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Marc Maturo’s official sports column

You gotta have heart – Viola to rejoin Backman in Las Vegas

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Frank Viola, back with Wally Backman in Las Vegas
Frank Viola, back with Wally Backman in Las Vegas


Wally Backman, another season in Las Vegas
Wally Backman, another season in Las Vegas

The Mets have yet to make it officially official, but Frank Viola will rejoin manager Wally Backman as pitching coach with the organization’s Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.

Viola, 54, was set to join the Las Vegas 51s last spring when a routine physical by the Mets detected a heart irregularity.

The former big-league hurler — who overcame early troubles in his career by developing a change-up, with help from the late Johnny Podres, another southpaw – had open-heart surgery on April 2 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital to correct an aortic aneurysm.

“I was overweight. I was eating wrong … I have never felt as good as I do right now,” Viola, who went 176-150 in a 15-year career with one Cy Young Award, was quoted as saying.

Viola, who is on vacation until later this month, is expected to join Backman, 55, in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in mid-February for the opening of spring training.

Backman, a former second baseman with the Mets who might one day replace Terry Collins as Mets manager, will be starting his sixth season as a minor-league skipper in the organization and his fourth in Las Vegas. Last year Backman, who managed Licey in the Dominican Republic in the offseason, was honored as Pacific Coast League manager of the year in 2014.

Also on Backman’s staff in Las Vegas will be Jack Voigt, who succeeds George Greer as hitting coach.
Voigt is entering his 10th season with the Mets, and served as Triple-A Buffalo’s hitting coach in 2010. He played six seasons in the majors, with Baltimore, Texas, Milwaukee and Oakland.

ROW, ROW, ROW: To combat the frigid temps and still get in a good workout, the River Rowing Association is offering adult rowing classes at its indoor training facility at 256 Main Street in Nyack. Classes are normally offered at 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Sundays at 9 a.m.  The workout takes place on the Concept 2 rowing ergometer, a training tool of choice for competitive rowers around the world.  Each class is $20, with discounted 10-packs available for $150.  This month you will be able to buy unlimited monthlies for $199.  For information contact: [email protected]. The RRA also offers a masters rowing team for interested adults; no experience is needed. The masters program does not include a formal instructor to lead sessions — new rowers learn from the team’s experienced rowers with occasional coaching from the coaching staff. Indoor training consists of rigorous workouts geared toward creating fitness for on-water rowing and racing in the spring, summer and fall (you don’t need to race to be a masters rower, but the option is available in both team boats and singles). Masters train from 5:30 to 7 a.m. Monday-Friday and from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays.

HALL OF FAME ALERT: Our reliable follower Tom Doherty, whose eyes always focus on Rockland County sports, wants everyone to know that the North Rockland HS Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner is set for January 24 at the Platzl Brauhaus in Pomona beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets at $65 each can be obtained by calling Joe Bernardo at 845-942-3364 or 429-3767. Two great coaches Joe D’Auria and Bob “Big Murph” Murphy headline the incoming class, with Murphy going in posthumously. Other inductees are Thomas Bohlander, Margaret Denman, Wilbert Innocent, Arthur Johnson, Alicia Ossman, Christopher Robbins, and Howard Phillips as an honorary member. For further information contact the NRHS athletic office at 845-942-3391.

ANOTHER SPARTAN EFFORT: Led by Spring Valley HS alum Winslow Dorsainvil of Monsey, who turned in a commanding win in the 60-meter dash, St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill had several outstanding performances against a stacked field at the Yale Invitational. Dorsainvil, ranked sixth in the nation in Division II, won his specialty with a time of 6.80, easily beating the runner-up clocking of 6.95. Freshman Ricardo Reid of Mount Vernon finished ninth in the 200 with a time of 23.26 while sophomore Jamer Linares of Nyack ran a personal best in the 3,000 with a time of 9:55.79. The Lady Spartans’ DMR team meshed for 12:42.54, the second-fastest time in school history, behind Kristen and Allison Borriello of Montgomery, Gabby Sloezen of Westwood, N.J., and Meaghan Ventarola of Monroe. Ventarola and North Rockland HS graduate Katie O’Grady of Tomkins Cove finished back-to-back in the 3,000 with times of 11:05.83 and 11:14.21, respectively.

QUICK HITTERS: Junior Jason Quijada of Monsey had 13 points and a game-high six assists as the Mercy College men’s basketball team defeated East Coast Conference rival LIU Post, 89-84, at Mercy Gymnasium in Dobbs Ferry. Gerald McClease of New Haven, Conn., also had 13 points for the Mavericks (6-5), who host Roberts Wesleyan at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 16 and Daemen at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 17 before traveling across the river to Sparkill to meet St. Thomas Aquinas College at 8 p.m. … Cortland lost to The College of New Jersey and defeated Wisconsin-Stevens Point to finish seventh at the 16-team Budd Whitehill National Duals wrestling tournament, hosted by Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa. Senior Paul Fields of New City, an alum of Clarkstown North HS, won his bout at 125 pounds, 8-5, against Stevens Point, but lost 7-3 going up in weight to 133 against TCNJ. The Red Dragons will compete at the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference Championships on Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. at SUNY Oneonta. … Four players scored in double figures, including sophomore Michael Pelham of Spring Valley with 10 points, as the Purchase College men’s basketball team overpowered visiting Sarah Lawrence, 83-47. Pelham also had four rebounds. Creig Graves of Harlem had a game-high 22 points for the Panthers, who were to host Maritime on Jan. 15 before visiting Farmingdale State on Jan. 17.North Rockland HS alum Darius Flavors of West Haverstraw placed second in both the weight throw and shot put as The College of Brockport track and field team opened its indoor season at the Brockport Early Season Invitational at the Special Events Recreation Center in Brockport.

THIS & THAT: The NBA Players Association (NBAPA) is having an open competition to design its new logo, which will be unveiled at the All-Star Game in New York. Details at: … Long-distance running marvel JC Santa Teresa of Nanuet, who recently completed 21 ultra-maratons on 21 straight days and is headed to the Philippines for a 100-mile Bataan Death March Marathon, runs in part to support the fight against breast cancer, of which his mom, Delta, is a survivor. For more information access:

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