Downtown courts bear his name, but tennis isn't his only game
He had a great backhand, and as an outfielder, John Scalici excelled. But sports isn’t his only gift. Scalici is a second violinist in the Nutmeg Symphonic Pops Orchestra, a member of the Milford Senior Center’s Band The Note Ables and a member of the Neighborhood School of Music in New Haven.
Scalici became interested in music following a debilitating illness when he was younger. He purchased a violin for $29, gave it a try and the instrument soon found itself resting on the shelf. Forty years later, he picked the violin up and plucked a few strings. The rest is history.
The Milford man approaches challenges with a fervor, and yet with his music displays a tenderness and depth that offers a glimpse into a charismatic personality.
Years ago, an opportunity arose for Scalici to add a hobby to his repertoire: tennis. There was a tennis player, George Fasolo, who was offering tennis lessons for $15. The program sounded interesting, so he decided to sign up and give tennis a try. Entering the gym with shorts, sneakers, black socks and a red, white and blue $1.98 tennis racquet, he was ready to begin learning the game.
“The first ball I ever hit, I knew this sport was for me,” he said.
Going back some years, Scalici’s interest in sports began in an open field in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although the area was known for its neighborhood gangs, Scalici’s buddies were into sports, not neighborhood power structures. Of course, being true Brooklyn natives, the Dodgers stadium Ebbets Field was “home” to Scalici and many young people during the Dodger Days in Brooklyn.
Scalici’s stringent attitude was, is and always will be one that strives for perfection and high standards in everything. Thus, open field baseball was not enough. He became quite the outfielder and was recognized as such in his hometown. This talent spread and soon Scalici found himself trying out for the New York Yankees. He made the cuts and here he was, at last scooping up practice hits at Yankee Stadium. Alas, wearing a striped uniform wasn’t to be, but Scalici wasn’t finished yet.
On he went to a stint in the United States Army, traveling through Europe. In addition to military activity, he traveled on the U.S. Army bus carrying accomplished baseball players competing one base against another. “Although our team didn’t do too well, it was an interesting time during my life, serving my country and playing baseball,” Scalici said.
Returning home, he married and settled down. Life was full and varied and Scalici found work at Warnaco Company in Connecticut. A visit to Milford, prompted by wife Mary, led the couple to search for a home in this little coastal town. Children came along and Scalici became interested in sports again, specifically Little League. He coached and observed and eventually produced a coach’s manual.
Soon, an opportunity arose to enter the world of tennis. Scalici became an avid tennis player who eventually taught the game and who organized tennis in local schools, prompting the interest of Milford’s tennis community. Today the tennis courts behind the Milford Library bear his name: The John S. Scalici Tennis Courts. His dedication to the game of tennis prompted the establishment of tennis programs in St. Mary’s School, St. Ann’s and St. Gabriel’s.
Scalici is still a spectacular individual. He is a literacy instructor, guiding foreign language students through the challenges of the English language, the original founder of the Home School Association at St. Mary’s School ,as well as an early scoutmaster. Married 54 years to Mary, the couple has three daughters, a deceased son and four grandchildren.
Does Scalici have more goals in his senior years?
“I don’t have a goal, but I try; I know my limitations and it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I get up in the morning and, yes, I give life another try.”