Valley Stream South's Andrew Hess and Wheatley's Matt Rothstein exemplify the day-to-day duties each student-athlete should perform in the classroom and on the field.
That's the main reason why the two seniors were the recipients of this year's Michael Capozzi Scholar/Athlete Award and Scholarship, presented annually by the Nassau County Baseball Coaches Association.
It is in memory of Michael Capozzi, the late son of Carle Place baseball coach Ralph Capozzi. The Capozzi association picks the winner based on athletic performance, academic achievements, school involvement and letters of recommendations. The winners were announced Wednesday at the Marriott in Uniondale and Hess and Rothstein are ecstatic to be in such an elite class.
"To win an award is such an honor because there are tons of great players and great students in the county," said Hess, the valedictorian of his class, with a 108.7 weighted GPA. "There are certain things in the classroom and in baseball nobody likes to do. What I did was work really, really hard at both because I believe it could be done for that next level. I think it can help me achieve my goal."
Hess, who didn't play the first nine games of this season after pulling a hamstring, returned to the outfield just in time to lead Valley Stream South in hitting for the third consecutive season, this time with a .400 batting average.
Valley Stream South coach Ken Ward couldn't say enough good things about Hess, who scored a 2320 on the SAT, with multiple 800s on subject area tests. He's also a National AP Scholar, a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and a News 12 Scholar Athlete. "You look at his baseball accomplishments and they pale in comparison to what he's meant to the building in general," Ward said of Hess, who will attend Harvard University and major in economics.
The same could be said about Rothstein, an AP Scholar and member of the National Honors Society that placed first as the high scorer in the New York and National Math Competitions.
"As a baseball player, he was our team captain and leading righthander on the mound," Wheatley baseball coach Paul Paino said. "He's a smart kid who helped motivate the guys. The kids admire him because he is such a dominant player that leads by example and doesn't really have to say a lot."
Of Rothstein's many distinctions, one that impresses is his being the founder of PlayBall4All, an organization that collects and donates baseball equipment to underprivileged children, as well as being the president of his Temple Teen foundation.
What Rothstein appreciates the most from his high school baseball career is helping the Wildcats make their first trip to the state semifinals this season.
"Our individual efforts pale in comparison to what our team accomplished," said Rothstein, who carries a 4.20 weighted GPA and scored 2250 on the SAT on his way to majoring in mechanical engineering at Tufts University. "My parents have always stressed academics first, baseball second."