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Former baseball players honor retiring coaches

Four coaches who guided some of Long Island's greatest high school baseball teams and chalked up 2,292 combined victories will be missing from the playoffs this season.

Sal Mignano of Shoreham-Wading River, Ken Sicoli of East Meadow, Mike Canobbio of Lindenhurst and Joe Corea of Calhoun -- each of whom has won at least 500 games -- retired before the season.

"To say I miss the game is an understatement," said Mignano, who worked the third base coach' s box for 38 years. "It was my life, my passion."

Mignano regularly has lunch with Canobbio and Sicoli. They share stories and talk about the future. "We talk about everything," Sicoli said. "Some of the best moments of my life were on a ballfield. And the guys are great to hang around because it keeps us connected."

The East Meadow School District named its ballfield after Sicoli this spring and Lindenhurst named its park for Canobbio two years ago. And, there are these tributes from former players:

MIKE CANOBBIO

MIKE CANOBBIO, LINDENHURST 1977-2014: 532-359-3 (.597 winning percentage)
Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

MIKE CANOBBIO, LINDENHURST

1977-2014: 532-359-3 (.597 winning percentage)

Dear Coach,

I'm writing you this letter to thank you. You might be wondering for what? Well, you have been a great mentor and role model throughout my life. You have impacted my life in so many ways and you continue to do so each and every day. Our relationship goes back to when I was a young 13-year-old on your freshman football team. That is where you taught me to be a fierce competitor and a winner. Two years straight and no losses; wow, what a great memory I hold on to fondly. Then there was my dream senior year. There was so much I accomplished, but winning the Yaz Award was the icing on the cake. I still remember receiving the award and looking over at you and seeing the look on your face. You were truly proud of me. Well, I want you to know that award wasn't just for me but it was for the both of us. You were just as deserving because I couldn't have done it without you. The one thing that still haunts me today is not winning that Suffolk County Championship vs. Brentwood back in 1996. We were so close, I hope you know that winning a team title was always my main goal. You always taught me team accomplishments were always greater then individual accolades. You are still Coach to me but also my friend. I'm now learning how to be a great coach, and that is because of you. As I sit back and collect my thoughts, I find myself instilling the same morals and importance of team and how a team is a family into my players as you did. So Coach, thank you, thank you for always being there for me and being such an important figure in my life.

Love always, your friend,

Mark Frole

Physical education teacher at Lindenhurst, Class of 1996

JOE COREA

JOE COREA, CALHOUN 1972-2014: Record: 676-327-3 (.674 winning
Photo Credit: Ken Kreitzman

JOE COREA, CALHOUN

1972-2014: Record: 676-327-3 (.674 winning percentage)

Dear Coach,

I've often thought about the spring seasons of 1989-91, about the teams, the games, and, of course, about our leader, you. Unlike most memories, where I see both the ebbs and flows of life, Calhoun baseball brings only smiles and reminders of why athletes and coaches spend countless hours developing their skills for the ultimate goals, victory and camaraderie.

As a scholar-athlete under your guidance, I watched with amazement your ability to cultivate our talents and seamlessly weave our lineup into a well-oiled machine. I could easily share countless memories of mine about our success on the field, but I think the moments I remember most are in the offseason, when we played basketball in the Calhoun gym with three or four different eras of Calhoun baseball/football players. You'd run the point for the older alums, shooting your backward hooking layup or bomb a three (all net), and after, you'd ice up your knees (one may have popped out during the game, nobody would know) while we joked about how much we expected to win a county title or whose year was the better ballclub. You smiled and laughed but never spoke about yourself or your success; you only championed us and our accomplishments.

Now, as a teacher and coach at Calhoun, I value your tutelage more than ever. Walking through the hallways or on the fields, your presence is everywhere. You impacted our building more than any one person. Coach, thank you for your indomitable spirit, your supportive advice, your countless favors and, most of all, your belief in all of us.

Jason Elias

Calhoun English teacher, soccer coach, Class of 1992

SAL MIGNANO

SAL MIGNANO, SHOREHAM-WADING RIVER1977-2014: 583-320-5 (.647 winning percentage)Dear
Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

SAL MIGNANO, SHOREHAM-WADING RIVER

1977-2014: 583-320-5 (.647 winning percentage)

Dear Coach,

It was an extreme honor to play for you, a man of character and integrity. As a student-athlete, I always looked to you as a role model and someone I could look up to and emulate. You taught me many things about the game of baseball. The most important of all was how to play the game with passion and intensity. It helped me in my career at LSU and on into a 10-year major league career. I have always reflected on your fire and motivational tactics and when I became the head coach at Farmingdale State College and wanted to run my program in a similar manner. You were about playing the game as hard as you possibly can. I will never forget winning the state championship in 1987 and the look on your face -- just priceless.

You started the baseball program at Shoreham-Wading River, the first-ever varsity coach, and spent countless hours sacrificed away from your wife and children to mold the program. Your championship wins and accolades are far too many to list, but it is impossible to measure the impact you had on thousands of ballplayers who came through your program.

Those former players are seen everywhere in our community as leaders, business owners and positive influences on younger people. You have played a significant role as an educator of young people in our town and my respect for you goes beyond the ballfield. It was a gift for you to stay in the game long enough to coach my son Tyler. I consider you a close friend, mentor and key influence in my life.

Yours in baseball and thank you.

Keith Osik

Head Coach, Farmingdale State College baseball, Class of 1987

KEN SICOLI

KEN SICOLI, EAST MEADOW1982-2014: 501-281-10 (.641 winning percentage)Dear
Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

KEN SICOLI, EAST MEADOW

1982-2014: 501-281-10 (.641 winning percentage)

Dear Coach,

I remember when you announced that I was the starting shortstop. I was a 15-year-old 10th-grader. I recall how humbled I was that you would make this declaration so early in the season. I'll never forget that feeling, or the impact you have had on my life, time and again.

My dad would drop me off at school in the morning, knowing another father figure would look out for me in the classroom and on the baseball field. You would guide me throughout my college career, always welcoming me back to East Meadow High School, giving me advice and hitting me ground balls whenever I asked. Thank you, Coach.

You had a quiet passion in coaching young adults. You taught the skills of baseball and life to countless student-athletes, molding young minds and bodies for success on and off the field. Because of you, I became a teacher and administrator. During my tenure in the East Meadow School District, I have been surrounded by wonderful people. You remain my most positive early influence.

The days I cherish the most are the days we coached together, assisting you on the field and sharing a dugout, three Nassau County Final appearances and the 2005 Championship.

Coach Sicoli, you are a true gentleman and a man of tremendous character. Teacher, coach, mentor and friend to many, it is clear that your love for the game of baseball and commitment to education are unparalleled. As the father of a 7th-grade boy, I could only wish someone might come along in my sons life to be his Ken Sicoli.

Thank you Coach.

Rich Howard

Principal, East Meadow H.S., Class of 1989

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