Frank “Butch” Servideo has spent most of his life involved in Lyndhurst High School athletics.
Servideo was first a standout athlete at Lyndhurst, then returned to become a coach of several sports. He was an assistant football and basketball coach, then became the head softball coach and finally spent the final three decades as the head baseball coach, winning more than 500 games, including the overall NJSIAA Group I state championship in 2008.
Servideo also served as the school’s athletic director for the last two decades.
“This is my home,” Servideo said. “I bleed blue and gold.”
Servideo figures that he spent 13 years as a student in the Lyndhurst school system, then another 42 as a coach, educator and administrator. That’s some career.
“It’s a great town,” said Servideo, who made his home in Lyndhurst with his wife Luann and children.
Servideo announced earlier last year that he was going to retire as both the baseball coach and athletic director.
Last Wednesday, Servideo’s former assistant coaches threw him a retirement party at the Fiesta in Wood-Ridge.
“It was fabulous,” Servideo said. “It was like a wedding. All the guys put it together. It was tremendous.”
Coaches Michael Rizzo, Patrick Auteri, Rich Tuero and new athletic director Jeff Radigan joined forces to organize the affair, which was attended by more than 225 of Servideo’s well wishers.
“What a great night,” Servideo said. “I couldn’t believe how many people were there. The guys who put it together all played for me, coached with me and became great family men. I was really taken aback with how many people were there. People came out of the woodwork to be there. I kept seeing people and saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ It was unbelievable.”
Incredibly, four of Servideo’s former coaches were in attendance, guys like Arnie Perrone, Don Cavalli, Joe Ferruzza and Phil Ciarco.
“It was great to see those guys again,” Servideo said.
During the course of the evening, the Lyndhurst Board of Education decided to honor Servideo by retiring his baseball jersey No. 10. Superintendent of Schools Tracey Marinelli presented Servideo with a jersey and another will hang permanently in the school gymnasium.
“That was very flattering,” Servideo said. “I wore No. 22 and No. 10 as a player, but always No. 10 as a coach.”
Servideo went to Northland College in northern Wisconsin after his athletic playing days at Lyndhurst. He returned home to Lyndhurst after graduation from Northland and became a coach right away.
“I was 21 years old and still had hopes of becoming a professional baseball player,” Servideo said. “Jim Corino was the athletic director at the time at Lyndhurst and he said he wanted me to be an assistant basketball and football coach. I didn’t know anything about basketball. He told me to just watch him, so that’s what I did.”
In 1980, Servideo took over a fledgling softball program that had won three games the previous year. They won 16 his first season. Incredibly, 12 of the players of that 1980 team were at the retirement celebration.
“We had some 20-win seasons and some league championships,” Servideo said of his six-year stint as softball coach.
In 1986, Servideo moved over to become baseball coach and carved out a career as one of the best baseball mentors in the state.
“I had a lot of former players come back,” Servideo said. “It was really humbling. It was great to see all the people who grew into great young men and women.”
Rizzo, who recently became a vice-principal in the district, was glad to be able to honor Servideo.
“When we heard Butchie was retiring, we really wanted to do something nice for him,” Rizzo said. “To be able to do it is another thing. It was so much fun. We thought we might get 180 or so, but that’s why we went to the Fiesta, just in case we got more people. The final count was like 230. It was amazing.”
There were a handful of speakers who got up to roast Servideo.
“They really gave it to him,” Rizzo said. “It was a lot of fun. It was priceless. I really can’t put it to words. It was really rewarding.”
The group presented Servideo with a host of retirement gifts, like a new driver for his golf game, two free rounds at the famed Bethpage Black golf course and two box seats for Derek Jeter’s final home game at Yankee Stadium before his retirement in September.
“I also got free dinners from a lot of different local places,” Servideo said. “My wife and I are going to eat well for a while.”
Servideo couldn’t believe the outpouring of love.
“All the players who came back,” Servideo said. “All the girls from years ago. All the former coaches, that was really surprising. All the teachers and supervisors who have been retired for a while and came back. It was incredible.”
Servideo was asked if it will hit him that 50-plus years of his life involved with Lyndhurst athletics had come to an end.
“It probably won’t hit me until school starts again in September,” Servideo said. “It’s funny, but the other day, I went to school to give Jeff (Radigan) a set of keys and I went to use my swipe card to get in the building and it didn’t work. I couldn’t get in the building. That was a sign to me that it was over.”
Servideo said that he’s not going anywhere soon. Luann Servideo will remain an active member of the Lyndhurst school system as a teacher’s aide. He will go to Florida to work at the Florida Coast Spring Training Baseball Facility in Fort Pierce, owned by former Lyndhurst resident Vin Carlesi.
He also plans to become an active high school umpire, but will stay far away from Lyndhurst games.
“I’ll come to watch some games,” Servideo said. “I’ll be around.”’
That’s good for the people of Lyndhurst, because dedicated people like Butch Servideo don’t come around often.
They come every half century or so.