by Andrew Garda
It is fitting that Montclair High School graduate and baseball player Ethan Greengrass had his last Montclair baseball moment where many of his firsts took place.
Edgemont Park was the setting for Greengrass’ receiving the first annual Andy Giuliano Scholarship on Friday, Aug. 28, where he — like so many other Montclair kids — began his baseball career.
It is also where coach Andy Giuliano spent the majority of his time coaching.
Giuliano died on April 27 at the age of 73, and those around him wanted to create something that would both honor the man everyone called “Coach Andy” as well as recognize and inspire the young athletes he spent so much of his life coaching.
“[He] was always willing to help others, never said no,” Garland Thornton, activities coordinator in the Recreation and Cultural Affairs office in Montclair, said at the time of Giuliano’s passing. Thornton coached with Giuliano for 20 years.
“He loved Montclair, and he was always asking about the kids in different sports.”
Empathy and concern for others was something Coach Andy was well known for, and it had a tremendous impact on those around him.
“The past two years, me and a couple of my teammates assisted pitch and tee ball with him,” Greengrass said during a recent phone call. “And it was just amazing to see how much the kids gravitated toward him, how much they loved him and how much time he spent with each individual kid. A lot of coaches are just there to get paid, that’s it. But he truly wanted to be a part of every single kid’s life and make an impact.”
Joel Dnistrian, president of the Montclair Baseball Club, said Greengrass possesses a lot of the characteristics that Giuliano had.
“Definitely his hard work and his dedication and devotion to young kids, mentoring them,” Dnistrian said. “He did come down and help Andy quite often.”
Dnistrian said Greengrass’ achievements in high school were also worthy of consideration.
“He was the captain of the baseball team. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a season, but he went through our whole program, from start to finish.”
Greengrass said there were many things that he will carry with him from his time working with and being coached by Giuliano.
“I’d say probably the biggest thing is being that person people can count on,” he said. “Being supportive, being caring, being there for others. Because you never know what someone’s going through in their life, and just to be able to give them a little bit of light, whatever it is, wherever it is, can really mean the world to them.”
Greengrass also said that Giuliano showed him that any action you take can have long-term impact on those you interact with, something driven home by a story he heard at the Aug. 28 ceremony about one of his former teammates, rising senior Amar Francis.
“He was playing on the playground at Edgemont while Andy was practicing with the kids,” Greengrass said. “And [Andy] basically asked Amar if he wanted to play baseball, and [Amar’s] mom said that she’s too busy to be able to, you know, let him do that. And Andy basically said, don’t worry about it, and Andy, you know, took care of Amar, took him to all the games and practices.”
Greengrass said now, years later, Francis is going to be the starting right-fielder for the varsity team, and a lot of that comes down to Giuliano taking an interest in a random kid on a playground.
“Obviously, you’ve got to owe a lot of that to Andy,” he said. “That’s crazy, you know? Just going over there and taking care of a kid you’ve never met until that moment. There are just not many people willing to do stuff like that.”
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With everything going on in the country, Greengrass said thinking of Giuliano’s empathy for others gives him some hope.
“Andy really created a light, no matter how dark it got,” Greengrass explained. “Just knowing the impact someone could make like that, no matter how dark times get, like they are now, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. If I ever get down or think about giving up, I can always think about Andy and how much he strived to make people’s lives better.”
Greengrass said holding the ceremony at Edgemont was a perfect nod to Giuliano’s memory.
“We went to Edgemont the other day and took some pictures for it,” he said. “It was very nice because, you know, Edgemont was Andy’s place of sanctuary.”
Like many college freshmen, Greengrass began classes remotely, but once he gets on campus at Rutgers-New Brunswick he’s going to make sure he carries forward Giuliano’s legacy.
“I just want to be able to use this scholarship and award to kind of model my life around the way he modeled his,” he said. “And to make people proud, give people support. Even in the darkest time, you know, a guy like Andy, even when he’s gone, can create this whole bunch of hope.”