At 73, it is hard to imagine that Nick Mastorelli, Union City's deputy mayor, was once one of the greatest athletes in Hudson County. While attending Emerson High School in the 1940s, Mastorelli became known as the Whizzer for his incredible speed. It was this speed that made him a great baseball and basketball player.
Throughout his career, Mastorelli played professional baseball, played in the professional National Basketball League before the NBA was formed, and became one of history's best umpires. Around here, Mastorelli may best be known for the number of local athletes he helped get into college.
Among those athletes was newly appointed state Commissioner of Education Bill Librera. Librera, a basketball player, stopped over in Union City to visit his old mentor on his way to meeting Gov. James McGreevey last week.
Besides being deputy mayor, Mastorelli also sits on the Union City Parking Authority.
Although Mastorelli was a great athlete himself, he was also passionate about the talent of many other players. After attending Vermont University and Champlain Junior College, Mastorelli went on to help more than 1,000 student athletes get into college on scholarships.
"[Mastorelli] is a very special person in my life," said newly appointed Commissioner of Education Bill Librera.
Librera's sport was basketball, and with Mastorelli's help, Librera went to Vermont University on a four-year scholarship.
"Back then you had to be a good student," said Mastorelli, adding that all of the athletes he helped get into college also did well in school.
Mastorelli, who was accepted into both the Vermont University and Champlain College halls of fame, kept close relationships with his coaches which allowed him to help these athletes.
"I did this with all my heart," said Mastorelli, who wasn't employed as a college scout. "I did this all volunteer."
Becoming a legend
Both Mastorelli's baseball and basketball careers went far beyond high school ball.
Mastorelli was an All-American in the National Basketball League, where he was known to average more than 30 points per game.
However, his real passion was in baseball.
For almost nine years, Mastorelli played professional baseball in Canada. He then traveled across the country playing on professional teams.
Mastorelli attended spring training with the Cardinals and other teams in the United States, but never made it on the teams. Back then, there were only 16 teams, not the 32 teams that we are used to.
"I didn't want to become a baseball bum," said Mastorelli, who then found a new passion in umpiring.
Mastorelli was the umpire in 10 consecutive county championship games and then moved on to college baseball.
During his career, Mastorelli worked the Army-Navy game each year as well as every college baseball game on the East Coast, including the college world series in Omaha, Neb.