Direct Rays

Local Coaching, A.D. Carousel in Full Swing; Hernandez Belongs in HOF

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By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays

Lots and lots of moving parts this time of year for Section 1 athletic directors. In the days ahead, we’re going to hear about some major changes at Mahopac, Somers and Yorktown, where key varsity coaching positions will be on the docket of approval of the respective boards of education.

Mahopac Athletic Director Stephen Luciana will be replacing his baseball coach and girls’ hoops coach as Myk Lugbauer and Chuck Scozzafava, respectively, move on. Somers has done likewise with its girls’ hoops coach, tabbing Kevin Mallon to replace newly-minted Somers A.D. Marc Hatten, but I suspect another big coaching change for the Tuskers is in the offing, too, depending on what goes down locally.

Yorktown is in the market for a girls’ hoops coach as well, and the names at the top of the list suggest Husker A.D. Rob Barrett has at least a couple of top-notch candidates to replace former skipper Brian Mundy.

Horace Greeley gets a new A.D. in former Valhalla A.D. Jamie Block after Geoff Curtis accepted the principal’s position at Robert E. Bell Middle School in Chappaqua, which, in turn, leaves Valhalla with an interim A.D. in Tara Lahm.

Sworn to secrecy and a stickler for respecting the process, I’m getting itchy to see how this all plays out. Look out for my tweets this week @Directrays…

All-time NY Met great Keith Hernandez’s #17 was retired Saturday with a fitting tribute at Citi Field.

I never met former New York Mets great Keith Hernandez, but I know a warm, gracious soul when I see one, and when you put Hernandez’s playing career alongside his brilliant broadcasting career, it makes sense to put the man in Cooperstown, too.

On Saturday, an emotional Hernandez stood before a sold-out crowd at Citi Field to retire his number 17 as the Mets made him just the fourth player and sixth individual to have his number retired by the team, joining Casey Stengel (37), Gil Hodges (14), Tom Seaver (41), Jerry Koosman (36) and Mike Piazza (31).

Hernandez was the missing ingredient in the saucy stew that was the 1986 Mets, world champs that stole my heart before breaking it time and time again thereafter. Unlike any Mets team before or since, the ‘86 Mets needed the former Cardinal All-Star to solidify a lineup that won a team record 108 regular season games before defeating Mike Scott’s Houston Astros and Roger Clemens’ Boston Red Sox in the postseason. Yes, Hernandez was at the heart of some cocaine-fueled controversy in the ‘80s, but that shouldn’t be the reason he’s denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Before we get off the Mets, it’s time to call up catcher Francisco Álvarez from Triple A. With starting catcher James McCann headed toward yet another prolonged IL stint with an oblique injury, it’s high time we see what the 20-year-old top prospect in the Mets’ system is all about.

Álvarez’s trajectory toward becoming a potential MLB All-Star catcher seems to get more assured with each passing game, so let’s see what the Mets have in the pipeline because we know what they have in the high-priced but underwhelming McCann and back-ups Tomás Nido and Patrick Mazeika; it’s a glaring weakness in a lineup that desperately needs more pop, a more consistent DH, some back-end relief help and a healthy Jacob deGrom to take the NL East.

I’ll be the first to admit I only watch the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open while occasionally scrolling the rest of the pro tennis circuit, but I can’t decide if Australia’s Nick Kyrgios is good for tennis or not after seeing his petulant disposition on full display at the All England Club center court Sunday morning. I mean, the guy’s an incredible talent and the sport needs young, ambitious blood to eventually supplant the Novak Djokovics and the Roger Nadals of the world, but the unseeded 27-year-old Kyrgios, tattoos and all, is the antithesis of the highfalutin All England Club and the prim and proper tennis nerds we’re used to.

Kyrgios is like a fiery John McEnroe on steroids, a souped-up rebel in shorts and a back-spun cap, but his incessant arguing with the referees seemed to take him off his game in a four-set loss to four-time reigning Wimbledon champion Djokovic, perhaps the greatest of them all not named Serena. Yet, it was entertaining and different, and contrast is oftentimes a good thing, so we’ll see where this second-place finish takes Kyrgios and the game of tennis #MyGutSaysNoTho. 

How long before ESPN knocks cornhole off its programming and replaces it with pickleball from the Florida Villages? ESPN has some strange takes, huh? I’m so excited about the Mets leading the MLB in infield hits #Not! Mets closer Edwin Diaz, who has struck out more than half the batters he’s faced this season, is an NL All-Star this year, no ifs, ands or buts, so the move by former failed Mets GM Brody Van Wagenen to trade slumping prospect Jarred Kelenic to Seattle for Diaz is suddenly more palatable. The American League-leading Yankees are seemingly an unstoppable machine right now, but the Houston Astros might be their kryptonite in the postseason based on the Yankees’ current holes and Houston’s formidable strengths. Gonna be a great October, gang. Catch up soon. 

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