I have often wondered why our Lord has given me so many blessings, and although I will never come to a conclusion as to why, I am and will be forever grateful for my years at La Salle Academy.
While you may know me best as “The Candy Man” from Major League Baseball, I started my career as a student-athlete at La Salle in the late ’60s. I played baseball and basketball for the Cardinals and I was always proud to wear the uniform.
I loved going to the school on 2nd Street and 2nd Avenue; I would take the F train from Brooklyn right in the middle of rush hour… I thought that was so cool! I am grateful for all the friends who meant so much to me, and the Brothers and lay faculty who made young men out of us. I still have those connections and fond memories today.
If it weren’t for La Salle’s Athletics program, I wouldn’t have had made it to the big leagues. After La Salle, I played professional baseball for 18 years with eight different teams. Throughout my career, I never forgot where I came from. When you walked in the door of the school, you saw the sign that read, “Remember… You Are La Salle.” That saying always stayed in my heart.
Col. John Valentin ‘71
Cross Country and Track
When I reflect on my time as a member of both the cross country team and the track team, the first thought (of course) is of the camaraderie we enjoyed with our teammates. Those bonds among us go far beyond the friendships we developed as members of the same team. We grew and matured into a band of brothers who persevered through the trials of arduous practices, personal disappointments and crushing losses. We were always together during the challenges as well as the victories. We were part of something which represented not only our school, but our way of living our lives. The team provided us an opportunity to meet boys from the other grades who served as leaders; it provided us a platform to develop our own leadership style to assist those who came after us. I am still in touch with members of the team and during our reunions, we all gravitate to each other and reminisce about our shared experiences.
I cannot overemphasize the role of our coaching staff. Mr. Dennis Haley and Mr. Dewitt Thomson were shining examples and sources of inspiration to us all. They provided us much more than the technical details of running or competition. They served as role models who challenged us to achieve excellence on the track team and in the classroom. They fostered the essence of a student athlete and created synergy between the two. I will never forget how Coach was as demanding an individual as I had ever experienced, while always being the first one to extend compassion and understanding when we fell short. To this day, I find myself using the concepts and sayings of both of those phenomenally gifted men.
Finally, my experiences on the team not only led to me pursuing running on the collegiate level, but it set in motion a passion for fitness which carried me through my career as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. The knowledge, skill and experiences of being a student athlete directly transferred to the requirements for physical fitness inherent to my profession as a Marine officer. Throughout my 32 years as a commissioned officer, I enjoyed the benefits of having had the challenges and rewards of life as a student athlete at La Salle Academy. Running track, being a member of a team and developing a sense of responsibility were the building blocks of maturing into the individual I became.
La Salle Academy holds a special place in my heart and is the reason for any success that I might enjoy. GO Cardinals!
Bryce Council ‘17
“Use basketball, don’t let basketball use you” is one of the quotes I live by. Playing basketball for La Salle meant everything to me. My goal from day one was to bring back the history of La Salle Academy. La Salle is known as having a great basketball program, so I wanted to help it get back to where it belonged and leave it in a better place when I left.
I learned a whole lot of lessons while being on the team. I learned how to be a leader. I learned how to lead in different ways. I learned how to help others become leaders. And I learned that leaders are followers, too. Listening and learning how to take control, and when to step back, were important lessons I learned on the team. I developed a family outside of my own family. Coach Pannell is a second father to me, so I learned the real meaning of brotherhood being part of this family.
As a senior at La Salle, I got a scholarship to play basketball in college which helped me to continue my education and get a degree to enter the business world. I used basketball to get me where I wanted to go. I will graduate in January with a business degree from Georgian Court University.
Ed Elisma ’93
When I was introduced to La Salle Academy, I didn’t know anything about it. The coach for the freshman team, Tyrone Green, saw me play at a tournament. At the time, I went to a junior high school that had a 9th grade. Tyrone came up to me and said, “My school would be the right fit for you.” He not only became my coach, but he became a father figure for me too. He was a great guy and later introduced me to Coach Bill Aberer.
I loved every bit of playing basketball at La Salle. The team and teammates, we became like a family. We built a camaraderie. It was awesome playing during that time, too. Our league, the Catholic league, was the best in New York. Our gym was very small on Second Street and Second Avenue, so it was quaint, but we were competitive; it was unbelievable playing top-notch teams.
La Salle taught me hard work and dedication. Coach Aberer and Coach Green had me come in early in the morning at 6:30 to get in some workouts before school started. I was pretty good at basketball, but this factored into how I became even better. I became an all-city and all-state player, which is a feat in itself because there were some greats playing at the time.
I got a scholarship to play for Georgia Tech. I got drafted by Seattle and after that I played overseas. I played all over; the first year I was in Israel and Italy, and then I went to Belgium, China, and Dubai. It was a great adventure. I owe a lot of my success to Tyrone Green who discovered me and to La Salle for helping me get to where I needed to be.
Douglas Porr ‘76
Being on the handball team was a lot of fun, but it was intimidating going to the Bronx! We used to take that train up to the south Bronx where there were a dozen handball courts or more. Our coach was Mr. Krause and he was an English teacher at La Salle as well. He was a great guy to be around; uplifting and just an all-around good guy.
It was a diverse group of students, but we all got along. The school was sobering as far as the races and things like that. It helped you appreciate a lot of things in life. I had some good memories. The camaraderie of being on a team builds character for you and helps you deal with situations that you might run into in the workplace. It builds character in a positive way. Like I said, just going from lower Manhattan to the South Bronx on the 4 or 5 train, was an eye-opening experience! That was a reality check right there; seeing what else was outside of my little bubble helped me later on in life, that’s for sure.