Pete Blieberg was a little embarrassed. But, it was the good kind of embarrassed, the kind that happens to humble people when presented with extraordinary recognition. The long-time Long Island administrator, who served as athletic director in the Kings Park, East Islip and Sachem school districts before retiring last year, was introduced as one of the eight new Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame inductees at a news conference at the Radisson Hotel in Hauppauge Tuesday morning.
“I’m very happy they have a category for administrators, because I never would have gotten in as an athlete,” Blieberg quipped.
Blieberg and his Hall of Fame classmates will be formally inducted in a ceremony scheduled for May 5 at the Radisson.
Three years ago, Blieberg was asked to join the Hall of Fame’s induction committee, a group in charge of selecting the class from a pool of nominees.
“[Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame executive director Ed Morris] wanted to get some local athletic directors, there’s six of us on there, to provide a more current involvement, know local people who are still around now, and provide a diversity of age,” Blieberg said of his induction committee duties. “It’s great to be on there. It was extremely humbling to be picked, and embarrassing at the same time. All the ballots are sealed, so as you’re going through the [selection process], you don’t know . . . It’s a great honor. It really is”
Blieberg’s fellow classmates include: Gene Heeter, the former Jets tight end who scored the first touchdown at Shea Stadium in 1964 and lives in Lake Grove; Mark Semioli, a Hauppauge High School graduate who was a soccer All-American at Stanford and played for the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York/New Jersey MetroStars in the MLS; Karen Dromerhauser-Vilardo, Bay Shore High School softball’s all-time leader in RBIs, home runs, doubles and triples; Ray Searage, the Pirates pitching coach and former Met who played at Deer Park High School; Brent Ziegler, a former Cincinnati Bengals draft pick and Syracuse fullback who played football and lacrosse at West Islip High School; John Pacella, a former Connetquot High School pitcher who played for the Mets and Yankees and earned his first major league win as a Met by out-dueling baseball Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton in June of 1980; and Linda Nicosia, a Sachem High School graduate and track star who won the 1,500 meters at the 1987 Pan-American Games and lives in Saint James.
Nicosia, who teaches English at Northport High School, gave credit to Bay Shore track coach and Suffolk Sports Hall of Famer Steve Borbet for taking her under his wing and encouraging her in the early days of girls high school sports.
“This was the mid-to-late 70s and the whole Title IX thing was just kicking in,” Nicosia said. “I was the only girl on my cross country team and there was only a very small track team. I was one of the best girls in the state and was often the only girl from my school going to the track meets . . . Steve Borbet took me under his wing and I often felt like I was on his team at the competitions. I would have meals with them and sit with them on the bus. He gave me a lot of good advice.”