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Jul 31, 2018 7:07 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

An Unlikely Duo Brought Together By the Westhampton Aviators

Nick Cantone, left, with host family Richard and Carolyn Hook and Aviator teammate Curtis Robison.  DANIELA DETORE
Aug 1, 2018 11:57 AM

A small-town country boy and an extroverted city dweller can make for an unlikely duo.Unless a common interest unites them.

That’s certainly true for Curtis Robison, 19, of Pennsylvania State University and Nick Cantone, 19, of Marist College, who made their presence in the Hamptons known this summer through the Hampton’s Collegiate Baseball League, as teammates on the Westhampton Aviators squad. In addition to their performances, they were roommates with host family Richard and Carolyn Hook in Hampton Bays.

“They’re polar opposites but seem to be best friends on the baseball field,” said Westhampton Aviators head coach Charlie Barbieri. “They’re the new-age Odd Couple.

“People want to be around [Robison] because he’s that natural born leader, even though it’s by example, or that quiet leader,” Barbieri said.

From a small town called Dillsburg, in Pennsylvania, Robison is a 6-foot-2-inch lefty slugger. He took the league by storm punching 11 home runs in 41 games with a .374 batting average, knocking in 33 RBIs. Robison was runner up in the annual HCBL Homerun Derby and voted one of summer 2018’s Top Prospects. Earning the reputation of being a five-tool player, he has been a staple in the Aviators offense and defense, finding a home in right field quickly.

“People are drawn to him because he is a presence,” said Barbieri.

Cantone has a certain magnetism as well, according to the coach, but it plays out in a different way.

“[Cantone] is that vocal leader,” Barbieri said. “[Cantone] has that ‘it’ factor.”

Cantone, from the city of Mahwah, New Jersey, is a two-way player for the Aviators. As a pitcher, he posted an ERA of 2.74, and at the plate, had a batting average of .218 during the HCBL season. He began the season in center field, ironically next to Robison. Very hesitantly, Barbieri removed him from the outfield and gave him his first start on the mound.

“He was a game changer for us out on the mound,” said Barbieri. “He’s been a huge addition to our pitching staff.”

Barbieri said Cantone may be the most athletic guy on the team due to his ability to hit, run, play the field and pitch. Aside from his undeniable versatility, Cantone has a natural niche for competing.

“[Cantone] is just like the ultimate competitor,” said Barbieri. He continued to say that the days where Cantone is set to make an appearance on the mound he is poised and locked in.

“As much as baseball is a team game, it’s won by individual events,” Cantone said. “Pitching is the biggest way of having that individual event.”

When Robison and Cantone aren’t playing baseball they are most likely together. Ms. Hook notes that many host families and Aviators were surprised that the duo did not know each other prior to the summer because of how well they interact with each other. At the mention of their relationship, everyone cannot help but crack a smile, especially Mr. and Ms. Hook.

“Curtis is a real hometown, family, country boy,” said Ms. Hook.

“And then there’s ‘pretty boy,’” Mr. Hook laughed. “Our little Jersey boy, he’s a good boy. He plans the night activities.”

During the day, Robison will water plants and Cantone will take the Hook family dog, Sarah, for a walk. The family will gather at the dinner table for a family meal every night, or Sunday morning family breakfast and talk about their days, or days ahead. Ms. Hook said that family mealtime is something she instilled in her two sons growing up, so it only seemed right that she treats Robison and Cantone the same.

After family dinner, Mr. Hook said that is when Cantone comes alive.

Like clockwork, as Robison disciplines the day for the duo, filling it with working out, baseball, laundry etc., Cantone takes the wheel for the night activities.

“I think it’s a good mix for both of us,” Cantone said of his and Robison’s dynamic. “He tames me and I bring out a side of [Robison] that he’s probably never seen before.”

The two will head to the beach for a sunset, the gym, hang out with friends, new or old, and create memories that they do not hesitate to admit, will last a lifetime. However much fun the two have, they both agree they are here for one thing—baseball.

Robison and Cantone’s best display of their legacy with the Westhampton Aviators came on July 14, when they traveled to the North Fork to play the Ospreys. With Cantone on the mound, the Ospreys hit the ground running in the first inning scoring five unearned runs. Barbieri noted that Cantone did what he does best and that is locking in and competing.

Cantone didn't allow a run, earned or unearned, the rest of the game, and he struck out 10.

“He just stayed so mentally focused and kept his cool,” he said.

The Aviators still had a deficit to make up, though, and slowly they chipped at it, run-by-run, inning-by-inning. Eventually, Westhampton took the lead on a double by Michael Amandola (Farmingdale State) that scored Tristan Welch (Louisiana State-Eunice) in the eighth inning.

The Ospreys threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth with a runner in scoring position. A base hit to right field that found the gap could have been a hit that sent the game into extra innings, but Robison made a tough play to preserve the win.

“When I’m pitching and have David Hogarth at third and Curtis Robison in right field, I have trust.” Cantone said.

This past Saturday, the Aviators lost the third and deciding game of the HCBL semifinal series, ending their season, leaving about a month for the players to return home after nine weeks of being on the East End. It'll be more baseball for Cantone, though. He was picked up by the Valley Blue Socks in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He will be competing in their postseason in Massachusetts.

“To throw 20 guys that know nothing about each other onto a field with one practice and ask them to win a championship is crazy, it’s actually insane,” said Cantone. “But the Westhampton Aviators took it a step further. We are actually brothers.”

Cantone said that the 21 guys on the Westhampton Aviators will end up being his favorite memory when he leaves Long Island. Robison said that the relationship he built with Cantone will be ever lasting.

“Out of all the summer ball that I played growing up, there’s something about Long Island that’s a little different than anywhere else I’ve played,” he said.

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