WRITTEN BY MICHAEL C. GARAY
After a fatal motorcycle accident took the life of a best friend and former teammate, SFC senior, Saverio Nardone, accepted the enormous responsibility of playing on and managing the South Shore baseball team of Staten Island.
The 21-year-old Staten Island native explained that the passion he exhibits while playing on the diamond is movitated by the passing of his best friend, Michael Akl. “I think of him a lot. He was a great guy,” said Nardone. The league has also kept Akl’s memory alive by distributing MVP awards during All Star games.
“It wasn’t until now that I’ve taken my passion and payed it forward,” said Nardone. He has a great deal of respect for America’s favorite pastime. “Coaching is my passion. Being the leader of a winning team gives me a sense of accomplishment. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Nardone.
Nardone discovered his passion for baseball as a young child. “Coaching is in my blood. I’ve always had the mind of a coach, thinking outside the box. When I was kid, I spent a lot of time on the bench, watching the game from the outside looking in,” he said.
As the second year skipper of the Staten Island ball club, Nardone’s rocky first year experience gave him the focus he needed for his sophomore season which ended with an impressive 9-1 record. As a coach, he was forced to make difficult decisions and manage a team that consisted of men who were his senior.
Nardone said, “My first season as a coach was difficult. Two of the players on my team (both 27 years old) had no respect for the game. Their attitudes diminished the morale of the entire team, leading us to a 3-9 season. At that time I felt like it was time to make a change and hand-pick my players.”
Coaching has not always been an easy task for Nardone. He has struggled to establish respect among his older peers. “After finishing my first season, (3-9) most coaches felt like I proved them right. Many told me I should get someone older to manage the team. But I declined. I try my best to shrug it off but I deeply internalize everything they say and use it as motivation,” said Nardone.
Despite the fact that his team consists of men who are older than him, Nardone explained that they have been receptive of him as a coach. Nardone said, “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys on my team. They all have a great response…and never question my decisions. I do my best to make sure I make everyone a happy.”
Nevertheless, Nardone doesn’t let his good relationships with players get in the way of his job. He remains neutral during games. Nardone said, “Sometimes you have to do what you have to do…my job is to give my team the best possible chance to win every game.”
Although Nardone is young, he has displayed a great deal of maturity on the field. “As a friend, they [teammates] understand how passionate I am about the game and my desire to win. That makes it is easier to manage the game freely and push friendships aside.”
Nardone has sustained much success on the field and won the respect and admiration of the people around him. His dream is to one day coach at a professional level. For now, he will continue to coach and play the game he loves. Nardone said, “I let what we do on the field do the talking.”