CONEY ISLAND — It would have taken more than a little rain to wash out Catholic Schools Night — and the “Collars vs. Scholars” diamond tilt — at Maimonides Park on Tuesday evening, June 21.
The event honored an estimated 60 valedictorians and salutatorians from the Catholic academies and parish schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn. The “vals and sals” received commemorative medals for their academic achievements.
“They are a credit to their schools,” said Bishop Robert Brennan. “And I am glad they came out tonight so that we could show them appreciation.”
And yes, there was a minor league baseball game on tap, pitting the hometown Brooklyn Cyclones against the Jersey Shore BlueClaws. That gave Bishop Brennan a chance to make his first visit to Maimonides Park to watch the Cyclones, a minor-league affiliate of the New York Mets — his favorite team since his youth.
Hundreds of kids and their families ignored the wet weather to turn out for the event, which featured the distribution of free bobbleheads of Msgr. David Cassato, vicar for Catholic schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, who recently announced his retirement as pastor of St. Athanasius parish in Bensonhurst.
Msgr. Cassato was all over the park Tuesday evening.
He threw out one of the game’s first pitches and presided over the pre-game softball match between diocesan priests, the “Collars” wearing black jerseys, and the “Scholars” — Catholic school principals, teachers, and school administrators, in white.
Msgr. Cassato started out wearing the Collars jersey, but later switched to a white Cyclones’ jersey with red lettering. He’ll remain busy as vicar for Catholic schools, and in his role as Deputy Chief Chaplain of the New York Police Department.
Tom Chadzutko, who recently announced his retirement as superintendent of schools for the diocese, attended the game. Also on hand was Chadzutko’s incoming successor — Deacon Kevin McCormack, currently the principal of Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge.
“Tonight is a terrific night because it gets everybody together for a good time,” said Deacon McCormack, who starts his new job on July 1. “We celebrate the scholars because they’re the top kids in our schools, but they represent so many other great kids.”
Joe Venticinque, principal at Our Lady of Snows Catholic Academy in Floral Park, said he had “a blast.” He scored two runs in the Scholars’ 9-6 victory over the Collars.
“It was just a good night to get together, celebrate Catholic education, and have fun doing it,” he said. “I got to see colleagues that I haven’t seen in a couple of years because of COVID. It really is one of our biggest events in the last couple of years.”
Students also celebrated Catholic Schools Night, which was sponsored by DeSales Media Group.
“It felt good representing our school,” said Joseph Kearney, who enters the 7th grade this fall at St. Bernard Catholic Academy in Mill Basin.
His 4th-grade-bound sister, Mia, said she didn’t know much about baseball, but she was grateful for her school, saying, “We get to learn about Jesus and the Catholic rites.”
Said her brother: “I just like learning about God.”