PFA Players Weekly Profile
Paddleball Player Profile of the week – May 15, 2017
– Home park – Far Rockaway
– Right handed player
– Loves the game of paddleball
– Big supporter of the sport
– Top female player
– Great attitude, always smiling!
We need more players like you!
Evan Šehić – PFA Weekly Player Profile of the Week – May 22, 2017
- Home – Oceanside, NY
- Powerful Right handed player
- Loves the game of paddleball, prefers Small Ball
- Lethal Left hand
- One of the top upcoming player
- Active member of the PFA Youth Paddleball Clinic program
Player Weekly Profile for May 29, 2017
Nickname Ric/Spike/Lefty, is 55 years old. He has been playing paddleball for 27 years. He started playing in Coney Island, Sea Side courts on West 5th St. He is a tough left handed player with a very good right hand. His favorite player is Robert Sostre. When ask what he thinks about the sport of paddleball his response was “The sport of paddleball is great for exercise, it’s like playing chess you got to be 2 and 3 moved ahead of your opponents. It’s a sport where all people, race, gender, age can come together and play their hearts out.” He feels that in order to grow the sport the city outdoor courts need to be repaired and new ones built. His advice to his paddleball peers is “ to be competitive but don’t take it so serious, have consideration for your partner and opponent.”
Player Weekly Profile for June 5, 2017
Ross is a right handed player that has been playing paddleball for 17 years. He is a humble and respectable player liked by the paddleball community. He developed a love for the game at an early age when his father used to take him to the park where Ross would practice by himself and sometimes hit the ball around with his Dad. He started playing paddleball at Newbridge Rd. Park/Cedar Creek Park. He sharpened his game by watching other players and then incorporating what he saw into his own game/strategy. Ross has done very well in paddleball tournaments. He has won many tournaments and finished in the top 3 in many other tournaments.
He said paddleball is a “good way of getting exercise/fresh air, meeting people, using strategy & developing new shots”. He believes that to grow the sport of paddleball we need to “Get the youth interested in playing & following the game, & somehow get more sponsors” His advice to his paddleball peers is to “Concentrate on having a good time & developing your game when playing”.
He would like to give “Thanks to all those who have done things to help keep the game alive – including A-1 & the PFA!”
Paddleball Player Profile of the week – June 11, 2017
Mark is a left handed player that started playing paddleball with his dad in the 80’s at castle hill beach club and at parks in the Morris park neighborhood in the Bronx. He prefers Small ball paddleball game. Currently his home park is Van Cortland. He usually play twice a week Saturday and Sunday and more if he get some free time during the week. His favorite paddleball shot is “the overhand spike that only Kareem Abdul Jabbar could return” He does not have a particular favorite player. He “watches those he admire live and on video and take pieces of their game and try to copy their style of play into his game”. Mark has a solid game and has placed in various tournaments.
When asked what he thinks about the sport his reply was “This sport is my addiction!. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t look at my schedule and see if there’s any way for me to get to the park and play”. He feels that in order to grow the sport it needs to be introduced to the youth and is the key for its revitalization without question. His view is 100% in line with the PFA’s view. His advice to the paddleball community is to “Keep doing what we’re doing. We should never let this game fade away..I Got Next” .
Brian Newson Weekly Player profile(6/25/17)
Brian is a left handed player that has been playing paddleball off and on since the late 70’s. He is a very humble and liked by the paddleball community. He has been working with NYC for the past 32 years. He also has been a volunteer for the past 6 years with NYC Office of Emergency Management Community Emergency Response Team(CERT). Like many of his paddleball peers he picked up the game quickly because he transitioned from handball to paddleball. He started playing paddleball on 134th Street at St. Nicholas Park in Manhattan. He then took his game to 135th street by Harlem Hospital in search of tougher competition. As his game improved he once again moved on to Lenox Avenue and 113th street in search of tougher competition. Currently his home outdoor park is Sayers and Juniper park and Zerega in the winter. He normally plays twice a week, Saturday & Sunday. In the summer he travels with his friends and fellow paddleball players Alex Cherry and Marian Quinn around the Tri-State area in search of tough competition and meet new friends. His favorite paddleball shot is the spike. He does not have a favorite player. However, he does watch and pay attention to a lot of players/games to learn and possibly incorporate a shot or a particular strategy. He loves paddleball, he said “it’s a great way to keep active, better your health (my doctor is always surprised at my heart rate) and you meet great people when you travel to different parks.”
I asked him what he thinks is needed to grow the sport? His response, “It’s great that the Paddle Family Alliance is actively engaging kids, you may want to reach out and convert current handball players”. His advice to his paddleball peers is “Just to have fun, respect each other and the calls that are being made and let your play decide the game”. He believes there is “Nothing to change about a sport that is great to play with other players who are inclusive of others no matter the skill level.”
Matthew Ramos Weekly Player profile(7/1/17)
Jay Brown – PFA Weekly Player Profile for week of 7/9/17
Jay reminds me more of a power forward basketball player instead of a paddleball player. He is a hard hitting right handed paddleball player from the Bronx with a ton of potential to become one of the sport’s elite player.
He started playing the game back in the 80s but really has been playing consistently the past 2 years. He started playing the game at the courts on P.S 86 on Riverside Drive in Manhattan and Central Park at the age of about 15 years old. He then took his game in search of tougher competition to St. James park in the Bronx.
His Mom & Dad are his favorite players, “Just watching the enjoyment of the competitiveness between them two” inspired him to compete at a high level in sports. He loves the game of paddleball, likes the hustle , the atmosphere, the different type of style of people’s games. He said the competition of the game is what attracted him to the sport, “Competition just love it..”. He has won a few tournaments the past two years including the PFA 1st Winter Open Restricted Doubles with Joey Vega. He also qualified to the PFA 1st Summer Doubles Invitational Classic at Orchard Beach.
He said “Sportsmanship goes a long way with me..” and feels is one of the things that will help grow the sport and make it more enjoyable to play. His advice to his paddleball peers? “they probably already know this “HAVE FUN”!!” He thinks the game is in good shape but reminds everyone to ” Just be fare”.
He concluded the interview with..
“WHO GOT NEXT?.. that’s all..I’m coming!!!”
You are definitely coming Jay, stay focused and keep working hard. You Got Next!
CONGRATULATION Jay Brown!
Tony Cascella – Weekly Player profile(7/16/17) by David Siegel
By now, most of you know the miraculous, heroic story of Tony Cascella, the focus of the “Welcome Back Tony” tournament held last September at Staten Island. In January, 2016 he was stricken with sudden cardiac arrest while playing paddleball in Clifton, NJ. His life was over. But Keith Jackson, Mitch Goldberg and Mitch Resnick wouldn’t allow it to happen. They brought him back using their CPR skills, assisted by a defibrillator. Today Tony is in good health, once again playing the game he loves at a high level.
Tony’s real life and paddleball career may not be as well known. He is a native Staten Islander and a retired NYPD detective. Inspired by his brother Michael, he started playing back in 1981 at Staten Island’s Egbert I.S. playground. He has played many sports, but paddleball is his first love and he has become a lifer. Tony’s athletic ability and determination have enabled him to become one of the top players in Staten Island. He is a right handed player with a deadly left who is one of the best right side righties in the game, possessing terrific angle kill shots with either hand. When teamed with a lefty, Tony is an outstanding left side player as well. He is also an excellent paddleball referee, always willing to help in tournaments.
Tony’s advice to other players is to “Play Hard, Play Fair and remember, it’s only a game!” This is exactly what we would expect from Tony, because he has always been a tough and fair competitor, while respecting his partner and opponents. It has served him well, earning him widespread admiration. Tony is also a big proponent of the PFA and the work it has done to assimilate the paddleball community and encourage the resurgence of the youth in the game.
Tony would like to thank the whole paddleball community for the countless well-wishes and support during and after his illness, with a very special thank-you to Keith, Mitch and Mitch, the heroes who saved his life. The paddleball community thanks them too! Welcome Back Tony!
Eddie Montañez – Weekly Player profile(7/31/17) By David Siegel
I guarantee that you will not find another person in the world of paddleball like Eddie Montañez. Eddie is a very talented player with amazing skills who plays the game strictly to have fun and truly does not care if he wins or loses. He is a hard hitter, fast and accurate, with terrific kill shots. But his favorite shots are his ultra-sharp cuts, which he can curve left, right and straight up and down. He also has perfected behind-the-back and through-the-legs shots. He will use these “trick” shots at any time during a rally, earning him the well deserved nickname “Sideshow.”
He started playing the game 38 years ago when he spotted his future wife, Dixie, playing paddleball in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He decided that the best way to meet her was to play in her game. It worked! He has been playing ever since, mostly twice a week, the past 13 years in Midland Beach, Staten Island.
The sports story of Eddie Montañez goes well beyond paddleball. He a great athlete and a renowned softball player. During the summer, he plays every week in the Bensonhurst Park Softball League, pitching and playing the infield. He has won multiple MVP’s, Cy Young awards, hit hundreds of homers and was inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame!
But the most outstanding part of Eddie’s life does not involve sports. He is a hero! Eddie and his family live along the beachfront in Staten Island, which was one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Sandy. During and after the storm, though his house was partially submerged, Eddie risked his life, along with his son Eddie, to save the lives of two trapped elderly neighbors along with their two dogs. He did this while bleeding because one of the pooches bit him! He also rescued two more people from their marooned van and lodged them in his house for several days. We are all proud of him for his bravery and caring!
But back to paddleball. I’m sure many of you were shuddering as you read about Eddie’s trick shot game, because you are competitive and want to play at 100% at all times. But who is to say that Eddie’s approach to the game is not the best one? His advice to all players: “Paddleball is a wonderful sport. Don’t take it so seriously. Have fun playing and you’ll love the game!”
Nancy McKeon Weekly Player profile(8/14/17) By David Siegel
Staten Island has a secret it has hidden from the paddleball world for decades. It’s Nancy McKeon. She is far and away the best woman paddleball player in Staten Island and every player on the Island knows it. We all believe she could compete successfully against any of the outstanding women players in the game today. Never heard of her? Well that’s understandable because Nancy almost never plays or competes off Staten Island.
Nancy has been playing paddleball for 37 years and presently plays 3-4 times/week at the Midland Beach courts. Her interest was originally sparked by her future husband, Kevin McKeon, who is also one of the top players on the Island. She is the stalwart player for the weekday Island group and also plays with the weekend group. Nancy is always competing against skilled men players and “holding her own” is a gross understatement. She is one of the best right-side righty players on Staten Island, bar none. Nancy rarely makes an unforced error, is a supreme defensive player and almost always hits the ball to the right spot. She makes incredible gets, has a terrific left hand and has deadly put-aways, especially killers in the left corner. Nancy thrives on the competition and plays with that never-give-up attitude, while almost never arguing and always playing fair. And how about this: She uses a wooden paddle! And she plays almost exclusively small ball.
I asked Nancy if she has ever wanted to play competitively against the top players in the city to achieve recognition. She replied that she just loves paddleball, it gets her up in the morning, keeps her in shape and she enjoys the camaraderie of the players. That’s all she needs and it’s what drives her. She says she doesn’t have any desire to make a name for herself.
What about that wooden paddle? It is really a club, very heavy, completely covered with tape and get this: She has been using the same paddle for 37 years. I don’t mean the same model, but the same piece of wood! She said she tried the modern paddles, but never could find one that gave her the hit she gets with her wooden one.
Why small ball? Big ball is reputed to be the better choice for women because it’s a softer game. The answer is obvious: Small ball is the only ball that is played on the Island. She has played big ball at Garfield Park in Florida a few times and fared well. Her prowess at small ball is a further testimonial to her skill level.
Another indication of her paddleball proficiency and competitiveness is her surprising answer to my question as to whether she had ever experienced any resentment to her playing in “mens” games. She said she never had, not even way back decades ago when women were not as well accepted in men’s sports as they are today.
So there you have it. Staten Island’s Nancy McKeon. Unfortunately if you want to see her in action, or play against her, you must make the trek over the Verrazano Bridge ($17 toll unless you have EZ Pass!) But it will be well worth it!
Sal Coticelli By Dave Siegel
You all know him. He’s played in many tournaments, visited many paddleball parks (usually on his bike) and is forever posting on the Facebook paddleball groups. He is one of the best young players today, very talented and highly motivated to excel. He’s Staten Island’s Sal Coticelli or as he likes to be known, Punchball Legend.
The story of Sal’s paddleball career starts 27 years ago, when he was only 8. He grew up in Brooklyn and first took up the game at the courts of Marine Park where he fought to gain acceptance with the adult players. He managed to get into their games by age 10 and by his mid teens, he was highly competitive, eventually moving on to the courts at Coney Island. Simultaneously, he developed into a top young handball player, winning many tournaments and drawing numerous accolades, particularly in high school. It was through handball, when he developed a nasty bone bruise and could only punch the ball that the “Punchball” nickname developed. He continues to play competitive handball today. In recent years, he moved to Staten Island and is now a fixture at the Midland Beach paddleball games.
Sal works very hard honing his skills, playing or practicing often 5 days a week. He has all the tools: power, terrific low serve, foot speed, an amazing left hand (which he developed during two injuries to his right arm) and wonderful paddleball instincts. His favorite shots are the killer in the right corner and his behind-the-back left side serve, both of which I can tell you are devastating. His paddleball role model is Robert Sostre and Sal actually studies his videos to help him improve. He also displays a cool demeanor on the court, never engaging in arguments.
Sal has extreme confidence in his paddleball skills, and he surely doesn’t hide it. But there is another side to him. If you are his Facebook friend, and almost everyone in paddleball is, you saw last spring how distraught he was when his beloved golden retriever, Mariah, was ill and eventually had to be put to sleep. We all felt so bad. We learned from FB he now has a new adorable golden puppy, Mandy. Sal has also done some good work with kids, whom he recognizes represent the future of paddleball.
Sal’s persona is dominated by an incredible drive for excellence in paddleball. He pushes himself as hard as possible to achieve his goal and he has advanced his game to a very high level, but he feels there is not universal acknowledgement of this. He truly wants the paddleball world to recognize his ability and he will continue to push on until he gets there.
Mitch Goldberg by Mike Melendez & Dave Siegel
He’s a Master Chef, a gardener, a softball player, a bowler, a magician, a PFA youth program volunteer, an actor and, oh yes, he plays paddleball. It’s amazing that with all these activities, Mitch Goldberg is not only able to play 3 to 4 times a week, but is one of the top players on the circuit today. He is a rare player with many tools at his disposal, fierce and focused, excelling in tough competition.
Mitch started playing the game over 30 years ago at O’Connor Park in West Orange NJ, which is still his home park. He learned from his father, who was also a very good player during the 60’s/70’s era. His love of paddleball started the very first time he picked up a paddle and it has never waned.
Mitch’s game is comprised of awesome physical and mental skills. On the physical side, he can hurt you with formidable power, blending it with finesse, using his patented change-of-pace drop-shot killer, which is his favorite shot. He also has excellent foot speed and quickness, which is surprising for the big man that he is. Mitch is one of the few top players to use his backhand and it is very effective. He is also extremely accurate, rarely making unforced errors.
On the mental side, Mitch is very smart with his shot selection and plays like a chess player, always thinking 2-3 shots ahead. He understands the nuances of positioning and invariably is in prime position for a good shot. Plus, he has nerves of steel, always rising to the occasion under pressure.
“Rising to the occasion under pressure” applies not only to paddleball, but also to real life. Last year, in perhaps the greatest pressure situation anyone will ever encounter, Mitch, along with Keith Jackson and Mitch Resnick, heroically saved the life of fellow paddleball player Tony Cascella, employing CPR in conjunction with a defibrillator (AED).
Mitch is one of the major proponents of the PFA (he is the Vice President) and its major mission: injecting youth into the game. He backs it up by giving much of his free time to the cause. He would love to see all of paddleball under one organization, flourishing with the support of corporate sponsorship. In order to achieve this, Mitch feels that the overall level of sportsmanship needs to improve and all of the players should “just get along in peace and harmony!” His advice to his peers: “Play hard, try your best; winning every game is impossible.”
You may be wondering about Mitch Goldberg, the actor. Mitch has two feature length movies to his credit. “Zombie Honeymoon” (2004), in which he plays a Zombie (really!) and “The Homeboy” (2001), where he is a cook by the name of Mitch Goldberg who gets into a fist fight! You can watch the latter on YouTube. Search for more on Google. Enjoy!
Robert Sostre by Dave Siegel & Mike Melendez
Photo courtesy by Alfredo Benjamin Ramirez @ the PFA 2015 Mixed Doubles Tournament
Who is the Greatest of All Time? There have been many great paddleball champions in its history, but the person who ascends to the top of most lists is the Iceman, Robert Sostre. His championships are too numerous to mention, but perhaps most impressive is his longevity at the top of the game, starting in the mid-1980s through to today. That encompasses 4 decades, going on 5!
He started playing 35 years ago at a very young age in the Bronx at the Yankee Stadium and Van Cortlandt Park courts, inspired and tutored by his older sister, Lily. After playing with her friends, she spent hours and hours hitting with her little brother, soon realizing that he was a natural at the sport, and the creation of a champion had begun. He continued his development by playing park pick-up games every day and practicing tirelessly by himself to develop the large array of shots that are now integral to his game.
Robert is an offensive machine, always attacking the wall and spreading killers and passing shots from anywhere in the court. His favorite shot is the short-hop, which he usually rolls out. He is also an exceptional defensive player, with the uncanny ability to anticipate his opponent’s next shot. His opposite hand (left) is so strong, it is almost as good as his right. He attributes his left hand prowess to the fact that he actually throws with his left (he was a southpaw pitcher), plus long, hard practice time.
Robert is not only a great small and big ball paddleball player, but is a champion in 1-wall handball and one and 3-wall racquetball, having won multiple national titles in these sports. He also excels in three and 4-wall handball, 4-wall racquetball and paddleball, paddle tennis and has played baseball, softball, basketball, pool and table tennis. He was inducted into the outdoor racquetball (WOR) Hall Fame, and the honor that perhaps he is most proud of, the Dewitt Clinton High School Hall of Notable Alumni. Does anyone think he won’t make it to the PFA Paddleball Hall of Fame?
In 2007-8, Robert met a new challenge, tearing both his Achilles tendons within 8 months of each other. Not many athletes come back strong from this injury in one foot, much less, both. But through intense physical therapy and hard work, the Iceman came back after 2 years, playing just like he did prior to the injuries. Robert now says that the recovery was like learning how to walk again and these were the worst two years of his life.
What about Robert’s family? His sister Lily has been his mentor all his life, spurring him and guiding him to success. His late father Jimmy was an outstanding baseball player who almost made it to the pros. His Mom, Delia, get this, has never seen him play live, because she is afraid he will get hurt, but she is the keeper of all his trophies!
Robert’s advice to aspiring tournament players is to play against better players, practice by yourself, hitting as many different shots as possible and compete in as many tournaments as you can, because it’s much different than playing regular pick-up games. Sounds like good advice, Iceman.
Robert Sostre, the Iceman, is one of the true stars of paddleball. A very humble individual and a GENTLEMAN on & off the courts. You can find lots of information on his career, as well as many videos of him playing, all on the Internet. And, if you’ve never seen him play in person, don’t miss out!
Susan Stephen By Dave Siegel
PFA Player Profile for Week 10/16/17
Meet Susan Stephen, the winner of the last two major women’s paddleball events. In September, she, along with her partner, Kathy Guinan, won the 2017 Las Vegas Paddleball Tournament and this past Oct. 7, again with Kathy, she emerged victorious in the Columbus Day Weekend “On the Beach” Big Ball Paddleball Tournament, held in Hollywood, Florida.
Susan may be new to recent championships, but she is not new on the paddleball scene. She has been playing continuously for over 40 years, ever since coming to the United States from England, where she spent the first 11 years of her life. In the early days, she played both handball and small ball paddleball at Brooklyn’s Wingate Park and Lefferts High School. She started playing in paddleball tournaments in 1979, including several Budweisers, and back then was considered one of the top woman players. Eventually Susan turned to big ball paddleball and now calls the 40th St. Padegat courts her home park, where she has again emerged as one of the best woman players in the game. Back in the day, she played forever, but now Susan plays 2 to 3 times a week in the summer and less in the winter.
On the court, she a fierce, never-say-die competitor, and very steady. Her strategy is basic: get in front of her opponent, hit the ball to the opposite side and drop the ball in front of her when she has the opportunity. Her role model for her positioning skills is Anita Maldonado.
Susan has great love and respect for the game. Her sports hero was the late Steve Smith, who she says was “respectful, had great talent, and was, at the same time, mild mannered.” She too is subdued off the court, a trait she believes is not well known to her competitors. She sincerely hopes the sport can grow and greatly admires the accomplishments of our Mike Melendez, with the innovative the kids mentorship program and the Pow-Pows that bring the paddleball community together. Susan feels improving overall player conduct is also essential for continued growth.
What about the non-paddleball life of Susan Stephen? In her younger days, she played basketball, which was her first love, until her bothersome knees made it difficult. But she claims she can still beat anyone in a shootout! She loves to cook, having learned from her grandmother, and her favorite dish is salmon and vegetables. And how about this: During the trip to Las Vegas for the tournament, she also got married! Immediately after winning the tournament, she hustled to get ready for her 8:00 PM wedding with Carl. For those of you wondering if this is a new paddleball mixed doubles team? No, sadly, Carl is a basketball player, and doesn’t play paddleball. Nevertheless, the best of health and happiness to Susan and Carl!
Lisa Michaelessi By Dave Siegel
PFA Player Profile for Week 10/22/17
When Mike Melendez asked me to write a profile of Lisa Michaelessi, I said that I was not familiar with her. Mike replied, “What!! you don’t know Lisa? She was a top player in the ladies division back in the 80s and 90s….one of the best women players, bar none!” Well, though I have been involved in paddleball for over 50 years, for most of the last several decades, I’ve been insulated from the paddleball world outside of my home parks. So I needed to find out who is this Lisa Michaelessi, apparently a great player that I knew nothing about. A little Facebook search yielded a telling comment from Donnie Ciaffone: “Lisa Michaelessi, in my opinion, the best female southpaw in the Game.” I went on to find out that she is a champion, having won many women’s and mixed doubles tournaments, mostly with the likes of Kathy Guinan and Robert Sostre. Not bad! And, she’s still winning tournaments.
Lisa’s paddleball career started unconventionally. Because paddleball is a “city” game, not an elite club sport like tennis, I would venture to say most of us picked up the game on our own, usually not until adulthood. We were attracted to it because it is readily available, inexpensive and a cool way to exercise and hang out with our friends. We never had lessons! But Lisa started at age 5, encouraged and taught by her parents who were dedicated players at Marathon Park. However, it’s been my observation that terrific young paddleball players invariably fail to emerge as the stars we think they can be. A kid starts out playing the game, becomes a prodigy and looks like he or she will eventually become the greatest of all time, but then as a teenager, discovers boys or girls, tennis or other interests and paddleball goes down the tubes. Mike’s Kids Clinics is a heroic effort to reverse this trend and we all are hoping for its continued success. But getting back to Lisa, this, happily for our beloved sport, was not the case with her. She loved the game and stuck with it! Her late father, Charlie, became her mentor, teaching her the intricacies of the game, how to control the play from the right side and even had her study the top lefties of the day, like Steve Rothfeld. She became an expert at positioning and learned to play offensively, shooting for her opponent’s weakness, patiently waiting for her shot. Charlie not only taught Lisa the game, but attended all of her tournaments and most importantly, encouraged her to always do her best. Charlie certainly was the right person for the job. He was a paddleball lifer, a top B player back in the day who got turned on to paddleball at Orchard Beach.
By the time she was 13, Lisa’s skills had advanced to the point that she was competing in tournaments and she won her first Budweiser “B” in 1986 – the women’s singles. She continued to excel in paddleball over the years, winning many events. Except for a five year hiatus to raise her two children, she’s continued to play paddleball through to today, eventually switching to big ball, always calling Marathon Park home. She is still one of the top woman players, having won the W.E.p.A. tournament at Bay 8th St. and the Women’s Open Big Blue at Orchard Beach, both during the summer of 2016.
Lisa is an all-around athlete, combining paddleball with tennis, pickleball and softball. In the past, she was a baseball player (that’s baseball, as in hardball, not softball!), having played for 3 years and even tried out for the pros (“A League of their Own”?).
For these paddleball profiles, we ask the subject what is unique or interesting about their lives that the other players may not be aware of. Lisa has been steadfast in her response: “Nothing.” We doubt it, so perhaps others can share something we’d like to hear!