AMSTERDAM — Through all his years of dutifully logging stats and scores, Mike Bielecki never asked for recognition. He just wanted to help.
“He’s the proverbial hero behind the scenes,” legendary Amsterdam High School football coach Frank Derrico said. “The kind of person that I don’t even know sometimes whether they exist today.”
Bielecki, who spent more than four decades as a dedicated scorekeeper and statistician for high school football and boys’ basketball in the city — first at Bishop Scully, then for 30-plus years at Amsterdam High — died April 20. He was 73.
He was remembered this week by those who worked alongside him in the Amsterdam sports community as a dedicated champion for area athletic programs.
“He was true blue, 100% Amsterdam,” said former Amsterdam boys’ basketball coach Tony Orapello. “He’d give you everything you wanted. He was such a great guy.”
Bielecki got his start as a scorekeeper and statistician helping out legendary Bishop Scully boys’ basketball coach Francis “Dutch” Howlan. That’s where Rick Cetnar first met him in 1979, when Cetnar came to Scully to coach the basketball team while Howlan was dealing with illness.
“He’s the kind of guy that really, truly, was not out in front,” Cetnar said. “He just wanted to do his job. He’s the most reliable person I’ve met in my entire coaching career.”
When Scully was closed down by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany at the end of the 1989-90 school year, Bielecki started fulfilling the same duties at Amsterdam High School, working with Cetnar’s basketball teams and Derrico’s football squads.
The Wilbur H. Lynch High School graduate, who worked as a financial examiner for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, spent the next three decades fastidiously logging football and basketball stats.
Bielecki’s dedication to his task, Cetnar said, was second to none.
“He worked for the state, and there were times when we played at Albany or Troy, and he’d go from work and take a bus, cab or whatever, and meet us at the gym,” Cetnar said. “He wouldn’t come back to Amsterdam first, he’d just meet us at the gym. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Amsterdam’s athletes welcomed Bielecki’s presence.
“To walk on the bus and see him, you knew that it was game day and time to get ready to go,” said TJ Czeski, who played four years of varsity football and basketball for the Rams, and captained the 2005 state championship football team.
“He’s one of those building blocks that helped support me and others,” said Amsterdam football legend and former NFL offensive lineman Josh Beekman. “You’ve got to have reverence for him.”
Bielecki tracked the stats of some of the greatest athletes and teams to ever wear Amsterdam purple and gold. He tracked records on the gridiron set by the likes of Czeski, Justice Smith and Bryan Stanavich, and recorded the points put up by Running Rams basketball stars such as Todd Cetnar and Jason Mathias. He kept the stats for Amsterdam’s 1995 and 2005 state championship football teams, and Cetnar’s 1994-95 boys’ basketball team that reached the Class A state final four.
Bielecki’s professional work bled over into his scorekeeping, where he was known as a stickler for making sure his stats were correct at all times. That reputation also led to him being used as a scorekeeper for Section II boys’ basketball tournament games at Glens Falls, even when Amsterdam wasn’t involved.
“He knew every statistic. There was no needing to take a glance and second-guess,” said current Amsterdam boys’ basketball coach Tim Jones. “Even the officials knew that. I wouldn’t want to be the other [team’s] bookkeeper because he set such a high standard.”
“He was very precise. I don’t think he made a mistake,” said former Amsterdam athletic director and long-time football assistant coach Bob Noto. “All of Justice’s records, he’s the one who recorded them all.”
Noto first met Bielecki in 1979, when the former was a young coach helping out at Scully. The two remained friends for years, bonding over Amsterdam sports and their mutual love of the New York Yankees.
“He used to take the train down to New York, and he knew all the [stadium ushers] in the red caps,” Noto said. “If we ever went down there and saw Mike there, he always got us great seats. He used to do the taxes for the guys in the stadium club, so he’d get us in the stadium club all the time.”
In all, Bielecki was a statistician and scorekeeper under eight Amsterdam coaches — Cetnar, Jones, Orapello, Joe Agresta and Matt Flint for basketball, and Derrico, Pat Liverio and Doug Edick for football.
Current Amsterdam football coach John Homich said that Bielecki stopped doing stats on the Rugged Rams’ sidelines following the COVID-19 pandemic. As a long-time assistant coach during Bielecki’s statistician days, however, Homich expressed gratitude for his decades of selfless service.
“To have that information at your hands at all times, as a coach, was absolutely amazing,” Homich said. “He did that week in and week out for us.”
Bielecki’s dedication, Derrico said, was a testament to his passion for local sports and his community.
“He just wanted to get involved with Amsterdam sports,” Derrio said, “and he had such a kind way of doing it. Everybody appreciated him.
“In my mind, he’s a hero. It doesn’t matter if you’re a football player, basketball player — he was a hero to Amsterdam in terms of sports.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Shinder.