Welcome, Harper Eliza Lambo. You seemed to be in a hurry, then not so much. But Grandpa, who raced up I-95 to greet you, wasn’t at all upset you decided to wait a bit.
John Savage will coach Mamaroneck tonight in its Section 1 Class A championship game against Scarsdale with one less thing on his mind than he had when his Tigers beat Mahopac in Saturday’s semifinals.
Actually, Savage wasn’t there when his team celebrated that win. With several minutes left, he received a call from his daughter, Amanda, saying, ”Dad, you might want to gete here.”
And so, Savage took off, embarassed by but also appreciative of the cheers he received from the Mamaroneck faithful.
“If I was running out of the field, they knew it wasn’t because I was mad at the kids,” Savage joked.
Nope, Tiger fans knew Savage had left Stamford Hospital and his daughter, Allison, to attend the game.
Allison, expecting Savage’s first grandchild, had told her dad to go—that Harper didn’t seem to be in any hurry.
“I told Allison, ‘I will be here. This is my first family,’ ” Savage said, characterizing his field hockey kids as his second.
Right before he left, Mamaroneck sealed the game with two goals. That made things better but even had the unlikely occurred and the Tigers were trailing, Savage would still have turned the team over to assistant Tricia Miller and scooted.
Unlikely is not a slap at Mahopac. Mamaroneck is just that good and has been for a long time.
Savage has been a part of a huge stretch of that good.
His background was as a boys basketball coach at Harlem’s Rice High School.
But 20 years ago, he got pulled into coaching Mamaroneck’s modified field hockey program. The AD at the time, knew Savage and that meant he knew Savage would read books, attend conferences, pick other coaches’ brains and basically act like a sponge, absorbing everything he could about a game, which, at the time, was foreign to him.
A year later, he was told he was coaching JV.
And the following, he was promoted to varsity, inheriting a team that had just won sectionals at the B level.
Sue Hughes, current Section 1 field hockey coordinator, and then-Pelham coach, was one of his mentors.
His recollection of the good and the bad transpiring since is detailed.
He can recall the sound of the crack of a ball, hitting the low, wooden back of the net, signalling the end of a season.
He remembers current Briarcliff coach Danielle Fiore starring for Lakeland in the 2003 sectional semifinals. Fiore scored the double-overtime game-winner against his Tigers.
Season over, when Savage’s kids exited the bus back at school, his juniors—on their own—practiced for an hour.
The next year, Mamaroneck won the state championship.
“That group of kids set the bar high for commitment,” he said, noting they attended camps and all six starters who played springtime soccer chose field hockey when soccer was moved from spring to fall.
By that time, field hockey and coaching girls were very much Savage’s thing.
Yeah, his city boys coaching and Bronx rearing sometimes show, as when he snapped, “Mind your business” at a Rye assistant, who earlier this season pointed out with a wave of her hand and a “Hey, coach” that he’d migrated near Rye’s bench area to yell instructions to his players.
Sometimes he’s told he yells too much, he acknowleged, but he’s very much toned down from his Rice days.
And he now prefers coaching girls to boys.
“I like to work hard. The girls like to work hard,” he said.
“Girls all network. They want to fit together. Boys all want to be top dog. We’re a team. We’re family.”
Remarking, “It’s been a great ride,” Savage noted he plans to stay with his second family another three or four years, then retire and, of course, spend a lot of time with Harper, who was born an athletic 20 inches and 8 pounds, one ounce.
Harper’s mom played basketball and lacrosse in high school at Mahopac. Her dad, Luke, was such a good baseball player that he played in the Minors.
Luke wants to put a golf club in his daughter’s hands. Grandpa, of course, plans to get her a field hockey stick.
But he also has plans for some simpler fun.
“I’m going to bring her to the park, get her all dirty and bring her home and say, ‘Here she is. I gave her about 20 pounds of sugar and we had fun in the mud,’ ” Savage said, laughing.
Savage does a lot of laughing when talking about his plans with Harper and about her arrival.
Maybe her timing wasn’t perfectly planned (she waited two more hours to appear) but Grandpa has absolutely no complaints.
“It was an excellent day. I got a field hockey game in and a granddaughter,” he said.
Notes: Savage’s top-seeded Tigers, who are 18-0-1 (the one a 0-0 tie against Darien, Connecticut) face No. 2 Scarsdale at 7:30 p.m. in the Section 1 Class A championship. Scarsdale’s only two losses this season have been to Mamaroneck. The game, like all today, will be played on the Brewster High artificial turf field, which is actually located across from the high school at John F. Kennedy Elementary. The B and C games are earlier. No. 2 Rye (whose only loss was to Mamaroneck) faces undefeated Lakeland at 3:30 p.m. Lakeland has won four straight state titles. At 5:30 p.m., No. 4 Pawling, which upset No. 1 Bronxville, takes on No. 2 North Salem in the C championship. The winners will advance to Saturday’s regionals at White Plains High School.