for their SAT, but rather the opposite.
You see, 21 of the 22 players not suited up were serving suspensions for violations of the Shenendehowa Athletics Code of Conduct.
Three-quarters of the team were spectators, visitors, with a rooting interest as their team went 0-4 during their past four games.

Of the 21, six players are currently serving an 8-game suspension for code violations. They are currently facing a variety of charges from four different underage parties held at a then vacant home in Halfmoon during the month of March. The charges range from misdemeanors including criminal trespass in the second degree, making an apparently sworn false statement in the second degree along with several facing a Class E felony, criminal mischief in the third degree.

Once the damage was discovered, a complaint was filed and the investigators were tipped off that it was a “lacrosse party” at the “hockey house.” The quick thinking investigators rushed over to the Shenendehowa campus to obtain athletic rosters (something they won’t admit they never do) and started hauling kids in.
They stories were long, some true, some false, but for the bulk, they all sang like Canary. An unlucky 13 were charged and the fallout continues for others named as being at the location during one of the four events and 21 boys lacrosse players are sitting out. The fallout from other sports for this spring and fall are yet to be uncovered.
To be fair, while this is being called a “lacrosse problem” in some circles, eight of the players suspended just completed their varsity ice hockey season, including two being charged as part of the investigation.

After the first pass of suspensions handed out by the administration, all involved, received four game suspensions. It wasn’t until the initial four-games had been served that yet another shoe dropped. The players facing charges were informed that they would be sitting four more contests on the eve of their return to the team.
You have to give the administration credit for having a sense of humor.
I applaud the school for finally defining the difference for violations of being at a party, taking part in the event and those that are facing criminal proceedings.
But enough about the knuckleheads, how about some props for the Lucky 13, or should we be referring to them at the Model 13. For whatever reason, being under classmen, not in the clique, not invited, out of town or maybe just having a good head on their shoulders, they went ahead and got knocked around for four games by the Suburban Council.
But they did it by playing by the rules.
Hats off to jr. middi Bryan McLellen, senior middi Zach Waterstram, sophomore middi Anthony Zappone, junior middi Michael Asterino, junior middi Chris Jenkins, junior middi Colin Fleming, junior goalie Frank Coffey, senior defense Wes Posson, junior defense Patrick Swan, sophomore defense Eddie Francis, junior Justin Anderson, and eighth-grade goalie Bobby Wardwell. Senior goalie T.J. Costigan was on the sidelines, but not suited up for the game against Saratoga (injury). Playing in the game was senior defense Kevin Lee who served a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
I’ve already written previously about the individuals charged and won’t single out those who are serving four-game suspensions for being in attendance or partaking in the activities. They know who they are and how lucky they got with a four-game sit down.
The question now is whether the 22 who served suspensions learned anything from their actions and will the 13 who came away unscathed ever get the credit they deserve for being in the right place at the right time?

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus: The victim of a slow news cycle

Bill Clinton had inappropriate sexual contact with a female intern in the Oval Office.
Ted Kennedy killed a young girl in a drunk driving accident.
They both live to tell the tale, but Don Imus had his career shortened by the same venue that made him a king...the media.

Imus made an inappropriate comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team. Fact.
He apologized ad nauseum. Fact.
He met with black social leaders and apologized. Fact.
His show was cancelled by MSNBC and now by CBS. Fact.

And all because there was nothing else to talk about this week...

Don Imus was fired for trying to be funny. It was a poor attempt at humor and people that did chuckle if the did hear the broadcast live are now embarrassed for laughing, but they did.
It didn't take long for the pitchforks and torches to come out looking for the head of Don Imus.
Political leaders, media heads, talk radio, sports talk radio all jumped on the bandwagon, vilifying Imus.
It's been eight years since this many people got something so wrong.

The cable channel that carried his show killed him hour by hour, counting his apologies, tracking his meetings. Talk radio filled its airwaves with calls for his firing, of course, that could be to reduce the competition. Every channel was dedicated to the verbal miscue and all said the same thing, Imus must go.

Here's a new alert - Get over it! Focus on changing something in your own neighborhood, your community, town, city, state and nation. The last time these black leaders had so much air time was when they were organizing the million man march.

Now that's going to get me into trouble. I made an attempt at humor and brought race into it. Now I stepped over the line.

There was less of an uproar when Michael Richards, Cramer from Seinfield, literally snapped during a stand-up performance shouting the N-word several times. Richards wasn't attempting to be funny, he was vicious, mean-spirited and repugnant in his remarks. He was gone off the airwaves in less than a week. Must be Al Roker was a fan of Seinfield and not Don Imus.

When America's favorite, fat and of course, black weatherman became a talking head for the nation calling for Don Imus to be fired. When the guy who can't get the weather right becomes the leader of the nation's moral compass, it has gone too far.

Imus was an easy target, a millionaire with a multi-million listener base able to launch politicians as well as best sellers. He was old, miserable and of course, white. A rich white guy says something stupid about race and all hell breaks loose. If he didn't have so much to lose, the price would not be so high.

Everyone was quick to jump on the bandwagon, no one wants to touch race, not because there still is racial tension in America, not because racism still exists, not because it is wrong. They didn't take the other side because it is not correct, politically correct only.

Don Imus was wrong, he has stated on the public airwaves and in private that he was wrong. If Imus was a nightclub performer and a joke bombed it wouldn't be repeated. His joke bombed, but fell on the head of a million listeners and a media that had nothing else to fill their airwaves with.

If only Bush had invaded yet another country, If only Anna Nicole had lasted another month...(yes, my attempt at poor humor...did I succeed?)

Up next...Battle of the Satellite Titans..Don Imus vs. Howard Stern on XM Radio. You read it here first.

Hockey House update I: Court dates moved

CLIFTON PARK -- Probably to no one's surprise, all 13 individuals charged as part of the "Hockey House" investigation from allegations of underage drinking, trespassing and vandalism at a property in Halfmoon had their court dates moved.
According to the Town of Halfmoon and Town of Clifton Park courts, all 13 individuals had appearance tickets for April 12 in the Town of Halfmoon and had their cases adjourned (moved) to April 24. One individual has a different apperance date.

A court clerk in the Town of Halfmoon court said the adjournment was to allow for all 13 to obtain legal counsel.

All 13 had to receive appearance tickets for their charges stemming from the investigation within 10 days of being processed. Now, the individuals and their attorneys can move or delay the court case at their lesiure.

It is not uncommon for these dates to be moved further down. It allows for the defense to research the case, verify statements, make calls to the DA and of course, rack up billable hours.

On first blush, it appears all 13 will qualify for youthful offender status by the courts since all charges are not violent or sexual crimes. The hang up could be if one of the 13 has already used up their youthful offender status card for an earlier violation.

Seven of the individuals are charged with Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, a Class E felony. The felony charges can only be reduced (pled down), if agreed upon with the district attorney's office and must be done in Saratoga County Court.

After spending a couple hours in Judge Hughes court April 11 in Clifton Park, community service seems to be high on the list in regards to the misdemeanors, fines to the court and a hefty amount for the lawyers. Summer may be spent working to pay off mom and dad, not stashing cash for even more parties in their fall semester at college.

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The Dirty Baker's Dozen: 13 students trash "Hockey House"

CLIFTON PARK - Thirteen Shen students and alumni were charged with causing as much as $10,000 in damage to a Halfmoon house during a series of parties last month.
According to State Police, 23 charges were filed against 13 individuals, all of which are younger than the legal drinking age. Charges were filed against Maxwell C. Bobrow, 18, Andrew J. Cantiello, 17, James Christopher Curley, 16, Michael R. Elsworth, 18, Ryan T. Farnan, 16, Chancellor S. Lieb, 16, Dominic M. Marinello, 17, Patrick J. McAuliffe, 19, Joseph Moffre, 17, Patrick M. Neilley, 18, Robert J. Visicaro, 17 of Clifton Park along with Mitchell S. DeWein, 17, and Joseph E. Smith-Rovitch, 17, of Mechanicville.
Most of the youths were charged with third-degree criminal mischief, a felony, punishable by up to four years in jail, and second-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, which could carry a jail sentence of up to one year. Other charges include making a sworn false statement and unlawfully dealing with a child (providing alcohol to an underage person), both misdemeanors.
Results of an ongoing investigation by State Police Troop G have determined a series of parties were held at 1542 Route 9 on between March 16 and 24.
Clifton Park resident and founder of the Capital District Selects hockey team Jim Salfi confirmed he filed a police report after returning from an out-of-town trip. Salfi said he rents the location to several of his CD Selects Junior A hockey players who travel to the area to compete from across the nation. The CD Selects Junior A team competes in the Eastern Jr. Hockey League, and the CD Selects Junior B team competes in the Empire Jr. B Hockey League. Neither team competes or is associated with the Shenendehowa varsity hockey program. The CD Selects season ended in early March, and his tenants left early in the month.
"I went over there after the kids were done," Salfi said. "I hire a cleaning person to do the rugs, the hardwood floors and general cleaning. That is what I was in the process of doing. When I found the house like that, I reported it immediately."
The CD Selects coach said that he knew something was wrong upon entering the home.
"Someone had been in there," Salfi said. "I did a quick walkthrough and then called the police."
Salfi invited the media to the property for a walkthrough of the damage. With beer bottles and large cups still in plain view on a table in the building's dining room, large holes in the sheetrock were visible along the hallway. A few steps away in one bedroom, a door was off its hinges and placed in front of three large holes in the sheetrock. In the basement, large portions of the ceiling were torn.
"You feel violated," Salfi said. "Having been around teenagers for 40 years, speculating, based on what I saw, it was more just accidental damage from drinking too much."
The property at 1542 Route 9 just south of the Wal-Mart in Halfmoon on the opposite side of the road is set back and also guarded by a large tree,
making it easy for cars to be parked behind and near the home without creating suspicion. Parents, students and police referred to it as "the hockey house."
During a press conference Wednesday morning at Troop G headquarters, police said the investigation continues on a party held at the house on Thursday, March 22, which is believed to have been attended by more than 80 Shenendehowa students. On Friday, March 23, Shenendehowa did not have classes due to a scheduled superintendent's conference.
The State Police have been in contact with the Shenendehowa Central School District, and Superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson answered questions during the press conference. Several of the students charged are Shenendehowa athletes. Police suspect many of the individuals at the March 22 party were also athletes. Robinson said students confirmed to be at any of the parties held at the home would face disciplinary action through the school's code of conduct.
Because of the number of individuals involved, including athletes, the matter is being handled by the high school principal, assistant principals and class principals.
Salfi said parents of students involved contacted him asking if restitution for the damage would alleviate any potential charges.
"I said 'no,' " Salfi said. "The way the system works, I'm sure a lot of this will be plea-bargained down and I expect restitution will be a big part of it. I'm leaving it up to the courts. If I had my choice, I would take restitution versus a felony."
All 13 youths charged appeared voluntarily at the Troop G station Tuesday. They all received appearance tickets for April 12 at the Town of Halfmoon Court. Curley, Farnan and Neilley also received appearance tickets for the Town of Clifton Park regarding false statement charges for April 11.

Photos of the damage will be added shortly. Also: All 13 were arraigned in Town of Halfmoon Court and had their cases adjourned (moved) to April 24 with one exception. The three individuals facing false statement charges have also been adjourned (moved) to April 19.

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An A game with C-minus referees

SARATOGA SPRINGS – It had the atmosphere of a Section II semifinal and final between Saratoga and Guilderland girls lacrosse at Skidmore College's Wachenheim Field Wednesday. Unfortunately, the striped shirts on the field treated it like Take Your Daughter to Work Day as confusion between Sherry Schermerhorn and Christine Shiely became the focus of the contest.
With one, I assume veteran referee and a less experienced counterpart, whistles shrilled which is part of the game, but the continuous back and forth conversations tarnished the contest. Time was spent discussing penalties, player placement and clarifications. While appreciated to get the call right, it spoiled the high level contest.

The first half was subject numerous huddles, pauses and a general log jam of stoppages, adding even more delays to a sport that is filled with stops and starts. The ineptness was highlighted in the first half when a possible new record was set in a varsity contest as two different players from Saratoga were whistled for infractions worthy of a yellow card. One yellow in a girls contest is a surprise, but two issued to players on the same squad during the same play could be akin to a miracle. Of course this was Easter Wednesday. What made it even more shocking was that with 2:26 left in the half, a whistle shrilled and a penalty was called, nothing out of the ordinary for a varsity girls lacrosse contest, but what happened next clouded the rest of the contest for Saratoga.
In a rare occurrence, Emily Layden was called for a yellow card infraction, adamantly pleading her case to the referee that she didn’t commit the infraction. Hoffman as well as Guilderland’s coach, Gary Chatnik yelled across the field to confirm that Layden wasn’t the culprit.
Despite her protests, Layden was sent off the field. Layden’s teammate, Ashley Loviza, finally convinced the referees that she had committed the infraction in question and was sent off the field. Unfortunately for Layden, her card remained as the striped duo explained that two yellow card infractions had occurred on the same play.
Guilderland scored three seconds after the restart, entering the half up, 7-3.

I put a clock on the lack of game management and totaled more than six minutes between stops and starts of game play. Clock stoppages between scores were not accounted for. I had six additional minutes of pause during the 25 minutes of running game time. This didn't include the two "official" stop times requested by the senior referee to resolve questions in the second half. A short conversation between the referees at the half, probably the most coherent on the day, focused on being more assertive on the whistles. No other correction was mentioned, it truly was the blind leading the blind.
The referee’s highlight came with Saratoga down 12-5, but still battling, DeMatteo appeared to have scored her third goal of the game, cutting the lead in half, but nothing was certain for the Blue Streaks on Wednesday. The goal was disallowed when the referee whistled an offside penalty on Saratoga. Hoffman argued that her squad may have had an unequal number of players past the midfield, but it was after the goal was scored. The player was running down field to congratulate her teammate
“As many different games as I have been involved in I learned something brand new today that I’ve never had the need to teach,” Hoffman said. “That is going to be in the package now. I truly believe that in our exuberance to congratulate someone on a goal scored that there was a miss. We’ve never had the need to correct that before, but now we have that in our base of knowledge to be wary of.”
While the errors and mis-management by Schermerhorn and Shiely didn't effect today's outcome as the winner was determined early on, what if it wasn't? Referees are in short supply, the pay is not commensurate with the duties and who wants to get screamed at by adults and adolescents alike? When the athletes are expected to perform with perfection after practicing their craft and rising to the varsity level to compete against the best shouldn't the officials too?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Let's Play Three!

Ernie Banks may have been credited with the phrase “Let's play two” in reference to playing baseball doubleheaders, but anything worth doing is worth overdoing in my book.

With a concern for having enough material for this week's edition of the Community News, I found myself attempting to delve into a high school baseball trifecta...covering three games in one day.
The schedule was cooperative, Mechanicville vs. Voorheesville at 11 a.m. Niskayuna at Shenendehowa at 2 p.m. and capping it with Waterford-Halfmoon hosting New Lebanon at 4:30.
It looked almost easy, all three spaced apart equally and all three within easy reach throughout the afternoon. If the baseball gods smiled upon my efforts, it could be quite the sportswriting coup.
Knowing the skies would be humane, I went ahead with my plan, rain was my enemy and I was clear. Of course, I forgot about the cold.
After 13 hours, 79 miles, 92 photos, 38 runs, 33 hits and 18 errors I accomplished my task.
An opening treat

For my own personal season opener I was treated to a pitchers duel between Mechanicville's Andy Grayson and Voorheesville's RJ Curreri.
The crafty Red Raider left-hander earning a 3-1 win, allowing only two hits while fanning 14. Curreri took the tough loss, giving up seven hits, three runs and dismissing nine batters on a cold and windy mid-morning tilt.

Catching the big boys
With time in between to grab another unhealthy, but quick meal, Taco Bell this time, I made it over to my middle-header at Shen where my big school season opener didn't disappoint.
The Plainsmen put up two quick runs, but then their bats and maybe their brains went cold, squandering scoring opportunities. Meanwhile, Nisky manufactured a run on two seperate occassions.
Baseball is timeless, but my schedule wasn't and the contest was knotted at two and headed into extra innings. Niskayuna stranded a runner in the top of the eighth and the Silver Warriors coach answered my prayers, possibly to the detriment of his own team.

Dave Goerold reached on a single and was bunted into scoring position by Crockett Pack. What happened next surprised even some of the most grizzled baseball veterans. Niskayuna coach Dave Furey intentionally walked the next two batters to load the bases with one out. He sent the No. 3 and No. 4 batters to get to catcher Tim Jones who struck out and grounded out to the first baseman.
It looked like a good gamble for the Niskayuna skipper, an out at any base and Shen wasn't putting a lot of balls out to the fence on a cold, windy day.
He lost.
With a drawn-in outfield, Jones lifted a fastball to left for the game-winning hit.
It was just what a home opener is all about and I wasn't too far behind schedule for a quick ride to Waterford, I should have gotten there sooner...

It’s clobbering time!

The Fordians had the hot bats and the Tigers cold and sore arms as Waterford punched up 15 runs in the first two innings of a runaway contest.
I got there just as the colopie music had started and it took two innings to get caught up with my own scorebook, thanks to Fred Engelmann (Waterford boys soccer coach, basketball scorekeeper and all-around good guy!).
Another miscue by the umpiring staff, failing to keep the contest moving along. What happened to game management?
With the bench getting playing time the blues should have opened up the strike zone and moved the game along.
They didn't. When the smoke cleared and the clouds took out the Spring sun above, Waterford walked away with a 22-7 league win and me with frezzing cold feet and my trifecta.
Well I still had to file my stories, process three photos along with typing in three box scores, but it was 7 p.m. and I still had time on my side.
As you can see later on, I made it
I was relieved, tired, but pretty happy with the outcome, but can't see me booking a repeat performance.
But, you know, if this was softball I know I could get four in on one day...hmmm

Baseball Trifecta On the Clock
Here's a timeline of the baseball trifecta. Don't compare the time between stops and the mileage, it may get me in trouble at the newspaper…
10:13 a.m. Left The Saratogian
10:19 Pick up McGriddles at McDs (Sorry diet)
10:41 Oops game not at Harris Field...
10:49 At Mech HS game on...whew!
11:05 First pitch, a strike. A good sign
11:27 First photo
11:34 Mechanicville's Mike DiDomenico drives in Brian Mariano for the first run of the day.
11:44 Red Raiders hurler Andy Grayson strikes out the side. Mechanicville 1-0.
11:58 Voorheesville's Steve Cardinal breaks up the no-hitter by Grayson with a shot off the third base bag.
12:24 p.m. Grayson strikes out the side, plus one in the fifth for 11 on the day.
12:41 Grayson got into trouble in the top of the sixth, walking Steve Cardinal and letting him advance on a wild pitch. The hurler redeemed himself, stabbing Jay Conde's comebacker and hanging up Cardinal between second and third. He allowed the tension to continue, walking RJ Curreri after Conde stole second. Mechanicville's big first baseman Mike DeDomenico closed out the stressful chapter, making a basket catch of Joe Berschwiger's pop fly in foul territory near the Red Raider's bench.
12:58 Grayson finishes off his 14 strikeout afternoon by striking out the Voorheesville side for the Red Raider's opening day win.
1:15 interviews done, off to Shen for 2 pm game and its getting colder, windier.
1:37 Pit stop at Taco Bell for food and restroom stop.
1:53 Chowed down, ready for round two.
1:58 Shen first pitch, a good sign. Plate umpire Fred Fitch moves the game along.
2:05 Shen's Jeff Carter opens game two with a 1-2-3 inning
2:19 Shen scores two runs in the first and quickly, a good sign.
2: 48 Niskayuna chips away at the lead tying the contest at two apiece in the third.
3:02 Heading into bottom of fourth, score tied at two apiece. Game moving, hope we get a leader and a photo for the newspaper.
3:30 Someone better check Shen coach Jim Carrese's heart. Baserunning error by Byran Marotta gets doubled off at first on a foul pop. Niskayuna appeared ready to pounce on the Shenendehowa miscue, but strands a runner at third.
3:46 Shen's Hunter led off with a walk and moved over on Rosenzweig's sac bunt, but was left stranded after two straight groundball outs.
3:48 Extra innings, just what I don't need today.
3:56 Shen's Shippee is in control, striking out two and snagging a come backer and tossing to first to end the top of the eighth.
Now is when I become a homer, Shen score quick...please.
4:12 Tim Jones sends a fly to left field, no one there, bases loaded…whew!
4:25 Interviews done, off to Waterford. No pit stops.
4:43 At St. Mary's Field, not too bad.
4:47 Waterford is circling the bases like a buzzard over a carcass, 15 runs in two innings.
6:00 Waterford up 19-3 through five, ready to go home. Bad news, no mercy rule in high school ball. So as the wind picks up, the clouds cover the sun and the baseball continues to decline, my day continues.
6:25 Some excitement as a player from New Lebanon is ejected after swearing at the home plate umpire after striking out. The coach asks the blue why and has no problems with the decision.
7:09 Oh god is it cold. This was a good idea until the weather got too cold.
7:45 Back to Saratogian, home sweet, Saratogian
8:30 Photos are formatted, ready to go.
8:31 Hmmm, where do I start?
8:38 Where’s the box score template?
9:16 All three box scores done…thank god!
9:18 Writers block…blank screen…not good…
9:32 Looking for a first name..damnn..
9:58 It’s flowing now…
10:50 Waterford is ready, last story of the night
11:12 Proof page comes off the printer
11:35 Lights out in the sports department
11:36 I love it when a plan comes together…

Shen cashes in on Niskayuna gamble

CLIFTON PARK — Niskayuna varsity baseball coach John Furey played the odds in the bot
tom of the eighth inning, intentionally walking two Shenendehowa batters to load the bases with one out and putting the pressure on the Plainsmen’s Tim Jones.
Furey gambled and lost when Jones sent a fastball deep into left field, knocking in Dave Goerold for the game-winning run Tuesday afternoon at the Shenendehowa varsity baseball field.

“It’s baseball strategy,” Shenendehowa coach Jim Carrese said. “They were looking at
our number three hitter (Bryan Marotta) coming up. They wanted to ratchet up the pressure on us and we responded.”
Furey walked Marotta and David Balsalmo to get to Jones who singled in the first inning but struck out and grounded out to first in his next two at bats.
“I said to him ‘Here you go Timmy, they walked two to get to you,’ Carrese said. “He’s a quiet, measured kid. I can tell when he’s irritated, emotional, I want
ed him to view it as an insult.”
To the catcher, it was just business.
“It made sense,” Jones said. “I wasn’t mad, I just wanted to hit it as hard as I could.”
The table was set in the final inning by Goerold, similar to the way he set up the first inning for the Plainsmen.
In the eighth, Goerold singled to lead off the inning, stole second base and moved to third on Crockett Pack’s sacrifice bunt. He watched Furey allow Marotta
and Balsalmo get free passes to set up Jones’s heroics. In the first, he scored Shenendehowa’s first run, leading off with a single, advancing on Pack’s single, stealing third and was balked home by Sapp.
“Coach told me to look for a fastball, then steal second,” Goerold said. “I was looking fastball. I was just looking for something to get into the outfield.”
Jones took care of business from beginning to end, handling both Shenendehowa pitchers, Jeff Carter and winning reliever Jon Shippee. Carter went five
innings, allowing both Niskayuna runs on two hits. He walked two and struck out four before being lifted for Shippee.
“Jeff (Carter) had a high pitch count and we didn’t want to push him,” Jones said. “We have the depth, so we brought in Shippee.”
Shippee appeared to become stronger as his innings progressed.
“My circle change was working well,” Shippee said. “I knew I was going into the game so I was ready. As the game went along, I was throwing better.”
Shippee earned the win, going three innings, allowing a hit and striking out four batters.
After a series of cancellations due to weather, the opener provided a bright spot for Carrese and his squad.
“This is a young team and they found a way to respond under pressure today,” Carrese said. "To get a win with our No. 3 pitcher in Carter and Shippee, who are even, against their No. 1 is a big thing for us.”
The Plainsmen scored their second run of the first after Pack was moved over by Marotta's grounder to third. Jones swung at strike three, but Silver Warrior
catcher Drew Bartlett misses the prize and Jones takes off for first. Jones is thrown out at first but Pack beat the return throw to home, sliding underneath the tag for the 2-0 lead.
Carter owned Niskayuna’s tying run, hitting Matt Kelly with a pitch, allowing him to steal second before coming around on Furey's groundout to short and knotting the game at two apiece.
Things were tense for Shenendehowa in the sixth after Marotta reached on a fielding error by the second baseman, but was erased when he mis-red David Balsalmo's pop fly in foul territory.
Marotta over-scampered his way towards second and was thrown out attempting to make it back to first. The next batter grounded out to the first baseman.
Niskayuna appeared ready to pounce on the Shenendehowa miscue when Furey stroked a
one-out double to right field. He was replaced by pinch-runner Marc Cioffi, and the speedster advanced to third on a passed ball, 90 feet away from the lead. It never happened, a strikeout and a groundout back to relief pitcher Shippee ended the threat.
The drama continued when Bryan Hunter led off with a walk in the bottom of the seventh and moved over on Sam Rosenzweig's sacrifice bunt, but was left stranded after two straight groundball outs.
Shippee set the tone for the final stand, striking out two batters after Kelly reached on a fielding error. He closed out his stint by snagging a comebacker
and tossing to first to end the top of the eighth.

A Pitcher's Duel: Grayson's 14 Ks leads Red Raiders

MECHANICVILLE — In conditions that were unkind, if not inhumane, Mechanicville’s Andy Grayson and Voorheesville’s R.J. Curreri provided a pitcher’s duel for the ages
Tuesday morning as the Red Raiders squeezed across a run late in the sixth inning for a 3-1 Colonial Council season opening win.
Grayson, usually connecting with receivers on the gridiron, only had to find catcher Mike Hipwell for seven innings, striking out 14 Blackbird batters on his way to a two-hit, one run victory.

“My fastball, my two-seam was hitting the outside corner,” Grayson said about his
throwing arsenal. “I used my curve ball and a couple change ups.”
The lefty had not inkling that he was in for a stellar performance under gray skies and swirling winds.
“I always feel terrible in warm-ups until I get on the mound,” Grayson said. “I have no idea about my strikeouts. I didn’t know until he (teammate) just yelled to me.”
Grayson was matched by Voorheesville’s R.J. Curreri who took the loss, allowing three runs on seven hits. He walked one batter and struck out nine on the day.
“They are the league champions and have won both of their games this season by 12 runs each time,”
Mechanicville coach Tom McBride said. “To beat R.J. (Curreri) and that team, you have to give credit to Andy (Grayson) and the defense.”
Mechanicville’s first baseman, Mike DiDomenico adjusted his swing between seasons, going from swinging a Big Bertha driver to a Louisville Slugger, driving in two of
the Red Raiders runs Tuesday.
In the second inning he drove in Brian Mariano who led off with a walk and reached second on a passed ball with a single down the left field line. Mechanicville went up 2-0 in the third when Danny Jones led off with a single in the No. 9 spot, stole second, reached third on a fielding error by the shortstop and scored on a wild pitch by Curreri.
Voorheesville's Steve Cardinal broke up Grayson’s no-hit bid with a shot off the third base bag in the top of the fourth inning. He moved to third on Jay Conde's single to center, scoring on Curreri’s sac fly to center.
Grayson got into trouble in the top of the sixth, walking Cardinal and letting him advance on a wild pitch.
The hurler redeemed himself, stabbing Jay Conde's comebacker and hanging up Cardinal between second and third. He allowed the tension to continue though, walking RJ
Curreri after Conde stole second.
Mechanicville's big first baseman Mike DeDomenico closed out the stressful chapter, making a basket catch of Joe Berschwiger's pop fly in foul territory near the Red Raider's bench.
The big swinging first baseman drove in a Mechanicville insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Brian Mariano beat out an infield single with two-outs, moved to third on Hipwell's single to right before DiDomenico's stroked his second RBI single on the afternoon.
“In the gym during pre-game I was hitting the ball well,” DiDomenico said. “I was keeping my shoulder back and hitting the ball hard.”
He also proved that he could come up clutch in the field.
“I knew I could get to the ball, I just didn’t want to hurt coach (McBride who was standing near the open area bench),” DiDomenico said.
The win was a welcome to McBride who’s squad has been sequestered indoors due to poor weather conditions.
“This is the first time we’ve hit live pitching,” McBride said. “We’ve had two scrimmages and five games cancelled. Both pitchers were phenomenal. I’m not sure how either one threw a curveball today.”

Waterford routs New Lebanon, 22-7

WATERFORD — The Waterford baseball team took out its frustration from an opening day loss versus Germantown out on visiting New Lebanon Tuesday afternoon, throttling the Tigers, 22-7, in Central Hudson Valley League action at the Waterford Town Park.
Without a mercy rule in place for the Fordians (1-1 CHVL, 1-1 overall) to rely on to
cut the contest short, Waterford coach Bob Jesmain utilized his entire roster in the
contest, including four pitchers.

Fordian hurler, Kevin Terry had all the offense he needed early on in the contest as his squad scored 15 runs in the first two innings, allowing him to throw with confidence.
Terry threw for four innings, allowing three runs in the third inning on five hits. He walked only one batter and struck out nine.
While Terry kept New Lebanon at bay, third baseman Joe Walek showed the heavy
lumber, going 3-for-5 with a run scored and seven runs batted in.
“I picked up the ball well today,” Walek said. “I was lucky to have guys on base
when I was hitting.”
The contest allowed Walek and his squad to right the ship early in the season.
“We felt down after the last game and we wanted to get a win,” Walek said. “It was tough out there today. It was tough fielding, especially after the long innings, you weren’t able to move around.”
Entering the win column was important for Jesmain’s squad.
“It’s good to get the first win out of the way,” Jesmain said. “We lost down at Germantown in six innings. It was only our second day outside and we had only two hits.
“Today we came out swinging and hit the ball well,” Jesmain said. “After that big
inning all you want to do is get out of here healthy, without anyone getting hurt. They’ve worked hard since Germantown and they proved they’re capable of good things.”