CONEY ISLAND SMALL BALL SINGLES
Above from left: National champions Cesar Sala and Tyree Bastidas right after the final game.
CONEY ISLAND SMALL BALL SINGLES
By Ben Brighton
It is springtime. That means baseball season has started. So have hockey playoffs. And the handball season kicked off nicely with a singles tournament in Coney Island. Albert Apuzzi, who drew crowds for decades when he played, has now turned his energy and focus that propelled him to the USHA Handball Hall of Fame to running tournaments.
The round of 16 had Joe Durso, another hall of famer, participating. He lost to Schneider 25-15. I’ll always give Joe credit for playing singles, but at some point Durso will have to do some reflection and ask himself if he wants to tarnish his Hall of Fame legacy against opponents he would have handled routinely in his prime.
In the quarterfinals seasoned veteran Tony Roberts held a 13-11 lead, against top-seeded Tyree Bastidas, before the multi-time champion lost 25-13. Joe Kaplan, a threat in every singles & doubles tournament, held a 17-10 lead against the rangy & long-limbed Schneider before falling 25-23. Saul “Dizzle” Gonzalez defeated Alvaro “Al Bundles” Rebaza 25-16. Cesar Sala squeaked by Sweeney “Jon” Lee 25-23.
In the semis, with an eye forward facing each other Tyree handled Mike 25-14 & Cesar beat Saul 25-19.
Bastidas & Sala last met in the semifinals of the 2011 USHA National 1-wall Championships with Tyree winning a thrilling 21-20, 21-20 match. There is no doubt that Tyree is the face & future of one-wall. Spectators immediately noticed that he looks bigger and stronger than last year. His athleticism is amazing. He is not confined or limited by the dimensions of the court. Just when the fans are ready to applaud a shot, by one of his opponents, they have to hold the applause, to celebrate a surprising retrieve and kill by the kid.
Cesar now has elder statesman status. Despite a highly decorated career, I always felt he should have won more titles with his talent. This time Sala jumped to an 8-3 lead. Tyree tied the score at 8-8 and forged ahead. Cesar mounted his own comeback but felt 25-19.
As I survey the handball landscape I feel that Tyree will dominate over the next decade. Fans sitting next to me evoked the names of Oscar Obert and Steve Sandler while describing his physical skills. It will be an exciting time for handball to watch his progress.
Watch video-clip (Part 3).....
One of the oldest handball tournaments in America will take place during the weekend of May 4-6.
Tom Kopp (Owen Gloves), the tournament director has arranged through Paul Williams (ICHA) to have Tyree Bastidas to play at this famous event after earlier reports had indicated that Tyree may not be able to attend the 4-wall nationals in June due to his heavy handball schedule.
Mr. Kopp, a handball player and a loyal supporter of handball has been attending the Mayor’s Cup in New York for the last decade, and at the same time, he has had the opportunity to eye witness the meteoric ascend of Tyree Bastidas to the open. Tom might not be able to watch Tyree at the nationals, but he wants to make sure he watchs Tyree play at this event.
Mr. Kopp a successful businessman and owner of Owen Gloves Company knows where to invest his money to get a good return. That’s why he has been in the gloves business for almost 20 years and counting.
“My guess is that Tom wants to see 4-wall players compete against the best 1-wall player the USHA has to offer” said John, one of Bastidas’ friends.
“Tom wants to see a different game with different shots from different angles from different players. And Tyree is the right choice. Tyree will bring back his competitive game and the excitement that the 4-wall game needs” John said.
Above from left: Mathew Chu (NY) scoops a ball during preliminary open match against Andy Schad (VA).
Above: Tyree Bastidas(NY) sends the ball back to Raymond (PA) while up in the air.
Above: Jurell Bastidas serves the ball to Billy O'Donnell during semifinal match.
Above: Raul Retian (NJ) waits for the ball to be put in play during preliminary open match.
Above: Andy Schad shoots from the back in match against Billy O'Donnell.
The tournament attracted the best players of the region, where Andy Schad from Virginia was the big surprise. Players from around ten states showed up to the 3 Cubed Athletic Center in Fairfield, New Jersey, where intense battles have taken place during the rich history of this tournament.
During the quarterfinals we had Raul Retian (New Jersey) played Jurell Bastidas from New York, while Andy Schad from Virginia squared off with Matthew Chu from New York. Schad and Bastidas advanced to the semis against T. Bastidas and B. O’Donnell respectively.
Schad surprised the crowd with his smooth play and good stamina. He showed a lot of control of the ball with both hands and played a long tiresome game to defeat T. Bastidas in the semis to earn a pass to the finals.
Billy O’ Donnell, a handball player from the pro-tour in the last decade, also came to the tournament with high expectations. B. O’Donnell has won the tournament once and wanted to repeat by making the extra effort to defeat J. Bastidas to face Schad in the finals.
The championship match saw an erratic A. Schad, who did put up a fight, but not strong enough to walk out with a victory.
Many players watching the final game indicated that Andy must have been tired from the previous day, where he had to go all the way out to defeat T. Bastidas in a very dramatic long and exhausted match.
Congratulations to both finalists.
Dan Gebben during the NYS HOF handball tournament upstate New York.
Have you ever wonder where some of the best pictures in Tyree Bastidas’ website come from?
Most of these pictures come from Dan Gabben’s website.
Dan Gabben is a resident of Connecticut and travels a lot throughout the Northeast. He usually attends the best handball tournaments, which include: the Albany Open, the Long Island Open, the NYS Hall of Fame Championships, The Sabo Sr. handball tournament, the Boston Open and the USHA Northeast Regional Four-Wall tournament.
D. Gabben used to play handball in the past, but now he rather takes young handball players on the road to introduce them to the game. And while his players compete on the courts, he takes the opportunity to go around taking pictures of any player on his view.
If anyone is interested in his high resolution photos, feel free to call him or buy them from his website.
Above: Team Bastidas (red shirts) during championship match against Team O'Donnell/Chu.
Above: Dilly O'Donnell serves the ball during tiebreaker final match.
The Men’s doubles’ final was a three way match with a lot of excitement. It was allowed to continue after the club had announced the closing of the facility for the day.
For the first time Team Bastidas faced a new team in the finals where Billy O’Donnell and Mathew Chu had teamed up in advance in preparations for this tournament. Usually B. O’Donnell teams up with M. Schneider, but the latter couldn’t make it due to other handball commitments.
Team O’Donnell/Chu pushed the match to the third game after they surprised the crowd with a close win in the first game, 21-20.
“I think I found the right partner to play with me from now on” said Billy.
“I’ve been playing with the wrong partner all these years. I like the fact that Mathew does listen to me during the game. That’s the main reason why we almost beat Jurell and Tyree Bastidas” Billy added.