04/28/13 12:39pm
04/28/2013 12:39 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A Riverhead Town employee boarded up the Little League's storage area Sunday morning after someone broke into the building the night before.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A Riverhead Town employee boarded up the Little League’s storage area Sunday morning after someone broke into the building the night before.

Nearly $800 in cash, food and equipment were stolen from the Riverhead Little League’s concession stand and storage Saturday night, Riverhead police said.

Someone smashed in the doors to the Little League’s storage and concession booths at Stotzky Park near the ballfields overnight, police said. About $500 in cash was pulled from the registers and the till and about $250 in equipment and food was stolen, according to a police report.

COURTESY PHOTO | The doors to the Little League's concession stand and storage area were both damaged.

The doors to the Little League’s concession stand and storage area were both damaged.

Whoever broke into the storage building ransacked the inside before they were done, said Little League president Tony Sammartano.

“We found it this morning like this,” he said Monday morning as a Riverhead Buildings and Grounds employee screwed wooden planks over the doors to bar anyone from getting in. Whoever broke in took three dozen baseballs and old Little League shirts from the storage area, Mr. Sammartano said.

The concession stand was also vandalized.

“They trashed the register, they flipped everything over,” he said.

Mr. Sammartano said the break-in wouldn’t affect the Little League games scheduled to be played.

“It’s just going to affect us getting the concessions up and running [again],” he said.

Mr. Sammartano said the Little League kicked off opening day to its 61st season just hours earlier Saturday. The building had been broken into once before about two years ago, he said.

Riverhead police are investigating the break-in.


04/27/13 3:00pm
04/27/2013 3:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Little League players kicked off their 2013 season Saturday morning.

Nearly 500 Little League ballplayers helped dedicate the ballfields in Calverton Saturday morning that are now named after two fallen soldiers from Wading River.

It was a day to bring together families and honor two sons who gave their lives for America’s freedom. Georgia Gabrielsen began the dedication with a beautiful rendition of “God Bless America.”

The ballplayers, who make up 38 teams, paraded around ‘Field One’ with their coaches (dedicated to Army Sgt. Jonathan Keller) behind the Color Guards of the VFW and American Legion of Riverhead and the Boy Scouts.

[Related: Memory of two fallen soldiers to be honored at ballfield.]

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who worked hard for seven years to get the ballfields completed, spoke at the opening.

“I’m so proud to be here today for our veterans who have given so much to our country for our freedom. It is overwhelming for me to be at this historic event at our beautiful 62-acre Veterans Memorial Park.”

He added, looking over a sea of ballplayers wearing many colors, “You guys are so lucky to be the first to play on these fields.”

Supervisor Sean Walter said the fields are dedicated to Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr. and Sgt. Keller.

“Because of their sacrifices we stand here today on these fields. Every time you step on them you know this is sacred ground. Play your hearts out for these young men, for it is a memorial to them.”

After the fields were dedicated, the parents of the two fallen soldiers unveiled the signs bearing their names.

Linda Keller and Marion Venetz threw out the ceremonial first pitches on each field.

Sky dive instructor Patty Schneider of Sky Dive Long Island, landed perfectly in the outfield of ‘Field 2′, which is named after Sgt. Venetz. And finally a Wading River pumper truck sprayed the outfield of Sgt. Keller Field as some players ran out to catch the water spray.


02/16/13 10:00am
02/16/2013 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Little League will host the state softball tournament for 11-12-year-old majors division in July.

SOFTBALL: State tourney coming to Riverhead The Riverhead Little League will host the state softball tournament for the 11-12-year-old majors division. Six teams will participate in the double-elimination tournament, with the dream of earning a berth to the Eastern Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn. The tournament will open with a Champion Recognition Banquet for the teams and guests, is tentatively scheduled for the week after the Fourth of July, according to the Riverhead Little League president, Tony Sammartano. An opening ceremony and parade of teams will also be held. All games will be played at Stotzky Memorial Park in Riverhead.

“As with any event of this magnitude, we will look to the businesses, community leaders and families of our league to make this event a memorable one for the teams participating and something our town can be proud of,” Sammartano said in a press release.

RUNNING: Riverhead endurance event Registrations are being accepted for the third annual Riverfront 24 Endurance Run/Walk, a benefit for Suffolk County United Veterans that will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, and conclude at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 14. A 12-hour Enduro will begin at 2 a.m. on Sunday, April 14, and finish the same time as the 24-hour event. Racers may compete solo or as a team with a limitless number of teammates. For more information, call Suffolk County United Veterans at (631) 924-8088.

MEN’S BASKETBALL: SWR player scores 11 John Kovach of Shoreham had 11 points for Fredonia State in a 98-74 loss at New Paltz on Saturday.

08/28/12 5:00pm
08/28/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Bob Burns (right) was joined by former Riverhead Falcons semi-pro baseball players Walter Rolle (left) and William Grodski (center) in 1994 on the Riverhead High School baseball field. The three played together in the years following the end of World War II.

The reassuring sound of a clattering typewriter filled the air. Pap! Pap-Pap! Pap!

Decades later, they remained one of the more pleasing memories from Robbie Costantini’s youth. Costantini was a young football player living in Riverhead, near the residence of Bob Burns, the former sportswriter. While Costantini and his friends played ball outside, they could hear the sound of Burns pounding out prose on his typewriter, undoubtedly providing details about the latest high school game for the local newspaper. Every now and then, Costantini remembered, one of the youngsters would yell in the direction that the typing noise was coming from, “Don’t forget about me, Mr. Burns!”

Everyone wanted to be mentioned in Bob Burns’ column, “The Sporting Whirl,” which appeared in eastern Long Island newspapers for more than four decades.

For nearly a half-century, Burns’ sportswriting touched the lives of countless athletes, coaches, fans and readers.

Burns, who became known as the “dean of East End sports,” died on Saturday. According to a statement from his family, he “passed from this life peacefully” at the Riverhead Care Center. The Riverhead man was 90 years old.

His wife of 14 years, Elaine Burns, said Bob Burns had suffered from a number of ailments such as congestive heart failure and type 2 diabetes. Most recently, she said, he was dealing with kidney problems. “Since February it’s been a downhill trip,” she said.

Burns was a prolific writer who started writing about sports in 1946 and, with the exception of a five-year spell during which he was retired, continued until 1998. He was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 as one of only three inductees in the sports journalism category.

To some, Burns was Mr. Riverhead Sports. He graduated from Riverhead High School, helped found the Riverhead Little League, and was one of the league’s most revered baseball coaches. With a sharp eye for talent, Burns coached the Lions team, which won about 30 league titles over the 34 years he ran the team.

“That was his life, I think,” Ronald Schmitt Sr., a former Riverhead Little League president, said. “He was there for the kids.”

A field at Stotzky Memorial Park is named after Burns, who played in slow-pitch softball games for Doc’s Tavern in that park.

Burns was born on Sept. 12, 1921, the son of Milton L. Burns and Blanche Burns. Milton Burns was the Riverhead town supervisor from 1934 to 1937.

Bob Burns was a three-sport athlete for Riverhead High School, playing football, basketball and baseball. He is enshrined in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. Burns became a lineman for the Hobart College football team in 1942. He served in the Army Air Corp, spending time in Italy during World War II. After returning home from Europe, Burns got into the banking business, rising to the position of vice president of Suffolk County National Bank.

But there was no doubt where his heart was.

“He made his living in banking, but what he really loved was sports,” Elaine Burns said. “He loved writing about it. He would spend a lot of time at the typewriter. He was always going to work, making sure the deadline was met. … He really had such a sense of commitment to sports writing.”

Burns began his writing career by alternating between two rival Riverhead newspapers, The Riverhead News and The County Review. He said that whenever he got a $5 raise offer, he switched to the other paper. The bidding war ended when the two papers later merged to become The News-Review, which is now known as The Riverhead News-Review.

At Riverhead High School football games, Burns was a fixture on the sidelines, in all kind of weather, fair or foul, clutching a clipboard and jotting down the results of each play. He was a hands-on journalist who personally picked up the local bowling scores that would appear in the paper.

In 1995, a high school boys basketball tournament, the Bob Burns-Riverhead Classic, was named in Burns’ honor. During halftime of that year’s championship game, James Stark, the Riverhead town supervisor at the time, presented Burns with a proclamation honoring him as an “outstanding journalist and chronicler of Riverhead sports.” Dec. 16 was designated as “Bob Burns Day” in Riverhead.

“As far as we’re concerned right here in Riverhead and on the East End, you’re number one,” Stark told him.

Burns said he cringed with embarrassment by the attention he received that day, but he retained his sense of humor when addressing the crowd during the halftime ceremony. Burns, who was 74 at the time, told the crowd, “I’m very happy that, given my age, it’s not the Bob Burns Memorial.”

In later years, Burns was having increasing trouble with his vision. Before he married his third wife, Elaine, Burns wrote his final column in the spring of 1998. He was predeceased by Mary Iwinicki Burns, the mother of their two children, and by Lois Downs Burns.

Elaine Burns had known Bob Burns since well before their marriage. The two met in 1946. Elaine Burns had married Bob’s brother Jack, who died in 1954.

Elaine Burns said her late husband was “enormously witty,” and his eyes would light up when someone spoke with him. “He was a very interesting combination of very genial and he could be a real curmudgeon,” she said.

Bob Burns was also something of a fussy eater, who didn’t always eat all his vegetables. “He was terrible about vegetables unless it was corn, peas and lima beans, and of course potatoes,” she said. “He lived on peanut butter a lot.”

In addition to his wife Elaine, Burns is survived by his children, Jerry L. Burns and Connie Burns St. Laurent.

Visitation will be Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at Reginald H. Tuthill Funeral Home, 406 East Main St., Riverhead. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, followed by interment at Riverhead Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the newly created Bob Burns Scholarship Fund to be managed by The Lions Club.


04/30/12 12:00pm
04/30/2012 12:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Little League founder and coach Bob Burns in a 1985 photo with the Riverhead Moose Little League all-star team.

One night a few weeks ago, about a dozen men and women gathered in a backyard in Jamesport to chat, just as they do on a regular basis. They come from all walks of life and from all across town but are united by a single thread: the Riverhead Little League.

For over 60 years, the Riverhead Little League has provided the opportunity for hundreds of boys and girls to play baseball during the hot Riverhead summers. But for some athletes, parents, coaches, and administrators, the Little League means something more: it’s a place where life-long friendships were made.

The Riverhead Little League was formed in 1953 with no commissioner and just about 70 kids among the four teams, according to former administrators of the league, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this Saturday.

“It wasn’t very formal,” said Alex Doroski, a former treasurer and coach of the Little League who attended the get-together.

From its humble early days, the Little League grew. Charlie Crump served as the League’s first commissioner and implemented a minor league. In 1983, Mitch Skrypecki took over and formalized the league.

“Mitch’s claim to fame was the business side,” Mr. Doroski said.

By then the league had expanded to six teams, each sponsored by an organization in town like the Lions, Rotary or fire department. The Lions were the perennial best of the Little League, the “Yankees” according to former players and coaches, and no one was more revered than its head coach, Bob Burns.

Mr. Burns’ team dominated the league thanks to his smart drafting (the Little League used a drafting system in those days to assign teams) and dedication to coaching.

“He was Mr. Little League, no question about it,” said Vic Bozuhoski, who coached the Lions for 10 years with Mr. Burns.

The group passed around a photo of Bob Burns riding a kids’ carousel and laughed. Mr. Burns had taken an All-Star team to Rome, N.Y., to compete in a state-wide championship, and during a meeting with other coaches he promised he would ride the carousel if the Riverhead team scored a victory their first game.

The team won 4-0.

Today, one field at Stotzky Park is named in his honor.

Ron Schmitt Jr., a former player in the Little League and son of one of the commissioners, said he could still picture what happened when he tried out for Mr. Burns’ team.

“I remember the last thing he said to me was, ‘Throw it to me as hard as you can,’ ” Mr. Schmitt said. “I missed him by 18 feet!”

Mr. Schmitt would be drafted by the fire department team that year and would lead that team to victory on several occasions as a starting pitcher.

Mr. Schmitt’s father, Ron Sr., took over the league after Mr. Skrypecki retired and ran it for more than 12 years. Mr. Schmitt, who also attended the get-together and still keeps a scrapbook of his son’s days in the Little League, has a field named after him at Stotzky Park as well.

The former administrators all praised the town and its people for standing behind the Little League decades ago.

They still remember and appreciate the way the town’s groundskeepers kept the fields in pristine shape, the way the Suffolk County National Bank paid for a scoreboard and the way Riverhead Building Supply gave the league donations and discounts to build facilities.

The companies never publicized their donations and hard work, the former coaches said. They just did it to help.


03/25/12 5:00pm
03/25/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Little League wants to help refurbish the ballfieds behind Riverhead Middle School.

The Riverhead Little League will begin renovations on two ballfields at Riverhead Middle School next week to create more space for teams to play.

The new plan will include new dugouts built into the middle school baseball field, as well as new fencing, irrigation, regrading and possibly sod for both fields.

“We had met with the school district on a number of occasions, we kind of bounced around from a series of locations,” said Riverhead Little League president Tony Sammartano. “We all came to the conclusion that the best location is going to be the middle school area.”

The Little League received a worklist for the construction from the district Tuesday and will begin renovations at the softball field next week, he said. Renovations to the baseball field will begin in mid-June, after school programs have stopped using the field.

Mr. Sammartano said the 60-year-old league, which will likely have 500 participants and 28 teams this year, needs more fields. And while town officials have assured him the fields at Enterprise Park at Calverton would soon be open, Mr. Sammartano said the Little League couldn’t take any chances.

“We’ve been promised for two years that [the fields at EPCAL] would be open,” he said. “Basically we can’t wait on EPCAL anymore so now we’re moving forward.”

Funding for the new fields, which will cost nearly $27,500 to renovate, will come partially from the school district’s bond money but mostly from donations to the league.

Mr. Sammartano said the league is looking for donations of supplies to help with the construction effort.

“We’ve been doing fundraising for all of last year,” Mr. Sammartano said, adding that both fields should be completed by August and at least the softball field will be used during the 2012 summer season.

The league has also offered to open the fields up to the smaller Flanders Little League, though it’s not clear whether they would use the fields. Riverhead Little League will start its season in early April and run through early August.