By Ben Brighton
The official opening of the handball season began with Albert Apuzzi’s open small ball singles tournament at the famed Seaside Handball Courts in Coney Island.
While a few elite players were absent, a great meal is measured by the ingredients you put in not leave out.
In the round of 16 number one seed Tyree Bastidas beat Paulie Angel 25-14 in an entertaining contest. Big ball superstar Givonni “Gio” Vazquez defeated Zeav Robbins 25-8 Before falling, in the quarters, to Tyree 25-18. Whether winning or arguing with the officials Gio is never boring. Youngsters Eric Kim and Vlad Klym were like two boxers slugging it out with powerful rallies. Eric held off a late attack by Vlad and prevailed 25-20, then fell to Robert Lee 25-7. In the lower half of the draw Coney Island favorite Cesar Sala walked a tightrope in his first match. Down 18-23 he rebounded to defeat Miguel Cano 25-23 before falling to Jurell Bastidas 25-15. Mike Schneider Jr and Saul Gonzalez, two promising youngsters to watch, battled hard with Mike emerging with a 25-22 victory.
In the semifinals Schneider ran into Jurell who was a serving machine and lost 25-2 while Tyree defeated Robert Lee by an identical 25-2 score.
That set up an all brothers final. At 6-7 the older brother fell to the ground with a sprained ankle. Not wanting to disappoint the spectators, he resumed playing. Noticeably hobbled Jurell battled back but lost 25-18 to his younger brother.
As I watched the brothers there seemed to be no sibling rivalry. That’s especially noteworthy when considering that the younger Tyree is the more famous an acclaimed star. However, Jurell looks vastly improved and displayed the most devastating serve in the tournament. An all brothers final at the upcoming USHA Nationals is an intriguing possibility.
From my vantage point of reffing the matches from behind the players, it was like having a great seat to any sporting event. I got to really admire and appreciate the tremendous skills and athleticism of all of the participants.
As always credit must be given to Albert Apuzzi whose calmness and expertise in running events is reflected by the participants. We all look forward to the next A.A. Production which should be the Kings of the Rings doubles. This year there are plans to add 40+, 50+ and possibly Jr. divisions too!!!
A special mention to Peter, who manned the BBQ. His white tent is like a beacon to hungry and thirsty players.
I officiated matches all day, wrote this article and best of all consumed 5 veggie burgers and 3 portions of potato salad. What a great day. See you at the next tournament.
Tyree Bastidas junior handball journey ended in two open championship matches in two handball versions where he was crowned open champion. Coach Watson eyewitnessed Bastidas run in the open.
Coach M. Watson disappeared out of the radar a couple of years ago. Our understanding was that he stepped aside from the handball circuit due to health reasons and other family matters.
Mr. Watson took over the 1-wall junior nationals for the first time in 2005 and was the first coach to deliver the best junior nationals in New York in terms of players.
He was the first tournament director to ever preside over a 1-wall national that drew over a hundred players. Mr. Watson was also blessed to have Tyree during his tenure as he saw junior participation to hover around two hundred players.
As a Coach, he traveled and accompanied Tyree in his first junior nationals in 2004:
USHA 1-wall – Bronx, New York
USHA 3-wall – Venice Beach, California, and
USHA 4-wall – Des Moines, Iowa
He also traveled to Tyree’s last three junior nationals:
USHA 1-wall – Queens, New York
USHA 3-wall – Venice Beach, California, and
USHA 4-wall – Chicago, Illinois.
But ever since Mr. Watson stepped aside and Tyree graduated from junior competition, the 1-wall junior national hasn’t been the same. It has drawn little interest and participation and even a cancellation of the event.
Can we get another Mike Watson to run the 1-wall junior nationals? Please!
Above: Gio Vasquez stares at the ground in disbelief during blowout game.
Above: Gio Vasquez argues with the long line referee.
Above: Gio Vasquez hits the floor in a futile attempt to stop Bastidas.
Above: Gio Vasquez proceeds to argue with Albert Apuzzi.
Above: Gio Vasquez continues to argue with opponent Tyree Bastidas.
Above: Gio Vasquez argues with main ref after failing to stop Tyree from scoring.
Above: Tyree Bastidas puts the last nail on Gio's coffin to seal Gio's fate.
This past weekend Giovoni Vasquez tried his best to get his hands in the cookie jar (1,200.00) prize-money, but was stopped short by T. Bastidas.
Mr. Vasquez tried so hard to get to the money round that he spent most of the game diving for every ball he thought he could retrieve. Not only did he get mad at himself for losing to Tyree, but got mad at the referees, fans and even at the Tournament Director.
First Vazquez got physical with Bastidas. He flagrantly punched Bastidas in the face during a rally. Then, he got rid of the short line referee for not calling a call on his favor. Later on he argued with the main ref, questioned the long line referees and proceeded to argue with A. Apuzzi, the tournament director.
The entire drama act probably lasted at least five minutes, but it was long enough to cool off handball King, Tyree Bastidas, who was given Vasquez (Gio) a handball clinic on how to serve and how to win on the court.
Gio’s drama halted the blowout game when Bastidas was up 22-2.
It’s true, getting swept away is no fun. No top player wants to be swept away.
It’s also true that Gio tried his best on the court, the pictures above can testify for that, but his loss is not a reason to go ballistic and vocal.
Perhaps Mr. Vasquez went into the game, thinking that he was better than Bastidas. We have said it before in a previous post “one can take a game from T. Bastidas But one needs to be as consistent as Bastidas to prove is better than him”
“In the small ball game, no player gets the No 1 seed because of his big mouth” Bastidas said.
The main referee was a young man performing his handball duties, but that didn’t stop Gio from yelling and intimidating the young referee.
Mr. Apuzzi had no choice but to take over as the main referee and was left with no other option but to count to 10 to re-start the game and to stop Gio from more yelling and arguing.
The final result was another sad reminder of how some big ball "BB" handball players continue to highjack the game for their own personal gain.
Above: Tyree Bastidas in his teens playing and posing at the Boston Open
This year Tyree Bastidas won’t be playing at the Boston Open, instead, he’ll be playing in Iowa, in one of the oldest handball tournaments in the U.S.
Because of a handball conflict schedule, Tyree opted to fly west to challenge some of the best 4-wall players in the area, while his brother Jurell will play at the Boston Open to deal with the best of the Northeast and players from Ireland and California.
T. Bastidas painful decision comes with no surprise as he looks west to play in a tournament sponsored by OwenGloves, his choice of gloves during his handball journey.
Tyree Bastidas will be returning to defend his title while his brother Jurell will be looking for the title that has eluded him for the past few years.
After all the trouble that blew into Coney Island along with Hurricane Sandy last fall, nobody playing at the handball courts could have imagine that six months later they would be playing handball again.
Relief accompanied the sight of players participating with a big smile down Surface Ave – inaugurating the opening day of handball season.
There is still construction going on around the courts, but NY officials are working hard to finish it by Memorial Day Weekend.
Special thanks to Albert Apuzzi and Johnatan Lee for chipping in to make Saturday happen.