I have some very sad news to report. Nick Modico, a former ace pitcher for Kennedy, passed away early this morning after a long and valiant battle with cancer. I never had the chance to cover Modico, but he helped lead the Gaels to a state title and sounds like an extraordinary individual based on the conversations that I had today. My story is posted below, but I’ll leave you with a quote from Modico that was passed along to me by his longtime friend and former teammate Ryan Tatnell:
“The largest task I currently have (besides trying to beat a deadly disease) is explaining to people how or why I’m not depressed or crushed about my condition or prognosis. Sloan (Kettering) gave me the death sentence in October (or November, realistically, of 2012) but hope does funny things to alter words and outlooks, and that’s never phased me. I almost understand exactly what Lou Gehrig meant when he said he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. To know you’ve had an effect on others, advanced their lives, or affected them on a personal level is to be better or do better – that’s more fulfulling than any full lifetime doing anything else on God’s green Earth could ever be.”
Putnam Valley resident and former baseball standout Nick Modico early Friday morning succumbed to his year-and-a-half battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bone or soft tissue.
The 23-year-old is survived by his parents, Ken and Mary Ellen, and was remembered lovingly by family and friends.
“What always stood out about Nick, more so than his intellect and athletic accomplishments, was his zest for life,” said Ryan Tatnell, Modico’s best friend and former teammate at Kennedy. “From the day he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma to the hour before his passing, he never once let anyone feel bad for him, and always sought to keep the conversation upbeat.”
Through Modico’s blog (modico37.blogspot.com), which he started shortly after his original diagnosis in the fall of 2012, his positive spirit and lightheartedness is evident from his first post until his last.
In his most recent post, from Feb. 13, Modico wrote about waking up from a “sweet” nap and consoles his concerned followers by telling them, “I’ll just be enjoying watching the snow fall.”
“We have been able to find some solace in the fact that he let us know that he was ready to go and looked back on his life with nothing but satisfaction,” Tatnell said. “Nick was truly one of a kind. I don’t think there is a place on earth he could have gone where he wasn’t the brightest person in the room.”
Modico was the ace pitcher for Kennedy’s state championship team in 2008, throwing a complete game on just two days’ rest in the title game. He will be laid to rest in his cleats from that game.
He went on to attend Boston College, where he was a student manager for the baseball team and graduated in 2013 with a degree in finance and marketing.
But despite all of his accomplishments, it’s the mark that Modico left on those who he came in contact with that will carry on his legacy.
“He was a warm, caring kid,” Kennedy coach Bob Fletcher said. “Forget baseball. He always had a positive look on life. I’ll tell you, I learned from him, just what he experienced and how he handled it. He wasn’t worried about himself. He was worried about his friends and his family. He really was one of those type of kids. … It’s unfair, but sometimes life is unfair.”
The wake for Modico will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Yorktown Funeral Parlor, with a funeral Mass on Monday at 11:15 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Shrub Oak. His family asks that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative.