Senior Erick Vilchez struck out a career-high 12 batters over 6 1/3 innings, and senior James Harrison came on to earn his second save in as many games, to lead Carey to a 4-2 victory over Herricks in the 12th annual Bob Walpole Classic on April 24.
Sophomore Jon Heyer hit a two-run homer, his second of the season, to give the Seahawks a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning. Freshman Anthony Catapano was on second after drilling his team-leading eighth double. Carey (10-4 in Conference AA-IV, 10-6 overall) clinched its eighth consecutive playoff berth.
But the day belonged to Walpole. The long-time coach and physical education teacher was recognized by the Carey community for his nearly 50 years of support and dedication to the students and athletes at Carey. Walpole was joined by his wife Eileen, and his children and grandchildren, for a ceremony on the field prior to the game.
Walpole, who picked up over 200 victories and a pair of league championships during his 21 years as head varsity coach, and also coached junior high and junior varsity baseball, was taken completely by surprise by the ceremony. “I had no clue that this was taking place,” Walpole said. “I’m completely overwhelmed. I knew something might be up when my wife ironed me a shirt. I didn’t think I needed a shirt ironed just to throw out the first ball. It’s a real honor.”
Numerous former players and students were in attendance at the event, which included a reception in the gymnasium. Some reminisced about their time on the baseball diamond, while others spoke of the life lessons that Walpole instilled in them. All had fond memories of Speeedball, a game Walpole invented in the early 70s.
“It was around the time of Title IX when women were going to get the same opportunities as men,” Walpole said. “The physical education curriculum was going to change in many ways. I went over to Adelphi and saw a game of team handball, and there were things I liked, and things I didn’t like so much. So, we modified it, and then modified it some more, before introducing it. The kids went nuts for it. It became like religion here.”
Speeedball, which combines the skills, rules, conditioning, speed and excitement of basketball, hockey, team handball, lacrosse, and soccer, is an energetic activity that rarely gives participants a moment to catch their breath.
The game catapulted one of Carey’s well-known alums into his career. Al Trautwig, a 1974 graduate, was in Los Angeles covering the 1984 Olympic Games when his experience with Speeedball led him to a venue that others were unfamiliar with.
“I was sitting there in a room with all the great ABC broadcasters like Jim McKay, Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, and we’re waiting to hear about which events we’ll be covering,” Trautwig said. “The great Roone Arledge asked the group about team handball, and I immediately volunteered to cover it. I told him that I played the game. It was all because of Bob. He gave me the confidence and knowledge to say that I could do this. He had, and still has, so much passion and enthusiasm. He was a smart, enthusiastic, and energetic teacher; the most important teacher I ever had. In fact, he’s the only teacher was has ever called me to ask me how I was doing. He’s connected all the generations of students and athletes.”
Walpole has also been a confidant to current Carey head coach Marc Hedquist. “Bob has been a good friend, and has always given me good advice,” Hedquist said. “He’s more than instrumental to this program. He’s always been very involved, and very well-liked by the Carey community. This honor was well-deserved.”