MLB pitcher-turned-cop killed in crash remembered as mentor, youth sports advocate

"He was always down to earth and there for not only his family, but the whole community," said Jamey Rimshnick, Snug Harbor Little League Board of Directors


By Charlie De Biase Jr.
Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Dean Pecorale was in his second year as president of Snug Harbor Little League a few years back when he engaged in a conversation with Anthony Varvaro, the former Curtis High School star and MLB pitcher who tragically died in a car crash early Sunday morning in New Jersey.

It's a talk Pecorale remembers distinctively.

"My son, DJ, was aging out of Snug Harbor and Anthony knew it," said Pecorale. "He told me, 'stay (president) as long as you want, but I know DJ is aging out and I'm sure it'll be hard to be down here all the time (with DJ no longer a part of the league).'

"So he told me if I was thinking about leaving, to keep him in the loop because he was interested in running for president," Pecorale continued with a slight snicker. "But he added, he'd only run and take the job if guys like (former SHLL president) Allen Terjesen and myself stayed around to help out and give suggestions."

Pecorale said he realized something then and there.

"After thinking about it, I just couldn't think of anyone better to be the face of the league," he said. "I really believed the league would be in a better place with Anthony as president and for a few reasons:

"First of all, some people, when they get to be in position of president, want to be in charge of everything, and here he is saying he'd only take the job if we stayed around to give advice and help out. And second, Anthony was always about the kids — he'd always say, 'let's make it as fun as we can for the kids. It's supposed to be fun at this age.

"He wanted his own kids to have fun, of course, but he was about all the kids having fun and learning."

Varvaro, a Port Authority Police Officer and married father of four young children, was on the way to his post at the Sept. 11 Memorial Ceremony in Lower Manhattan at the time of the crash. The 37-year-old replaced Pecorale as president of Snug Harbor LL just about a year ago and, through an interview with the Advance/SILive.com, he talked passionately about his vision for the league — including the long-awaited installation of light fixtures at SHLL's Livingston complex.

"This has been an ongoing battle for as long as I can remember," Varvaro said last year in reference to not only getting the installation of lights approved, but raising funds to actually get it done. "This is going to be an improvement for the community, and it's going to give these kids a better opportunity. The future is looking bright, literally, for the boys and girls of this little league."

Naturally, many people echoed Pecorale's sentiments on the former two-time Advance All-Star pitcher, who also enjoyed a superb career while pitching at St. John's University.

The one constant discussed was Varvaro's ability to remain even-keel regardless of the situation.

"Anthony was perfect for youth sports because he always understood the value of it," explained Jamey Rimshnick, a long-time fixture at Snug Harbor who, in addition to managing or coaching, also served on the loop's Board of Directors, as a Player Agent and Director of Softball. "He understood it's not about becoming a Major League Baseball player, but rather what (playing Little League) taught you.

"He always thought it was important to teach a game that the kids might eventually love. But regardless of what he did teaching or serving as president, he was always down to Earth and there for not only his family, but the whole community."

Terjesen, who has been affiliated with SHLL since 2004 and was president between 2013-19, said the loop has a huge void to fill after losing the future of their league.

[RELATED: Former MLB pitcher turned cop Varvaro dies in car crash]

"When he stepped up and became president, he solidified the leadership of our league. With four, young kids, I bet he would have been at Snug Harbor for the next 15-20 years‚" said Terjesen. "We are devastated by this loss in so many ways.

"But as far as the league is concerned, you know that parents are more and more involved with their kids and the youth sports they play these days and Anthony had such a calm, cool demeanor when he spoke, regardless of the situation, and everyone listened," Terjesen added. "I don't think he ever raised his voice."

"Anthony was an advocate of enjoying yourself when playing sports," added Rimshnick. "He had the perfect temperament for the position he was in. I never saw him yell. He was really a good guy."

Terjesen said Varvaro was also thinking about ways to improve Snug Harbor.

"Anthony, and (league official) Dennis Thomson, had so many great ideas and he always acted on them right away," he said. "He just did what he had to do to keep the ship moving forward."

"And he wasn't interested in making money. He just wanted to work with and do what was best for the kids," Pecorale added. "He once told my son he'd throw him batting practice — with all the things he's got going on, he's a cop, he's got four kids — he made time to help my son.

"My son was nervous," Pecorale added. "I told him, 'he's not going to (hit) you. He's going to help you get better' and that's just the kind of guy he was.

"Without a doubt, he is irreplaceable and I would think everyone feels the same way. He offered a rare combination of things that greatly benefitted our league and it's just hard to believe something like this can happen."

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(c)2022 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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