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Fireman’s memory lives on through softball

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When Bob Vassaliko and Stu Weiss heard that their friend, Lt. Robert Regan, of the FDNY was one of the more than 300 firefighters missing in the collapse if the World Trade Center, they held out hope he would survive.

After weeks passed, the two men began to lose hope they would ever see their friend again. But both decided they needed to go forward with their plans for a softball league they had begun to organize along with Regan before Sept. 11.

Then one day as Vassaliko and Weiss sat down to draw up a blueprint for the league, it occurred to them that one way to keep their friend’s memory alive would be through a league honoring the fallen firefighter.

“We decided to name the league the Bobby Regan Memorial Softball League,” Vassaliko said.

Regan, 48, who lived in Floral Park, was one of the six firefighters of Ladder 118/Engine 205 who perished saving the guests and employees at the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel. The hotel was one of the structures surrounding the Twin Towers that collapsed during the Sept. 11 attack.

A 16-year-veteran of the FDNY, Regan left behind his wife, Donna; a 16-year-old daughter, Caitlin; and a 12-year-old son, Brendan. A memorial service was held for him one month ago and he was buried Jan. 8 after his body was pulled from the wreckage a few weeks ago.

Vassaliko, who lives in Floral Park, met Regan in 1985 when he was umpiring in the George Johnson Memorial Softball League and Regan was one of the “star players.” Weiss, who now lives in Babylon, L.I. but grew up in Briarwood, met Regan when they were teens working as newspaper delivery boys for the Long Island Press.

“He was a great guy to be around, a happy-go-lucky person,” said Weiss. “He never had a bad word to say to anyone or about anyone.”

He described him as a family man who became a fireman because it was a job and not because it was a lifelong desire or a family profession. Weiss said he did not think anybody in Regan’s family worked with the Fire Department.

“It was just something for him to do,” he said. “Growing up we all wanted to play for the Yankees. Playing ball together was something we all could do together as friends.”

Weiss fondly recalled one of the many teams they both played for named the WHO after the British band. He said they won two championships with that team under the tutelage of their coach Stan Greenberg, who just died a few weeks ago.

Both men described Regan as an exceptional ballplayer who was always there for his teammates. He was the type of player, Weiss said, whom you could always depend on to get the big hit in the big game or in a pressure situation.

“You could always count on him in the clutch,” he said. “He was an outstanding left fielder with an accurate arm. I played third base and he always threw the ball into me.”

Vassaliko said the plan is to design a plaque that will list the name of the team that wins the championship and its players. The winner will get to hold onto the plaque for the year.

The league will consist of a weekday league (North Shore) with games to be played in Cunningham and Ally Pond parks. An existing league on the South Shore of the borough will also carry the moniker of the Bobby Regan Memorial Softball League with games near JFK. In addition to the two weekday leagues there will be a weekend league with games played in Flushing Meadows.

Vassaliko said his hope is to have a world series between the winners of the North and South Shore leagues.

“His name will live on,” Weiss said. “Bobby’s memory will be kept in sports. His memory will keep going in the game he loved so much.”

For information about joining the league or becoming one if its sponsors call Vassaliko at 347-3305 or Weiss at (631)-587-6617 or on his cell at (516)-865-8520. Team registration will begin on Feb. 15.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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