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Girard III warms up Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club

Girard III warms up Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club

While serving as guest speaker at breakfast, Glens Falls star gains appreciation for accomplishments of those in the crowd, too
Girard III warms up Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club
Don Blaha of the Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club, left, introduces Joseph Girard III at a club breakfast.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

GLENVILLE -- Silverware clinked on plates, and the smell of bacon and home fries floated comfortably around the Glenville Queen Diner on Thursday morning, as did the conversation.

In the diner proper, the subjects may have included the weather (lousy) or politics (never mind), but in the back room reserved for private functions, the breakfast club could have recounted having seen Don Larsen's perfect game, or having pitched batting practice to Ted Williams, or having met Babe Ruth, or having won the 1954 Little League World Series for Schenectady. One gentleman celebrated his 99th birthday.

On this day, nobody in the packed room had a fuller plate than Joseph Girard III, who tucked into a breakfast platter, then recounted some of the things he's seen and done in 18 short years, eight fewer than the lifespan of the Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club.

The club meets every other week year-round, and regularly invites guest speakers from a variety of sports, in this case the Glens Falls High School senior guard who has been named Mr. New York State Basketball, set the state record for career points with 4,763 and led his school to its first state championship, followed by a NYS Federation title to boot.

"What a resume," marveled state Sen. Jim Tedisco, who ought to know about basketball resumes.

There was a reciprocal appreciation and respect, though, from Girard III, who will graduate on June 29, then move into Syracuse University on June 30, then begin basketball workouts with his new Orange teammates on July 1 and start two summer session classes in the pursuit of a spot in the prestigious S.I. Newhouse School of Communications.

The cherry on top of the gelato sundae is that Syracuse gets to start formal practices earlier in 2019, to accommodate a trip to Italy for four exhibition games.

The high school kid had no difficulty commanding the room of 50, which suggests he'll fit right in at the Newhouse School, while exploring how he'll fit in with the Syracuse men's basketball team. By now, he's used to the attention, but Thursday gave him an opportunity to soak in some of the athletic accomplishments of the club members, too.

"It was a great honor to be here, for sure," Girard III said. "Just on the ride down, my dad was telling me all about this stuff. I'm in a room with a bunch of legends. These guys were where I am now many years ago, they've all done it before and they all know what it takes."

Before you scold Girard III for playing hooky, the National Honor Society student is done with exams and just has to finish up a couple classes, so he has free periods to make appearances like this, accompanied by his parents, Arleen and Joseph Jr. He spoke to kids at some elementary schools on Wednesday, and has no trouble in front of a crowd, whether it's thousands for a basketball game or dozens for a diner breakfast.

Girard III said he wants to get into broadcasting, and cited Newhouse grad Mike Tirico as an example. Couple guys named Marv Albert and Bob Costas also went through there.

"Being a communications major and going to Newhouse, I have to do this kind of stuff," Girard III said. "It's something that is going to hopefully be my job one day. It's not any pressure or nerve-racking or anything like that."

On a chilly, rainy day, it certainly didn't take long for the Ole Timers Club to warm up to him.

Their full membership totals 160, and about 75 made it in and out of the Glenville Queen Diner at various points Thursday, one of the biggest numbers ever for one of their breakfasts, which usually bring in a wide range of guest speakers.

Legendary Schenectady names like Barry Kramer and Jimmy Barbieri have attended, and long-time New York Yankees pitching coach Billy Connors, who died almost a year ago, was a club member.

"Our primary focus is on baseball, but we talk all sports," club president Don Blaha said. "We have so many stories from so many experiences."

Girard III, who also led Glens Falls to two state championships in football in three years and was named 2018-19 MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year this week, accepted an honorary plaque from the club, then took questions from the crowd.

Of great interest was his recruiting process that ended, after visits from the likes of SU's Jim Boeheim and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski to the Girard home, with him selecting Syracuse from a final menu page that also included Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Boston College.

As difficult a choice as it was for him, the 'Cuse Combo of proximity to home, basketball tradition, coaching from Boeheim and assistant Gerry McNamara, and Newhouse was irresistible.

"Actually, I remember [Duke assistant] coach [Jon] Scheyer and Coach K going up about five times for the chicken parm my mom made," Girard III grinned and told the club, to a burst of laughs. "I think after every school left, my mom shut the door and we went back in the kitchen, and her response was the same thing: 'Are you sure you don't want to commit?'"

The Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club ate it up.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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