Frank Tepedino and Fred Cambria played Major League Baseball long before the students of Merrimac Elementary School were born, but the draw of having two former big league players in their building had the kids giddy on Friday morning.
Tepedino’s granddaughters, Samantha and Ava, attend Merrimac and helped facilitate the presentation they gave about teamwork and focus in the multipurpose room at the school on Broadway Avenue in Holbrook.
“We were on a team, just like you are in school,” said Tepedino, who spent parts of nine seasons in the majors with the Yankees, Brewers and Braves. “This is a team in this third grade class. You’re all a team and all work together.”
Students asked both players questions about their careers from whom their favorite players were to how much hard work and preparation it takes to become a professional athlete. Tepedino and Cambria touched on many lessons, which coincide with the Covey skills all students in the Sachem Central School District have learned since the program’s implementation in 2010.
Cambria, who played in six games with the Pirates in 1970, had a 1-2 record as a pitcher. Tepedino is a lifetime .241 hitter with 6 home runs and 58 RBI in the majors. He was on the Braves when Hank Aaron hit career home run No. 715 to pass Babe Ruth for the all-time record on April 8, 1974. As a result, the line up card from that game is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame with his name on it. He is also an inductee of the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame and was a New York City fireman after his retirement from baseball.
Both Tepedino and Cambria have been friends for more than 40 years and speak on behalf of “Winning Beyond Winning,” a non-profit dedicated to helping young athletes make the right choices and prepare for all areas of life after competition.
“We try and get the kids to think about what’s outside of Merrimac,” said Merrimac Principal Veronica DeCicco. “There is so much more out there. We’ll try and bring people in like that, so kids can ask questions and get a picture of what opportunities are out there. It gives them a good opportunity to learn more.”