It's a couple months ago, about a week or so before baseball season begins, and Bryan Verbitsky, hands folded before him and shoulders hunched, says he would trade his Diamond Award for a county championship "any day of the week."
The award, given to baseball's best position player, is as prestigious as any in Nassau. Verbitsky was honored, yes, but frustrated after the Bulldogs fell to Clarke.
This year, his Island Trees team fell to Division in the Class A semifinal. More frustration, but of a different sort: The team had a difficult regular season but jelled in time for a credible postseason run. All the while, Verbitsky led - first quietly, by example, and then vocally.
And again, this year, Verbitsky was handed the silver (or, rather, diamond) lining.
Verbitsky, the Hofstra-bound outfielder and pitcher, was awarded the Diamond Award for the second year running last night at the Nassau coaches' dinner at the Marriott in Uniondale.
Before the dinner, Verbitsky said the prospect of winning "is going to be exciting."
But even when speaking about the Diamond Award, Island Trees isn't far from his mind. "What would have really been great would be to finish with the county title," he said.
It's something of a personality quirk. Verbitsky is motivated, almost unnaturally so. It's certainly reflected in his on-field contributions.
He batted .411 with a .945 slugging percentage and .556 on-base percentage. He had 30 hits in 73 at-bats and led Nassau with 12 home runs. He added 36 RBIs. He went 4-1 as a pitcher with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. And while his production is similar to last year, he did have to make adjustments in his off-the-field presence.
"I'm not much of a yeller," he said, smiling. "But I had to take a more vocal approach this year. The whole team is full of really young guys."
"Our playoffs was probably [one of my best memories]," Verbitsky said. "We had such a mediocre season and I didn't have high expectations. We all jelled after our [regular-season] game against Garden City."
Island Trees won the May 13 game, 12-10. It was Verbitsky who again was the spark. Trailing 10-9 with one out in the bottom of the seventh, he hit a walk-off three-run homer to win the game. He went 3-for-3 with two home runs that game and notched coach Joe D'Auria's 100th win at Island Trees.
"He's a true winner," D'Auria said. "We've won 83 games in his four years and it's pretty phenomenal. A lot of it has to do with him."
When Island Tree finally lost, "it was devastating," Verbitsky said. "It was really disappointing, especially as my last game as a Bulldog."
Still, though Verbitsky is leaving Island Trees for Hofstra, his impact will resonate for a long time, D'Auria said.
"One thing I said to the Diamond Award committee is that every day, we take the field against difficult teams," D'Auria said. "The coaches know the best player on the field is Bryan.
"I'm going to truly miss him."