Gregg Sgar PFA Paddleball Player Profile #42
by Dave Siegel
There was a day in the Sgarlata family history that will live forever. It happened in November, 2018, Caloosa Park, Florida where three generations of true paddleball players “had” a game of paddleball on a “Court of Dreams.” Sonny Sgarlata, the patriarch, now in his late eighties, living in Boynton Beach, was coaxed out of paddleball retirement for a day by his visiting grandson Gregg Sgar. Sonny was a Rockland County paddleball stalwart from way back, known for his excellent placement and right corner shot. Twenty three year old Gregg had just started out in paddleball, a decision he made to honor the family paddleball tradition in hopes of getting his Dad, Gregg Sr., a top competitive player from the 90s, back into the game. The bonding between Grandpa Sonny and Gregg was enormous, but then a surprise visitor showed up, none other than Dad. They realized they had a great thing going and needed a family fourth to join them on the court and were able to get hard hitting Uncle Rich Sgarlata, Gregg Sr.’s brother, another retired player, now also a Floridian. It was truly a momentous day as the whole park stopped their games to watch this Sgarlata foursome have a tearjerking historical game for the ages on the “Court of Dreams!”
It looks like Gregg made a wise decision to take up paddleball. There haven’t been many players without a background of court-based racquet sports or handball that have first started playing our sport at the relatively “old” age 23 and in three short years were able to emerge among the best in the game. The sports he played prior to paddleball were baseball, soccer and table tennis. Is it pure athletic ability, which Gregg surely has an abundance of, or is it the paddleball gene? Greg thinks it could be the gene from Dad and Grandpa, though he showed how grounded he is by noting that the standard for “top” players has dropped from paddleball’s heyday, which obviously it has, considering the paucity of players in their athletic prime now compared to then. One thing for sure, the sport of paddleball needs more young and dedicated players like Gregg for it to flourish in the future. That’s why cultivating our youth is a prime focus of Mike and the PFA!
Gregg Sgar plays a mean game of paddleball. In baseball, they talk about a five-tool player. In paddles, I haven’t heard this criteria used, but he has all the tools: speed and defense enabling him to make great gets, placement, consistency, smarts and power (although he says his game is not power based, but he “uses his body to create offensive put-away opportunities.”) Let’s add one more tool: sportsmanship. He is the winner of last year’s Chris Lecakes Male Sportsmanship Award for showing respect for his opponents and always playing fairly with integrity and class, a well-deserved award that I’m sure he’s proud of. Back to Gregg’s game, his favorite shot playing the left side is passing his opponent down the left line to the left of his body, obviously very risky because there is no room for error and is often most unexpected. He’s on the courts one to three times a week, primarily at O’Conner Memorial Park, his paddleball home in West Orange, NJ. Gregg plays both classic and big ball, but after starting out with the small ball, he quickly realized that “big ball is the game for me.”
You may have noticed that Gregg has a regular partner in mixed doubles, Ariana Rodriguez, one of the best of the women players in the game today. Is she his significant other? Yes she is! And Gregg considers it awesome that they play together and they even get along on the court, though he says she tears into him in private when he messes up. From personal experience, playing paddleball with your significant other is definitely a challenge. Good luck to Team Ariana and Gregg! They recently won the Paddlemania IV mixed doubles tournament, a huge milestone for them.
In his real life, Gregg, born and raised in Roseland, NJ, is an accomplished musician, recording, producing and performing professionally, both on stage and in his home studio. He sings and plays several instruments (check him out on YouTube.) He draws from a wide range of genres, including Metal, Pop and Dance (no Doo Wop? lol!) He can be seen performing in various venues in NYC and heard on Sirius.
What does he think of paddleball, the sport? Gregg says it is the greatest sport he ever played and wished he had started sooner. He lauds the loyalty of the paddleball community and sees a “hidden energy that I’ve never experienced anywhere else in my life.” Gregg appreciates what the PFA is doing, thinks improvement can be made with better sportsmanship, reputable sponsors and better reffing. His favorite sport is paddleball (first person to give this answer.) His sports role model is, you guessed it, none other than his Dad, Gregg Sgarlata.
Finally, I asked Gregg Sgar my most important question: “What’s with the “g”? Wasn’t your Dad originally Scarlata? “Sg” is certainly an unusual combination of letters to start a word or name. Gregg says it was always Sgarlata, but no one seemed to know how to spell it. Asked and answered!