MLB pitcher-turned-cop killed in crash remembers role as mentor and advocate for youth sports

By Charlie De Biase Jr.
Staten Island Advance

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

It’s a conversation that Pecorale remembers very well.

“My son, DJ, was growing up in Snug Harbor and Anthony knew it,” Pecorale said. “He said to me, ‘stay (president) as long as you want, but I know DJ is getting old and I’m sure it will be difficult to be here all the time (with DJ not in the league anymore ).’

“So he told me if I was thinking of leaving, to let him know because he was interested in running for president,” Pecorale continued with a slight sneer. “But he added that he would only come forward and take the job if guys like (former SHLL chairman) Allen Terjesen and myself stayed to help and make suggestions.”

Pecorale said he realized something on the spot.

“After thinking about it, I just couldn’t think of anyone better to be the face of the league,” he said. “I really thought the league would be in a better position with Anthony as president and for several reasons:

“First of all, some people, when they come to the position of president, want to be in charge of everything, and here he says he would only accept the position if we stick around to give advice and And second, Anthony was always interested in the kids – he was always saying, ‘Let’s make it as fun as possible for the kids. It’s supposed to be fun at that age.”

“He wanted his own kids to have fun, of course, but he wanted all the kids to have fun and learn.”

Varvaro, a Port Authority police officer and married father of four young children, was on his way to his post at the 9/11 Memorial Service 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 Advance/SILive.com, he spoke passionately about his vision for the league – y including the long-awaited installation of SHLL’s Livingston complex light fixtures.

“It’s been an ongoing battle for as long as I can remember,” Varvaro said last year in reference to not just approving the installation of the lights, but raising the funds to actually do it. “It’s 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 about the former two-time forward star pitcher, who also enjoyed a stellar career pitching at St. John’s University.

The one constant discussed was Varvaro’s ability to stay stable no matter the situation.

“Anthony was perfect for youth sports because he always understood the value of it,” said Jamey Rimshnick, a longtime Snug Harbor regular who, in addition to managing or coaching, also served on the board of administration of the loop, as a player. Softball agent and manager. “He understood that it wasn’t about becoming a Major League Baseball player, it was about what (playing Little League) taught you.

“He always thought it was important to teach a game that kids could eventually enjoy. But no matter what he did as a teacher or president, he was always down to earth and there. not only for his family, but for the whole community.”

Terjesen, who has been affiliated with SHLL since 2004 and served as president between 2013 and 2019, said the Loop had a huge void to fill after losing their league’s future.

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

“When he became president, he cemented the leadership of our league. With four young children, I bet he would have been in Snug Harbor for the next 15 to 20 years,” Terjesen said. “We are devastated by this loss in many ways.

“But as far as the league goes, you know parents are getting more and more involved with their kids and the youth sports that they play these days and Anthony had such a calm and cool demeanor when he was talking, what a whatever the situation, and everyone listened,” Terjesen added. “I don’t think he ever raised his voice.”

“Anthony was all about having fun while playing sports,” Rimshnick added. “He had the perfect temper for the position he held. I never saw him scream. He was a really good guy.”

Terjesen said Varvaro is also thinking of ways to improve Snug Harbor.

“Anthony and (league official) Dennis Thomson had so many great ideas and he always put them into practice,” he said. “He just did what he had to do to keep the ship moving.”

“And he wasn’t interested in making money. He just wanted to work with it and do what was best for the kids,” Pecorale added. “He once told my son he would throw him batting practice – with all he’s got, he’s a cop, he’s got four kids – he took the time to help my son.

“My son was nervous,” added Pecorale. “I told him, ‘He’s not going to (hit) you. He’s going to help you get better’ and that’s exactly the kind of guy he was.

“Without a doubt, he’s irreplaceable and I think everyone feels the same. He’s delivered a rare combination of things that have greatly benefited our league and it’s hard to believe something like that could happen.”

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