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It was quite appropriate that before I made my third trip back to Niagara Falls, New York in six weeks (yes that’s every-other-weekend for those keeping score at home), I ran a 5K.

Of course, the reason I returned home is for my Mother’s church’s picnic, which I attend annually. The 5K, held inside Yankee Stadium, benefitted Damon Runyon for cancer research. For those unaware, my Mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor.

So after a late night at work and only about an hour or so of sleep, I woke up and chugged a coffee before wrapping myself in Yankees Dri-Fit paraphernalia and hopping in an Uber. I made it up to the Bronx in near-record time thanks to the lack-of-traffic on the Westside Highway. The heat I signed up for was 9:50 am.

Overall, the event was fantastic. This was my second Runyon 5K but the feeling of stepping on to the hallowed field of Yankee Stadium was just as exciting as the first time. What made this year’s installment even cooler was that the route brought you around the warning track twice; in 2014 you only were able to run one lap on the field.

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Not as cool: the two trips you make up the steps at Yankee Stadium, from the Great Hall to the 300 level, but we don’t need to dwell on that.

As I ran through the opening in center field and on to the dirt, I began to feel like a little kid agian. I wasn’t trying to hit a certain finish time (although I still finished sub-30 minutes) so I took it all in: the grass, the dugouts, the view from the infield. I stopped to take selfies, posed behind home plate and even “robbed a home-run” out in right field.


Some participate as a part of a team while others raise money individually. I decided not to tell anyone about my decision to run or solicit donations ahead of time for a couple of reasons. First, with the quick turnaround time, I wanted to make sure that I made the race! Second, there are a lot of people and organizations that are constantly trying to raise funds, and I just didn’t feel comfortable asking for any money.

With that said, I still felt that it was important to participate and share my experience. Events like these are critical to nonprofit organizations, and hopefully this can serve as an example that not donating or raising money isn’t an excuse to sit on the sidelines.

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Or perhaps better stated for this story, in the dugout.

I’m just wrapping up a rare six day, summer vacation back home in Niagara Falls. It is unusual that I’m home for six days, period and especially so before the middle of July. But, it’s not every year that I not only have the opportunity to stand in a wedding, but serve as the best man. I had the pleasure of doing just that on Saturday, as my best friend Anthony married his fiancé Vincenza.
Especially lately, it seems that every time I return home I am just showered with well-wishes. I can’t really put in to words how much this means to me. From longtime friends and family to friends of family and complete strangers – I’m constantly approached by people who offer words of congratulations and encouragement. To be honest, it’s a little awkward for me at times because I really don’t allow myself to think that I’ve accomplished anything, and there are still so many feats I want to tackle in my career. Regardless, I am certainly in the process of living out my dream in the world’s greatest city, and I am so appreciative of the support I receive from back home. I am proud to be a Niagara Falls, New York native and I will never forget where I came from.

Back to this past week – certainly the wedding provided a number of unforgettable moments. I wrote a little note about it on Facebook, which you can read below. A big congrats to my big bro Anth, and welcome to the family Vincenza!

I just realized that this post isn’t as super-belated as I initially though; I ate birthday cake about a week ago.

My actual birthday was on June 6 and regardless of my Mom celebrating in late fashion with both my sister (June 14) and Uncle Dave (this past Wednesday), I still felt compelled to at some point write a “thank you” for everyone who both sent their well-wishes and/or joined in on the fun in person.

So I turned 21… on June 6, 2006. I was still attending Syracuse University that summer and working in the city. My cousin and best friend Anthony (who ties the knot next weekend) was in law school at St. John’s. My Dad and my buddy Vinnie drove from Niagara Falls to Syracuse, where on midnight we threw back a few celebratory shots at Chuck’s (hashtag never forget). You should’ve seen the bartender’s face when she realized that for the past year that she had served me, I wasn’t of age. Whoops!

The next day we drove to Bayside, met up with Anthony and headed over to the Bronx. The Yankees beat the Red Sox 2-1 thanks in part to Melky Cabrera robbing Manny Ramirez of a home-run.


Now 11 years later, the Yankees were in the Bronx, playing the Red Sox. A friend-of-the-show, Eric, has season tickets and invited me to go to the game with him. Of course I obliged, and despite a much different outcome, was happy that I spent at least part of my birthday at the Stadium.


The celebrations continued Saturday, where I headed back to the Stadium with my friend Riana, John Foxx and his better half. The outcome was much more favorable as the Yankees went home-run derby on the Orioles. I watched the last few innings back in my neighborhood, chowing down on hibachi with my friends Ryan and Gina.

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With me in town the weekend after my sister’s birthday for my cousin Anthony’s stag, my Mom thought it would be a nice idea to have a little cake that celebrated quite a bit, none-the-more-evident than by simply looking at it.

Since leaving Niagara Falls, New York for Syracuse University in 2003, I haven’t spent Mother’s Day with my Mom often. The 2007 SU commencement was on that Sunday in May and I can remember at least one other time when my Mom visited me but otherwise, I’ve been away from the family. It was mostly a byproduct of the job; the only holiday you’re really guaranteed to have off in radio is Christmas. The fact that pretty much my entire family, sister included, are still back in Niagara Falls also factors in to it.

But on the flip side, it makes a Mother’s Day spent with Rachele that much more special because I certainly don’t take it for granted. And so you can imagine my joy that this year, as the Yankees readied to retire Derek Jeter’s number on May 14, my Mom floated the idea of coming to the city for it. While my Mom isn’t a huge baseball fan, she does root for the Yankees and likes getting to at least a game a year in the Bronx.

She, like many of us, also loves Derek. When we visited New York for my first time in 1998, my Mom was the one who overheard a worker at Niketown talking about Jeter. Minutes later I was standing in front of the shortstop and shortly thereafter, thanks to my Mom, this photo was taken.

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And so my Mom and sister Raquela flew down Saturday morning in to a rainy Manhattan where they shopped, napped and then met me for dinner at Dafni’s on 42nd. They love staying in Times Square (I’ve stopped fighting it) and have eaten at this Greek restaurant before; after our meal, I would sign up for a return visit.

That night, the two of them walked up a few blocks to see Josh Groban in “The Great Comet” (Rachele gave it high marks). The next day, we grabbed a nice early Italian dinner at Pomodoro Rosso on the Upper West Side. This quaint red-and-white tablecloth restaurant served generous portions for a moderate price. We left with full stomachs and walked to the C train so we could transfer to the D at 125 and end up at 161st and River.

Once we got inside the ballpark and made it to our seats, I ran back downstairs to spend too much money on hats, shirts, pins and programs marking Jeter’s (second) Day at Yankee Stadium. I made it back to our Jim Beam Suite seats in time for the start of the ceremony, which in typical Yankee fashion was a fantastic stroll down memory lane.

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Ironically the most forgettable part of the trip was the game itself; the Astros jumped out to an early 8-0 lead after the first few innings. But the score didn’t matter; my Mom enjoyed herself so to me, it was a winning weekend.

A few weeks ago while I was in Los Angeles for The GRAMMYs, I received a Facebook message from Mary Friona. She is from my hometown of Niagara Falls and was a reporter at the NBC affiliate in Buffalo, WGRZ. Mary now runs a website called “Totally Buffalo” which features people, places and events throughout Western New York. She occasionally will interview someone who works in or hails from the area and holds a unique job; I was honored when she reached out to see if I would participate.

There are definitely a few “frequently asked questions” in this one (people almost always inquire when first meeting me about my favorite and least-favorite interview) but there are also a few stories that I rarely-if-ever tell. Check out the post here!

I rang in the New Year in Times Square. Just two nights later, my Father and I stepped on to the ice after the Sabres beat the Rangers inside Madison Square Garden.

Yeah 2017 is off to a pretty solid start.

So one of my Dad’s good friends from back home in Niagara Falls is this guy named Ron DeFazio. Ron is a little older than Ralph Sr. and the owner of my Dad’s go-to watering hole, a venerable spot called Stadium Grill on Hyde Park Boulevard. Now even though he lives and works in Western New York, Mr. D is a life-long New York Rangers fan.

And he’s never been to Madison Square Garden. Period. Not even for a non-hockey event.

A few months ago, my Dad and his buddies were at the bar and they decided that it was time for Mr. D to see the Blueshirts on Broadway, especially with Ralph Jr. (me) working literally above MSG.


I made a few calls and scored us tickets to see the Rangers, who conveniently enough were playing the Sabres on January 3. The men booked their travel accommodations and those few months passed in seemingly a few days; next thing you know I’m hanging out with my Dad, my cousin Mike Hooper, Paul Parise and Mr. D inside Smith’s in Hell’s Kitchen. We did a bit of bar-hopping on Monday night with stops at Rudy’s and Jimmy’s Corner. Then on Tuesday, we started off the evening with happy hour at the Oyster Bar followed by a beer at Stout, a tour of the radio station and then a trip downstairs to The World’s Most Famous Arena.


Thanks to my friends at MSG Networks we were able to get Mr. D’s name on Gardenvision during the first period. Then my friend Nicole hooked up this once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity after the game.

The Sabres ended up beating the Rangers to Mr. D’s chagrin but regardless, it turned out to be a trip that none of us will ever forget.

Took me what, almost 10 years? But I finally figured it out. When I return home to visit family in Western New York for Christmas, I should stick around for about four nights.

Here was my issue in years past: I would only visit my parents back in Niagara Falls about three times a year. Also, I would usually end up with a ton of vacation to use before the end of the year otherwise it would be lost. So between not wanting to give up too much of my free days (I would inevitably lose some anyways) and falling victim to my mother’s guilt trip, I would stay home around Christmas for close to a week.

And by the sixth or seventh day, I would end up singing the same tune: next year, I can’t stay home for this long. I love my family but hanging out back in the house I grew up in just makes me a bit stir-crazy.

So this year I switched it up. First, I spread out my remaining vacation days over the final month-and-a-half of the year to ensure that I wouldn’t lose any. This also gave me a bunch of long weekends and quite frankly, one of my most enjoyable holiday seasons in recent memory. Then, I scheduled my trip to WNY around Christmas but made sure to just give myself enough time to see my family and attend an extra event or two, nothing more.

Mission accomplished. Saw all of my family plus a bunch of my friends, attended a few holiday parties, visited Orchard Park to watch my Bills lose to the Dolphins (don’t get me started) and drank a few Labatt Blue Lights in the process.

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Other food highlights included my favorite meal of the year: Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Seven Fishes and a final night pit-stop to GoodFellas’s in Niagara Falls for my favorite pizza and wings.

Of course the most important part of the trip was my time at home. Almost as enjoyable was leaving Niagara Falls and not thinking that next year I should spend any less time there.

The week of Thanksgiving has turned in to one of my favorite times of the year. It starts in Los Angeles, covering the American Music Awards. A trip to In-N-Out Burger and red-eye flight later, I’m back east and for the next two days, my show airs at its normal time. Then Thursday morning, I’m up at 6 am so I can shower, grab a hot chocolate and walk over to the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I stay on the parade route until Santa passes me, which is usually about 10 am. Then I head back to my apartment, edit all of the celebrity interviews and videos I recorded from the morning and begin to figure out what the rest of my evening looks like.


Clearly, this week isn’t busy enough, so this year I added a new wrinkle: after the parade, I was going to fly home to Niagara Falls to see my family for Thanksgiving. It would be the first time in nine years that I was eating turkey in Western New York for the holiday.

This wasn’t my idea; my Mom was adamant on me returning home for the holiday. I think part of the reason is because she felt bad that for the first time in three years she and/or the rest of my squad wasn’t trekking to New York for Thanksgiving.


Back to my now-crazier day: I settled back in to my apartment and started to edit, (temporarily) wrapped at 11, finished packing at 11:30 and called a car to take me to LaGuardia.

There would be no editing at 30,000 feet because our Wifi wasn’t working. But there was this!


My sister picked me up from Buffalo-Niagara International Airport and drove me home. I spent the rest of the evening (sans a break for turkey) finishing the social media updates and editing necessary for both 95.5 PLJ and our sister station, NASH FM 94.7. A coffee and amaretto or three later and I was done for the night.

On Friday I slept in before running 5 miles through my old neighborhood and linking up with my cousin Anthony for some drinks and leftover antipasto at my house. Then I headed down to Buffalo, where I met some old high school friends at a spot called Buffalo Proper. It’s a dimly-lit cocktail lounge with a full kitchen and pretty fantastic vibe. I would recommend the Tatanka and this, the Smoke Break, served on an ash tray.


The trip home was a quick one, as I flew out Saturday morning because I wanted to catch Syracuse play South Carolina at Barclays Center, a game they would lose. But with friends in town for the weekend, I ended up having a fun Saturday night (slash Sunday morning) out, along with a solid Football Sunday that saw my Bills notch a win.

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And then, in a new Thanksgiving week tradition (because it’s the second year it happened), my Christmas tree went up.


After all, I clearly didn’t have enough going on this week.

Fresh off of raising $40,000 for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation by running the New York City Marathon, Will Reeve stopped by to chat with me about his new show on MSG and growing up as the son of “Superman” and a die-hard New York Rangers Fan.
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“The MSG Hockey Show” premieres Friday at 10:30 pm, after the Rangers game, on MSG.

Friend-of-the-show Marc Scibilia stopped by to talk about the endless tour he’s on with some amazing tourmates, from Gavin DeGraw and Andy Grammer to Michael Franti and Jon McLaughlin. Scibilia also talked about working with Jacob Whitesides and preparing to record new music later this year.
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