By Laura Amato
Former Bayside softball coach Stephen Piorkowski spent most of his time at the corner of 204th Street and 32nd Avenue. So, it only makes sense that he spend the rest of time there as well.
Piorkowski—who died in 2015 after a three-year battle with cancer—was honored last Friday morning as the intersection, just a few feet away from the dugout he spent so much time in, was renamed in his honor.
“It solidifies and validates all the hard work Stephen had done,” said Susan Hayes, Piorkowski’s wife. “And it shows the tremendous impact he had on the students and how they felt about him and all the things they’d given to him. It just solidified that none of that was in vain and it didn’t go unnoticed.”
Piorkowski coached at Bayside for 23 years and—even after his diagnosis—spent as much time with his teams as possible. It was simply who he was. He cared about his team and, even after Piorkwoski’s passing, his teams continued to care about him.
In addition to Hayes, Piorkowski’s daughter Katherine and her NYU softball teammates were in attendance for the ceremony, as were plenty of his former Lady Commodores players.
“For my sister and thousands of women, he taught them all to be leaders,” said Matthew Silverstein, the Democratic state committeeman, 26th AD. “He taught them to be athletes and stay in school and get good grades. He was exactly what you’d want in our community and as one of our teachers. Now for eternity, you’ll look up and his name will be on the block.”
Silverstein was instrumental in bringing about the street rename, approaching Hayes just a few weeks after Piorkowski’s death. As far as he was concerned, it only made sense to honor the coach in the most visible way possible.
“For me, it’s why you go into politics,” Silverstein said. “There’s no one more deserving than Steve. Steve was Bayside and if you ever needed to find him, he was probably on this block. Now he will be again.”
Hayes, for her part, was confident the renaming would occur, but didn’t want to get her hopes up too high. After all, there was a process to go through and a waiting game to play and she didn’t want to be disappointed if things didn’t go according to plan.
That potential disappointment all but disappeared as soon as the brand-new street sign—reading Stephen Piorkowski Way—was unveiled.
“The only doubt was in the event that somebody would block it,” Hayes said. “I couldn’t see any reason why they would, but I didn’t want to be so confident that it would just go through. It was out of my control. But I was certainly hopeful and I was happy to see it happen.”
Piorkowski, who was also a physical education teacher at Bayside, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January 2012 when a malignant tumor was found eating away at the bone marrow in his vertebrae. But despite the diagnosis and the incredible battle he staged, Piorkowski never lost his spark.
And, most importantly, he never lost the love of the game. Now, the game will never lose him either, his name on the corner serving as a reminder of everything he gave to Bayside and the community that cheers for every hit and every strikeout.
“He probably would have been mad at me [for this], but if he had a game going on, he’d have been even more focused on that. He’d have been like, ‘Enough of this BS, let’s go play,’” Silverstein said. “He was there for everyone. He was a good guy and he’s greatly missed.”