According to those who knew him, Matt Sinopoli had already spent much of his 24 years offering whatever help he could to others and enjoying himself while doing it. The former Rumson-Fair Haven baseball player and 2011 graduate planned to do a lot more of that during the rest of his life, and learning of a tumor in his brain didn’t change that outlook.

Although his resolved remained strong, his body did not and, tragically, Sinopoli lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday at the all-too-young age of 24.

Sinopoli was diagnosed with a brain tumor a little more than a year ago, according to Rumson head baseball coach Kevin James. He went into remission after his first round of treatment, but the cancer eventually returned and spread over the past few months.

As the Rumson community mourns for a young man affectionately known as “Snotty” to many of those close to him, below are some thoughts on Sinopoli from those who knew him on the field and away from it.

Matt Sinopoli (far right). (Photo provided by Kevin James)

Kevin Ryan is the father of Liam Ryan, who played with Sinopoli at Rumson and was a close friend. Ryan’s thoughts were posted on his Facebook page and included the following quote from a personal statement that Sinopoli crafted while he, with Ryan’s help, applied to law school.

“The experience of fighting cancer over the last year has transformed me. It has provided me with increased focus, self-confidence and mental endurance…But most of all, I have learned to question what we think we know about ourselves and others…I see know that my cancer, my enemy, can also be my teacher, nothing in life is as simple as I thought it was a year ago. I can see both sides now, and that, in the end, has given me the heart of an advocate.”

Kevin Ryan on Sinopoli:

“He was passionate, funny, eager for life, devoted to his family, and blessed with an exceptional talent for friendship that drew people to him. He jammed a lifetime of learning into this last year. I wish so very much he’d been given length of years to share with the planet all he’d learned.”

 

James coached Sinopoli at Rumson.

“He was an incredible young man. Team captain – a true inspirational leader.”

“He volunteered for all of the Little League teams. He would leave our practices and go to the practice of any team that needed help. He loved baseball. He was the coach of our RFH fall teams.”

“He made everyone smile and challenged everyone to be a better teammate and friend. He made you a better person.  This is truly tragic.”

Matt Sinopoli (back row, first from the left) with Rumson's summer team. (Photo provided by Kevin James)

Jon Reynolds is the former head varsity soccer coach at Rumson and coached Sinopoli as a freshman in the baseball program.

“He was a left-hander and he had the dirtiest pickoff move. I remember one game when he was a freshman, he picked off like five kids at first base until they just stopped taking leads. Guys were literally just standing on the base because he was making them look stupid.”

“When you are involved in team sports over a period of time, there are players and coaches who you might forget or not remember as much about. Matt was the opposite. It wasn’t hard to remember him because he was the kind of kid and the kind of person that made a positive impact on the people that knew him.”

“I work in the building and I didn’t know what he was going through until recently. I don’t think it was very public. Outside of the people closest to him, I think it caught a lot of people by surprise.”

Matt Sinopoli (Photo provided by Kevin James)

Tim Kelly coaches the 9ers Baseball Club and coaches a fall team based out of Howell that Sinopoli and several of his Rumson teammates played for.

“He was always impeccably dressed. He always had the shirt tucked in, white pants, hat on straight: it was like he was out of a modeling agency. That was a team full of dirtbags – guys coming to practice with their uniform dirty, a lot of scruffy-looking dudes – but Snotty was always impeccable."

“We was a great competitor and a great, great teammate. We had kids from Wall and Manasquan and Kevin (James) asked me if I’d take some of the Rumson kids and I said, ‘of course.’ Matty was a guy that immediately got along with all of the guys and you had kids forge lasting friendships who might not have ever met each other. That’s the great thing about baseball: a bunch of guys from very different backgrounds who end up playing together for one common cause and they become great friends."

“It’s very sad that he’s gone so young, but there’s a life lesson for everyone who is feeling hurt right now: Don’t get cheated, work hard, smile and always enjoy yourself. That’s exactly how Matt lived.”

 

Ann Higgins was the class advisor for Sinopoli’s class at Rumson-Fair Haven and still works at Rumson as a special education in-class support instructor. She is also a cancer survivor.

“Matty was always enthusiastic about everything. He loved being a Bulldog. I can remember seeing him at football games and pitching and he always enjoyed being there and he really enjoyed being a senior. Every memory I have of him, he was always happy and always smiling.”

“I saw him at a get-together in November. It was a five-year reunion for his class and there were a lot of kids there from that graduating class and most of them had just graduated college. I talked to him for a couple of minutes to see how he was doing. I knew about his fight, but he said he was happy. We didn’t really broach the subject (of his illness). I got the sense it was something he didn’t really want to talk about.”

 

Gary Costello was an assistant with James and was briefly the head coach at Rumson. He now lives in Florida.

"I found out he was sick through my son only about a month ago. When the cancer came back, we heard the doctor told him he would probably only make it to the end of the summer, so we were under the impression he had few more months, and then 'bang.' It was pretty shocking."

Being all the way down here (in Florida) it's tough to stay in touch sometimes. I feel bad I was unable to reach out to him. From our perspective, we were thinking he'd have more time to go see him. We're heading up in the summer time and that was when we were hoping to check in on him. It's tough. He's a few years younger than my son, so hearing this kind of news really hits home."

"He was a great kid. He had an infectious smile. He accepted all challenges and he always wanted the ball. He was a quiet leader, but he was always ready to crack a joke. He was just a really good kid."

*This story will be updated over the next several days.*