Stephen Bayer stood silent on the Hofstra sideline, his head bowed. He and his Port Jefferson lacrosse teammates were about to play Cold Spring Harbor for the Long Island Class D championship in Shuart Stadium on a beautiful Saturday morning.
But this moment belonged to his close friend and former Port Jefferson standout Aidan Kaminska, who died in his Port Jefferson home Monday morning.
Port Jefferson and Cold Spring Harbor paid tribute to Kaminska with the pregame moment of silence.
While the Port Jefferson squad played for the title, the Kaminska family laid their son to rest in the St. James Roman Catholic Church cemetery in Setauket.
Players attended services at the Bryant Funeral Home in Setauket Friday. They signed lacrosse balls and left his old purple lacrosse jersey number 12 for the family.
Kaminska, a 19-year-old sophomore lacrosse player at the University of Massachusetts, was a star football and lacrosse player at Port Jefferson, where he set the Long Island record for receptions in a football game with 17 against Mount Sinai in 2019. His cause of death was not disclosed.
The sudden passing of the popular Kaminska left former coaches, teammates and friends in the small hamlet on Suffolk’s North Shore in mourning.
Port Jefferson players wore stickers with his initials emblazoned on their helmets for title game against powerhouse Cold Spring Harbor. They wore T-shirts with his name on the back underneath their game jerseys with the initials "AK" on one sleeve and number 12 on the other.
“The past couple of days have been really hard,” said Bayer, a senior who scored all three Port Jefferson goals in a hard-fought 9-3 loss. “I loved Aidan like a brother. He was two years ahead of me in school and he was my role model and I looked up to him. The best advice I ever got from him was that whenever you step on the field, you’re the best no matter what. He was all about confidence and believing in yourself.”
Port Jefferson, the two-time Suffolk Class D Champions, gave the Seahawks all they could handle in the first half. Bayer’s two early goals kept the Royals within 3-2 with 9:28 left in the half. The final result had a sobering effect on the players, who focused on one another in a time they needed each other.
“We’ll head over to the burial site to say our goodbyes today,” said Port Jefferson coach Taylor Forstell. “I’m proud of these guys. It’s been difficult and we prepared the best we could for the championship. They spent Friday afternoon and evening at the funeral home with the family.”
The lacrosse community came out in full force to say goodbye, including Kaminska’s UMass teammates, high school friends and opposing players and coaches.
“He was such a special player and well respected,” Forstell said. "He never basked in the glory and was such a very humble player. We’re looking to retire his number 12 at the school.”
Kaminska had an incredible impact on the Royals program. He came back to train the younger players and spent time teaching them how to lift weights and get stronger.
Senior goalkeeper Peter Murphy credited Kaminska with helping him develop a positive mental approach and solid work ethic to be successful in the game.
“I trained with him all the time and practicing against him elevated my game,” Murphy said. “He said it was all about confidence – you always have to think you’re the best going into any game. He taught me how to develop a confident mindset. I felt if I could stop his shot in practice, I could stop anyone, because he was the best.”
Murphy opened the championship game with point-blank saves on four shots against Cold Spring Harbor, who many consider the top team on Long Island, regardless of classification. If was as if an angel sat on his shoulder throughout a frenetic first 4:48.
“Our goalie is phenomenal and that’s because he worked exclusively with Aidan,” Forstell said. “He spent so many hours working and learning with Aidan, who was a powerful influencer on the younger players – making them believe they were unbeatable and the best out there.”
Bayer said he worked out with Kaminska the previous Wednesday when the latter bench-pressed 335 pounds.
“He was strong and taught me how to lift,” said Bayer, who will attend Adelphi. “If you were doing something wrong, he would take the time to correct it. We were fired up and ready to play for him. We left it all on the field.”
Kaminska redshirted his first season at UMass and was recognized by the Colonial Athletic Association for academic excellence. He was named to the CAA’s All-Rookie team this spring. He scored nine goals in six appearances, including three in a 13-9 road win over Hofstra on April 23.
Kaminska was a midfielder for the Royals where he scored 47 goals with 29 assists in his junior season. His senior season was canceled because of the pandemic.
“Aidan’s senior year would have been magical for us,” Forstell said. “He set the bar for other players in our program. He attracted college scouts and put us on the lacrosse map as a place you can find prospects. He was a program builder. I’ve shed many tears this week. It’s hard to believe he’s gone, that a kid so full of life with so much to give is no longer with us. He impacted many lives in a positive manner.”