Anthony Larezza not only coaches the highly successful Immaculate Heart Academy softball team, but he’s also the program’s biggest advocate.
Generally, the IHA Invitational is held the first weekend in April and Larezza not only coaches his team, but he’s there all day, making sure all facets of the event goes well. He’ll be chasing down foul balls, greeting some fan or, as I like to say, working the room, even though said room is outdoors.
He’ll let you know who the home team is, make sure you know where the food stand is and offer a bottle of water, or to even get you something to eat.
He’s provided memorable moments at the Invitational, including the epic 2010 Memorial Day tirade which you had to see to believe.
So when I walked down to the diamond this afternoon to see the two Essex County schools that would be playing in back-to-back games (Mount St. Dominic and Livingston) it took Larezza about 5 seconds to size up what I was wearing and to begin a series of quick-hit questions.
Seeing the old-school Indiana Pacers jacket, circa 1973, I had on, he laughed and said, ‘name me one player on the ’73 Pacers?’
When I was able to counter with George McGinnis, I caught him a little off-guard, but truth be told, if he asked me to name a second guy on that team, I was screwed.
“What was World B. Free’s real first name?” he asked me next. (I knew that one, it was Lloyd).
“Who were the 4 ABA teams that went into the NBA in 1976?” he wanted to know next. (He actually got that one right, Nets, Pacers, Spurs and Nuggets).
With that, he was done asking me questions, but clearly on a roll. After a quick phone call where Renaldo “Skeets” Nehemiah’s name came up, he was back at it again.
Larezza decided to ask some of his players, who had already won their game earlier in the day and were staying around to watch the other games and help out with 50-50s and stuff, some quick sports questions.
“Name me four active professional basketball players?” he said quickly to one young lady, who struggled but got a few correct answers.
“Name me two current hockey players?” he asked another.
“Who is the best singer, ever?” he mused to a third youngster, who countered with Frank Sinatra, which kept Anthony quiet for a few seconds.
With Stef Thomas, IHA’s star pitcher close by, Larezza looked at me and said ‘what stud-name do you call her?’
When I replied, Affirmed, Larezza said to her, ‘Triple Crown winner, 1978. Don’t forget it.’ (I explained to Stef that the stud term is something used by coaches about an outstanding player, and since she got a triple crown winner’s name in my blog, she had to be a very good player).
To Thomas’ credit, she was a good sport, saying ‘cool’. She was also told that the ’77 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew, would be arriving soon with her Livingston teammates. (Slew, being Kyle McLaughlin).
“Who was Secretariat again,” Larezza asked, already knowing the answer to that question. (Livingston’s Jess Peslak, who graduated last spring).
“I still can’t believe Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths (in 1973).”
This went on, and on, but it’s what makes going to IHA for the tourney a lot of fun. It’s a well-run event, with excellent competition and a good fan base.
So, whether the conversation revolves around legendary Umpire Nestor Chylak, or fictional character Ritchie Aprile from the Sopranos, or the trivia question as to which horse defeated the great Man O’War nearly a century ago. (It was ‘Upset’, thus the term for when a favorite loses, and Stef Thomas certainly will never forget that), you’re most assured of having a good time when you arrive in Larezza Country.