CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – “Welcome to Friday Night Lights!” said Chris McCarthy, director of health, physical education, athletics and wellness at the Katonah-Lewisboro School District. He was standing on John Jay High School’s Contest Field alone, under the lights. The green turf and signature purple track made stripes behind him. Above him, the scoreboard beamed 20:20.
Friday Night Lights is a quiet spectacle sweeping across America this spring. Many high schools are lighting up their athletic fields for 20 minutes each Friday evening beginning at 8:20 p.m. That’s 20:20 in military time. The initiative honors the Class of 2020, which has been unable to celebrate so many of the traditional milestones.
John Jay takes it a step further.
“We decided to personalize it a little more,” McCarthy said. Each evening is dedicated to senior athletes on specific teams, with McCarthy hosting a short tribute from the lighted field, recorded by his wife, Tamra. Coaches are also there to give shout outs.
Senior athletes send in pre-recorded video reflections. One sings the national anthem. The parts are woven together by Friday Night Lights editor-in-chief Geoff Curtis, one of John Jay’s baseball coaches.
The plan is to release each video on the Katonah-Lewisboro School District’s Facebook page at 8:20 p.m. every Friday.
“When I was younger, I always loved to watch my older siblings play, and I always wanted to be like them,” said Sarah Antunes, softball outfielder. “I love the game and working with my teammates on the field.”
George Lombardi, baseball pitcher, had some advice for non-seniors.
“They tell you when you make the team that these four years will go by in the blink of an eye,” said Lombardi said. “Most people usually think that is not true and that they have plenty of time left. However, it couldn’t be more true. Before you know it, you’ll be playing your last game as a member of John Jay baseball. Take advantage of every opportunity you get and enjoy your time in baseball while it lasts.”
–Lenore Person, Katonah-Lewisboro School District
- May 8: Softball and Baseball
- May 15: Lacrosse
- May 22: Track and Field
- May 29: Golf and Tennis
- June 5: All senior athletes
Chris Castellon, pitcher
- Nickname: “CC”
- Future Plans: I am studying finance at the Kelley School of Business at the University of Indiana
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: National anthem
- Favorite Memory: My first appearance on varsity
- Advice for younger players: Enjoy every minute, because it goes by fast.
George Lombardi, pitcher
- Nickname: “Georgie”
- Future Plans: I am currently still undecided on what college I will be attending and what major I will choose. I am considering careers in business and sports management, and would like to play club baseball in college.
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: Players only huddles in the outfield before warmups to get in the game ready mindset
- Favorite Memory: My first trip to Florida with the program my sophomore year
- Advice for younger players: Cherish every moment you get in this program. They tell you when you make the team that these four years will go by in the blink of an eye. Most people usually think that is not true and that they have plenty of time left in baseball. However, it couldn’t be more true. Before you know it, you’ll be playing your last game as a member of John Jay Baseball. Take advantage of every opportunity you get and enjoy your time in baseball while it lasts.
Brandon Beame, second base
- Nickname: “Beamer”
- Future Plans: Attending Binghamton University
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: Don’t have one
- Favorite Memory: 1) Getting my first varsity at bat and getting a hit/game ball at the end. 2) Freshman year, Florida: night game and I come in to pitch and throw extremely well, not allowing a run and even striking out a few. Then I hit a clutch double later in the game.
- Advice for younger players: Try to enjoy it all and keep a positive attitude. Take advantage of whatever opportunities you get and don’t complain about playing time. Just do whatever you can in whatever role you’re given to help the team in a positive way. Little things like cheering on teammates from the dugout or in a varsity players case, help out younger players in practice and help guide them. Even if you’re not someone who’s playing in college or anything, you can be someone who helps younger players get the hang of things and even take their game to the next level. If you get an opportunity on the field make sure you give it your all and if you’re not playing, don’t be down just do what you can to help out. You’re on the team and you’re there so might as well.
Michael Fassert, shortstop
- Nickname: “Fass”
- Future Plans: Studying finance at Lehigh University
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: When getting to my position, always touching the dirt before taking any ground balls
- Favorite Memory: JayFest, sophomore year, we were playing Fox Lane and overcame a huge deficit to get the extra inning win.
- Advice for younger players: It goes by fast. Play every game as if it were your last.
Jeffrey Alper, first base
- Nickname: “El Jefe”
- Future Plans: Study communications at Indiana University
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: Listening to music
- Favorite Memory: Catching high popups
- Advice for younger players: Try your best and have fun.
Joey Pink, first base/pitcher
- Nickname: “JP”
- Future Plans: University of Richmond for business
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: Fixing up the dirt at first base and barbecue sunflower seeds.
- Favorite Memory: Pitching against Fox Lane on JayFest sophomore year.
- Advice for younger players: Appreciate every day you get to play, whether it’s a big game or an early morning practice.
Michael Giardina, second/third base
- Nickname: “Gia”
- Future Plans: MLB star
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: Eating seeds
- Favorite Memory: Florida trip
- Advice for younger players: Take full advantage of every second you have on the field because you never know when it can get taken away from you.
Christian Dinallo, catcher
- Nickname: Dinallo
- Future Plans: Baseball and football at Ursinus College
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: Taping my wrists
- Favorite Memory: Undefeated seventh grade modified season
- Advice for younger players: Keep your head down and work hard.
Greg Fries, pitcher
- Nickname: Fries
- Future Plans: Plan to continue my education at SUNY Oneonta
- Favorite Pre-Game Ritual: Bands, arm bar, long toss
- Favorite Memory: So many fun times but I’d have to say my favorite JJ Baseball memory would be our evening practice in Florida with the coaches home-run derby.
- Advice for younger players: Always 110 percent
Sarah Antunes, outfield
- Future Plans: I will be attending Sacred Heart University, majoring in business.
- Superstitions: Making sure my cleats are double knotted before each game.
- Favorite JJ Softball Memory: The last out right after we made it to the playoffs, and any bus ride back from a win!
- Why Softball? When I was younger, I always loved to watch my older siblings play, and I always wanted to be like them. I love the game and working with my teammates on the field.
- Advice for the Younger Players: The time goes by so fast, so don’t take it for granted! Always give 100 percent effort, work hard, and have fun.
Bella Bettencourt, second base/shortstop
- Future Plans: I will be attending Cornell University in the fall, majoring in architecture.
- Superstitions: I have always kept this one old softball I used to practice with years ago in the bottom of my softball bag.
- Favorite JJ Softball Memory: All the bus rides to and from our games and winning our out-bracket game against Somers last year.
- Why Softball? I’ve always loved playing since I was really young. There is something I’ve always loved about everyone working together on the field to make a play, the way everyone contributes their own part to the team as a whole.
- Advice for the Younger Players: Just keep pushing yourself to be the best you can be, have fun, and enjoy it!
Linn Carbaugh, centerfield
- Future Plans: I will be attending Lafayette College, and I am planning on majoring in psychology.
- Superstitions: I have had the same batting gloves since I was in sixth grade until last year when they completely ripped, so now I still keep them in my bag for good luck.
- Favorite JJ Softball Memory: My favorite memory is going to Disney with the team during spring break to play at the ESPN Zone and to go to all of the parks.
- Why Softball? I first played because I was tired of only watching my sister play. Ever since then, I’ve loved the strategy of the game and playing with a great group of people.
- Advice for the Younger Players: Even if it gets frustrating, whether it be a hitting slump or a difficult pitcher, stick with it because with hard work you will improve and enjoy the game! Also, watch as many softball games as you can, you can learn so much just by watching.
Taylor Hoffman, utility (“Wherever Coach Delmo plays me”)
- Future Plans: I’m going to Wake Forest University next year, undecided
- Superstitions: Wearing Jess Leff’s softball stuff, mainly because I don’t own any myself.
- Favorite JJ Softball Memory: Making the team!
- Why Softball? I wanted to try a new sport for my senior year that had a good team dynamic. I wanted to stay active during the spring and I wanted to play for Coach Delmo!
- Advice for the Younger Players: Stay as active as you can. Whether you are running drills alone at home or having a catch with a friend, enjoy the game while you can.
Jessica Leff, first base
- Future Plans: I will be attending Harvard University in the fall, and I’m planning on majoring in neuroscience or biology on the pre-med track. I’m also considering a minor in theater.
- Superstitions: Before games (and practices) I always have a GoGo squeeze. Also, as a pregame ritual, I like to have Dani Roban throw me “bad throws” to practice picks.
- Favorite JJ Softball Memory: Beating Somers in our out-bracket game last year was definitely one of my favorite John Jay Softball memories. We were the underdogs of that game, but we really came together as a team and played one of our best games of the season. After the last out of the game, we stormed the pitcher’s mound to celebrate. It was amazing!
- Why Softball? I love the combination of strategy and skill required to play softball. I really enjoy working together as a team to achieve a common goal, and the fact that everyone on the team is so supportive of one another helps us to achieve that goal.
- Advice for the Younger Players: Softball is all about your mentality. If you believe that you will get a great hit or make a great catch, you can and you will! Time flies by faster than you would expect so, although it might sound cliché, the most important thing to remember while playing softball is to have fun!
Emma Lombardi, second base
- Future Plans: I will be attending Penn State University in the fall and I will major in kinesiology. After I graduate, I want to get my master’s degree in athletic training.
- Superstitions: My favorite number has always been 5 because my all-time favorite Mets player is David Wright. I feel extra lucky when I wear this number.
- Favorite JJ Softball Memory: My favorite John Jay Softball memory is the Florida trip that I went on during my freshman year. I had lots of fun playing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports and going to the Disney parks.
- Why Softball? I love the feeling I get when I make a good play or get a good hit.
- Advice for the Younger Players: Trust yourself. You’ll play best when you’re confident in your abilities. Don’t forget to have fun!
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