Bob Costas has been all over the world as a sports broadcaster, but Thursday he will return to his roots in the Town of Smithtown as he is inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame.
It will be a quick stop, the 1970 Commack South High School graduate said, but filled with memories.
“It brings to mind a lot of people who I don’t cross paths with anymore, but who I grew up with, played pickup basketball or baseball in the sandlot, talked a lot about sports, collected baseball cards, stuff that kids do, typical childhood stuff,” Costas, 67, said Monday in a phone interview with Newsday.
Costas said he won’t be able to take in the entire ceremony — he’s got to get to Boston where he’s on the call for Astros/Red Sox on MLB Network Friday night and doesn’t want to risk travel issues on game day. But, he wanted to make sure his appreciation of the award was known.
“They’re extending an honor,” said Costas, who lives in Manhattan. “It is connected to my childhood and it’s nice to see that people recognize that part of my background.”
Other big-name inductees include NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, a graduate of Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills and North Babylon’s Bria Hartley, who plays for the Liberty and starred at UConn. Bettman will be unable to attend, according to Hall of Fame executive director Chris Vaccaro. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hartley’s status was up in the air, he said.
Costas said that it was in high school that it became clear that his niche in professional sports was not going to be on the playing field.
He was cut from the high school baseball and basketball teams — the last booted player in both instances, he said.
“I knew my future lay elsewhere,” he said.
That future, which included 40 years at NBC, made Costas one of the most recognizable figures in the broadcasting industry and earned him the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award in 2018, which is presented annually to honor excellence in broadcasting.
While at NBC, Costas served as the emcee for the network’s Olympic coverage 11 times and covered football, baseball, basketball, and horse racing.
Although Costas’ sports resume is vast and diversified, baseball was his first love and MLB Network is where he’s working exclusively now after leaving NBC Sports in January. He’s been with MLB Network since 2009.
“I’m very, very comfortable with it,” said Costas. “I enjoy baseball more than any other sport … It’s not a new experience, but what’s new is that there are fewer things on my plate and a little more time to catch my breath.”
Costas said he doesn’t get back to Long Island often, especially after his late mother moved to Florida in 1990, and many of his high school friends relocated. But, he still keeps in contact with high school friend Don DeMola, who pitched for the Expos in 1974-75. DeMola will be in attendance to watch his friend go into the Suffolk Hall Thursday night at Watermill Caterers in Smithtown.
“He and I have stayed in touch, we go to at least one ballgame every year together,” Costas said. “He’ll bring some friends to a Yankee or Mets game. That’s my most notable sports connection that’s still there and in place on Long Island.”
Other inductees include: former East Islip High School head wrestling coach Guy Leggio, martial arts expert and Middle Island resident Jerry Figgiani, former Stony Brook University head football coach Sam Kornhauser, former Sachem High School volleyball coach Bill Kropp, Islip’s Aaron Feis, and Dix Hills native Scott J. Beigel.
Beigel and Feis both were teachers and coaches who gave their lives protecting students during the Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School shooting in Parkland, Florida last year.
The Hall of Fame will also honor two athletic teams Thursday night — the New York Cuban Giants, who were the first all-African American professional baseball club in history and were formed in 1885 at the Argyle Hotel in Babylon; and the Ward Melville High School boys lacrosse team, a historic dynasty that has won 10 state titles.
The Cuban Giants will be receiving a Historic Recognition Award, while Ward Melville will be receiving a Special Recognition Award.