SoccerSam(left) and the Lancers’ team mascot, Lancer Louie. (Photo courtesy of the Rochester Lancers)
On Friday night, the Rochester Lancers will honor 20 special people who have made a difference in the indoor team.
At halftime of the game against the Baltimore Blast, they will be inducted into the Lancers Wall of Fame at the Dome Arena in Henrietta, N.Y.
There is one name missing from the Wall of Fame:
Team owner Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo.
Since he made the list of 20 inductees, Fantauzzo wasn’t going to tell his trusted lieutenants about it. Yet, he has made the Lancers possible since 2011.
We decided to ask many of the inductees what they thought of the man known to the Rochester soccer community as SoccerSam. Some of the inductees started to cry, others got choked up.
Two words that kept on being mentioned by the inductees were passion and family. SoccerSam is not just the owner of the club, he is the patriarch.
And there’s a lot more, so just read on:
John Berardicurti, assistant coach
In one of the interviews, Marc Sotile said the same thing. I said, why isn’t Sam being inducted? Sam has done it not for just the game of soccer on the field, but off the field. It just keeps me going to see a man who has so much passion about something and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep it going and keep it alive, not just in Rochester, but around the country. Just been an inspiration to me to continue to do what I need to do to be part of this organization. He doesn’t ask us to do anything he wouldn’t do. I just feel like I have to continue to work for this guy. It’s family and you don’t let family down no matter what goes on. We stay together and work together. When we went to the finals in California. I turned 69 the day we were going to be in the final. He had a huge party for me. He makes it that you’re part of a family here. There’s just a passion I can’t describe. I tell the players, “how can you not want to do something for this guy? How can you not sit here, but help him? How you can you not want to give everything you want to give because that’s what he does?” He gives every ounce of energy he has and the passion; he way he talks to us. When you’re around him, you believe almost you can accomplish anything.
Andrew Battisti, team historian
In ’98, I was part of a station for a long time. For whatever reason, they no longer wanted my services, so I was out of radio for a short time. As it turned out, I got into the wrestling show on WHTK and Sam obviously was on that show, a certain character that shall remain nameless. I talked to Sam about my background in soccer and what I had done and so he got me back into radio. I wouldn’t doing “Soccer is Kick in the Grass” right now if I hadn’t gotten back involved with radio in the late ’90s. I am forever grateful to Sam for that. I wouldn’t have done broadcasting play by play for the Rhinos, the Western New York Flash or the Lancers if that hadn’t happened. It was doing the radio show, doing both shows. I have been a part of both shows periodically on Sam’s show. I am passionate about radio, I love radio, been doing it since high school. Sam gave me a chance to get back into it again. I didn’t think it was ever going to happen. So, I am forever grateful for that.
Gary Boughton, Lancers player
Sam has been such a linchpin in the soccer community, in Rochester in general. The support that he gives to the sport and the selflessness that comes with his investment and his time financially, just to make people happy through the game of soccer is incredible. He’s a guy that gave me my first opportunity as an indoor player. He’s a guy that has supported me all the way through. He’s treated me like one of his sons at times. Without him, none of it would have been possible, not only for me, so many other guys who have been fortunate enough to wear the uniform and understand what it means. We talk in the locker room like to go out and take pride in the uniform and the crest and what it means. One of the big things the Lancers crest symbolizes is SoccerSam. So, I go out there every time and just try to work as hard as I can because I know all of the hard work that he’s put into this for me to have an opportunity like I’ve had. I’m just incredibly grateful for that. I don’t know if I’ll be able to repay him for it other than working as hard as I can every single time I put the uniform on.
Sam has just been an incredible owner. You can’t ask for a better owner in sports. He takes care of his players. He lets his coaches coach. He puts his front office staff in positions for them to be successful and for them to grow. The Lancers are a family and Sam’s the patriarch.
Jeff Calkins, Dome Arena general manager, who has worked with Sam since he was at the Blue Cross Arena:
When Calkins became GM, “one of my first conversations was with SoccerSam. That was one of my first events. It was good to be reunited with Sam and the team. It was nice. It was a great relationship ever since the beginning. He made me feel at home. It was a nice reunion.”
Calkins has liked the family Sam has created with the Lancers, which makes his job easier:
You work with a great group of people, a lot of dedicated people, especially in Sam’s team, the people that surround him. It’s a very loyal, a very dedicated group. It’s fun to work with. I appreciate the opportunity work with them.
Tim Crawford, Lancers player
I mean, when you think of soccer in Rochester, that’s SoccerSam, what he’s done for soccer in this community and all over the country, especially the MASL. The most selfless person I’ve ever met in my life. It’s crazy the amount he gives to us and to everyone else. Soccer just means everything to him. When he comes to our practices, he speaks to us. He doesn’t talk tactics or anything like that. He just talks passion, passion about everything he does. Every time you talk to him, he’s so positive. I can’t say enough good things about him. I appreciate so much what he does for our team and does for me in particular. I can’t thank him enough. Every time I see him I have to go shake his hands and say thank you. He’s a huge person in this community and none of us would be playing soccer the way we are without him. So, I have all to give to give to thank for that.
Dave DiPasquale, head trainer
Oh man, I could cry right now. I’ve known him when he first opened his pizza business, before the Rhinos, before all that. Sam has been great to me. He’s backed me up. Not too many people know, this, but back in the day, when Sam just got aboard the Rhinos organization, they weren’t paying me very well, but I was doing it for the passion of the game and just loving the sport and being a trainer. Jobs weren’t about money to me. If I really enjoyed what I did, it was my success. I also had to make a living with three kids, a wife and a house. I kept asking for a raise. “No, we can’t give you any we don’t have any money.” So, I basically resigned. Sam found out about that and he came up to me: “Are you really leaving?” And I said, “Yeah, at the end of the year I’m done. I can’t work for this kind of money. Sam said, “Here’s a piece of paper, write how much money you need to stay here because we want you to stay.” I did and Sam got me my money and that’s how I continued to stay for so long. I can’t say how wonderful he has been to me and how positive he has been in my career. He’s amazing. I’m grateful that he’s in my life because he makes you feel good. He appreciates you. He treats you like a real person, not like some guy who is working for you. He’s looking out for you. He makes you feel like family and that you belong.
Elliot Fauske, former player
Just an absolute driven person. I don’t think people realize how much he does behind the scenes to help individuals or clubs. He always put others forward, whether it’s giving publicity to their brand or even financially or a real team player to try to make the sport grow and specifically now indoor soccer. He has found a new passion for that.
Joe Giuliano, TV announcer
He’s such a giving, caring person. He loves the game. He loves the people that contribute to the game. Maybe we can do something special on the side for him, honor him some way, somehow. He deserves it. The guy’s one in a million. He was my biggest fan since day one and I wouldn’t know honestly how to repay this guy. He’s done so much for me. I wouldn’t know where to begin. He’s such a sensational person.
Sean Hantes, player
Oh my gosh, Rochester soccer, Rochester as a city. Je has these businesses, franchises. He helps people. He gives people jobs. He’s such an amazing person. You would think: this guy who’s so successful, ah, you know, he’s probably some jerk. But he’s so down to earth, he’s so wonderful to talk to. He’s done so much for people already, what he’s starting again and what he’s starting now. I mean, this could be something that could last for generations to come. and he’s starting that right now. And just for him to think of me to help them put that in place is like I’m so honored. I really am.
Lyndsay DiMeo Houghton, field director
Sam literally is the person who has taught me everything I know and is the reason why I am today professionally. He is the reason why my work ethic exceeds expectations wherever I work. You don’t see many people who work as hard as me Ashley, and Kayla because of Sam. He taught us, work hard, play hard, get the job done no matter what it makes. We started very early learning that. We were all in our young 20s and fresh out of college. He taught me about work ethic, how to be professional. I owe him everything for that. He pushed me to the limit. In return I have a team that worked for me and I use that same type of teaching that he taught me. They came to me and say, “If you weren’t the boss that you were, I wouldn’t have this job today.” So, I’m literally passing it forward. I don’t know where I would be without him.
Kayla Kent-Moreira, Director of Operations
Sam is like a dad to me. I lost my dad a year and half ago. He’s like a grandpa for my daughter. He’s my go to for everything. When we always talk about Lancers family, it’s so true. He’s the glue that holds it all together. What he does for the game, he’s just such a special person. As [former Rhinos general manager] Chris Economides said when we played Florida, if every city had a SoccerSam, the world of soccer would be in such a better place. It’s so true. He doesn’t need to do what he does for soccer. He’s doing it in hopes these young kids fall in love with the game like he did. He’s not just my boss. He’s a special person in my life and my family’s life. My husband always says, “If I ever win the lottery, I would bring all the best players and best coaches to the Lancers and we would win a championship so SoccerSam could get his championship belt”. I truly feel beyond blessed that my first job was to work for SoccerSam. I didn’t know him at all because I didn’t grow up in Rochester. I had no idea of who I was going to work for. Then I meet this guy. My second interview, he makes fun of one of my tattoos I have and I put him in his place. He thinks then, “I have to hire this girl because she’s not afraid to speak up.” We always talk about that and laugh. I came into it having no clue who he was and I found this man who was so passionate about the game that I loved too. He’s special for what he does for so many people and for the game of soccer, it’s amazing. I just feel blessed that I’ve worked for him now for almost six years. It’s pretty cool and special to be able to learn from him.
Ashley King, President of Operations
Sam is amazing at showing appreciation and respect to those who are loyal to him. Kayla and I have Sam’s back, and he knows it. We are like a family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sam likes to stay in the shadows, he never likes to boast of himself because he doesn’t want to seem like he is bragging. So, I will brag on behalf of him.
HE IS THE HARDEST WORKING INDIVIDUAL I HAVE EVER KNOWN. He is my mentor. Sam started Salvatore’s Pizza as a high school project in 1978, and it has successfully grown into a brand that has provided jobs and opportunity for THOUSANDS of people in the Rochester area over the past 41 years. He brought back the Lancers franchise to Rochester, not once – but multiple times: through the indoor Lancers at the Blue Cross Arena, Outdoor Lancers, and now the Indoor Lancers at the Dome Arena. He brought back Women’s Soccer to Rochester with the Lady Lancers. Understanding his success story inspires me, as a young business professional, to work hard and dream big. Not many know this, but he struggles from memory loss from a past health complication, and instead of letting it become an obstacle, he uses it as an opportunity to learn and grow. He has more passion and works harder than any individual I have ever met, in all aspects of life. I am constantly begging him to SLOW DOWN! He will not quit until every Rochestarian has experienced the perfect pizza and has attended and enjoyed a Lancers game. Working under Sam’s guidance has made me the professional that I am today, and I will forever be grateful. His constant encouragement and drive have pushed me past my personal limitations of anxiety and has helped me become a more confident and individual. I went from a shy girl not able to talk in front of a classroom, to standing in the middle of a field with a mic shouting at 3,000 people. I owe this to him, he has prepared me for every challenge in life, and supports me every step of the way. I admire his creativity, his endless energy, his business intellect, and his pizza and soccer passion. It is a privilege to work for him, to learn from him, and to know him. Rochester is lucky he calls this place home, and I feel honored to call him my friend.
Michael Lewis, sportswriter
I met Sam back in 1996, when he had a soccer-themed restaurant in Webster, if my memory serves. I thought it was the coolest thing. Looking back at it, it was ahead of its time. In many respects, Sam reminds me of Peter Collins, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and the president of the Long Island Junior Soccer League for a generation or so. Peter had the uncanny ability of finding the right people for the right positions in the league. Sam is the same way with whatever projects he has undertaken, whether it’s selling pizza, soccer or whatever. People have thrived under him. I have rarely said this about an owner of a soccer team or a sports team, I am proud to call him my friend.
Kyle Manscuk, former Lancers player who is the team’s physician’s assistant
I don’t think there’s any words to really give it just what his contribution has been if it wasn’t for him singlehandedly bringing back the Lancers. Granted, he has had tons of help. He’s spearheaded so many [things], whether its organizations or keeping the radio show on, keeping all the media attention on us. He’s truly a special person. It’s an honor to be associated with the Lancers. Being a friend to Sam its truly something I’ll cherish forever. I keep thanking him every single day, but he’s just like, “No, thank you.” He’s that type of person. He’s a stand-up person and if there is one person who should be on the Wall of fame, and it’s like everyone’s saying, its him. But he’ll be the last to admit it. And that just shows you how an amazing person he really is.
Doug Miller, Head Coach
If you think soccer in Rochester, you have to think of SoccerSam. He’s been the catalyst who’s driving it, whether it be the TV screen, behind the radio advertisements, in his company with Salvatores. He has brought so many players to Rochester, like myself and others that are on that list that gave us the opportunities to educate, motivate, inspire and most importantly, entertain. SoccerSam is the real deal when it comes to entertaining and professionalism. He puts the best product on the field, no matter what.
Kari Miller, Choreographer and coach, Lancer Dancers
We love Sam. I met him through soccer, through Doug. He also was in our wedding, so he has been a close part of our family for many years. He’s treated our girls like family all the time. He and Linda have been amazing through everything. He and Doug have this relationship, friendship, not just a working relationship. They’ve had this bond for so many ongoing years. I think it’s rare and great. So, we’re very blessed to have him in our lives and appreciative for what he’s done for soccer and the dance team.
Jeremy Ortiz, Lancers player
Wow, how much time how you got? Sam has been monumental. His name is synonymous with Rochester soccer. If anything besides Doug, put those two in the Wall of Fame. He can take my spot. I think that obviously Sam has been a soccer icon for Rochester, promoting the game, not just the Rochester Lancers, but all over; the Rhinos, the women’s team. He’s all about putting smiles on people’s faces, bringing the entertainment, bringing the energy. That’s always what Sam has been about. I think without his influence, Rochester soccer wouldn’t be where it is today. Hopefully down the road, the Lancers stick around for indoor and outdoor and Sam is still a part of it. Without Sam, I don’t think soccer would be as big as it is in Rochester. He is definitely a big part of the Rochester soccer history, from the past, the present and the future.
Rocky Perrotta, Public Address announcer
Sam is just amazing. I knew his brother Chuck many, many years ago. We kind of hung around with the same circle of friends. I didn’t know Sam until the Rhinos came along. As good a guy there is. Love him like a brother. My wife and I both feel Sam is part of the family. He’ll do anything for anybody. My dad back in the day sold programs at the soccer games in the early days at Frontier Field and the new stadium. Sam and my father had a great relationship. When my dad passed away, Sam donated all the food for the luncheon. And this is how Sam is. You’re not going to find somebody as good as Sam. It’s so hard. There are not people like Sam anymore. He’s that old school guy and that’s the beautiful thing about him. He’s like our area’s modern-day PT Barnum. He’s the ultimate promoter. He could teach a class on how to do that because he has the knowledge. He has the passion. He built a pizza empire from a high school project. He’s driven. That might be the best word to describe Sam. Je’s also loved and its reciprocated. That means a lot to us.
Jill Rizzo, TV producer
You know, Sam honestly has been like a dad to me. He really took care of me. My parents aren’t here, and they were in Buffalo when I lived here. I was just a 20-something-old kid who lived on my own. So, he really took care of me. He looked out for me. I would only do this for him. He was there for me a lot. So, anything he ever needs, I’m always there for him because he was always there for me. The first year the Lancers were back I was nine months pregnant with my little guy, so Sam made sure that I had enough interns on what I needed to do because he didn’t want me to get tired or on my feet. He made sure I had a chair there to sit when my feet hurt. It’s typical family. He was taking care of me because I was helping him.
Marc Sotile, former player and now assistant coach
Well, I’ve known Sam forever. He’s meant everything in Rochester for the sport. I’ve played against him in Irondequoit fall leagues. He’s a great guy. For what he’s done for Rochester and for what he brings to the table, is incredible. Our games at the Dome Arena are unbelievable events. It’s so fan friendly. It’s great for the families. I’ve played with these guys since 2011, so I know what it’s all about. These young kids who are playing now, he’s given them the opportunity to do something great. You can’t get that from anywhere else. Everybody else is paying players from Brazil, this that and the other thing. These are all Rochester guys who are getting the opportunity to either do something great here or he will find a team for them somewhere else to be great at. That’s incredible.