Sports Person of the Week
Cutone Cooking Up Hot Results in Deep River Horseshoe League
Tony Cutone climbed his way up the ladder in the Deep River Horseshoe League to become a Division A Player after just two seasons. Tony is also an avid gardener, beekeeper, and cook. (Photo courtesy of Tony Cutone)
Tony Cutone is putting together a quality season in the Deep River Horseshoe League (DRHL) this summer. An Essex resident, Tony is a Division A player for the Cardinals, who moved into a tie for sixth place in the league standings last week. Tony contributed to that effort by turning in the best series total of the week with a 138, edging out the DRHL’s top player on the season by one point. So far, Tony has tallied 682 points, which is the sixth-highest cumulative total in league play this year.
Tony has been involved with the DRHL for the past four seasons. Tony gravitated toward playing competitive horseshoes after he freed up some time through retirement. Tony started out as a substitute thrower, but that plan quickly changed.
“I retired in 2016, and I was going to join then, but I wanted to see how retirement went first. I joined in 2017, and I was a sub for a couple of weeks,” says Tony. “Then the president Frank Jolly called me up and asked me to join permanently as a [Division] C player after another player had to quit. I finished out that season as a C player. The following year, I was on a team as a C player.”
Each team in the DRHL consists of three players from the A, B, and C divisions, respectively. In order to determine which division each player competes in, league officials score a mock game that assesses a pitcher’s handicap. The players who score the highest are assigned to the A Division and so on. In each league matchup, throwers from the same division are pitted against each other to even the playing field.
Through diligent practice, Tony made a rapid ascent into the A Division. Tony also continued to play horseshoes during the winter months thanks to fellow Division A player Cris Christensen’s Quonset hut. Instead of a sand pit, the winter league uses a clay pit, which is less forgiving of slightly off-target throws.
“After that second year, they moved me up to A. Starting my second year, I was practicing all the time,” Tony says. “I used to practice two or three times per week. I joined the winter league, too. I’ve been playing in that league for three years. That’s inside, and it’s a clay pitch. It’s enclosed, so you don’t have the wide-open spaces.”
Regardless of where he plays, Tony tries to keep his performance in perspective. Tony stays competitive, but he prefers to focus on competing against himself, as opposed to other throwers.
“It’s fun. You can’t take it so seriously. It’s not like there’s money riding on it,” says Tony. “I play to win, but if you lose, you lose. You have to play against yourself.”
Like many players in the DRHL, Tony credits Christensen for helping him to become a better horseshoe thrower. This year, Tony is teaming up with a few new league players in the B and C positions on the Cardinals, and he’s trying to pay that advice forward to his teammates.
“I talked to Cris Christensen, and he told me to stay with the flip, instead of trying the turn. He told me to relax, slow down, and concentrate,” Tony says. “I have two new players on my team, and we’ve been doing better as the season has gone on. It just takes time and practice. Tony Malerba has been playing a while, and Trevor Ladd is a newbie entirely. I just tell them to slow down and take it easy. That’s all.”
When Tony’s not out throwing shoes at the pits, he occupies his time by gardening, cooking, and beekeeping. Tony’s garden yields plenty of food that he uses to make numerous dishes at home.
“I’m in the garden every day. We start almost everything from seed. We buy some plants, because it’s a bit easier. We’ve been doing the garden for at least 10 years. We can things and make things like spaghetti sauce, pickles, stewed tomatoes,” Tony says. “We live off of the garden, especially in the winter. We don’t do any spraying. No pesticides, because we have three hives of honeybees. The bees are in there while we’re in there picking. We hear them buzzing all over the place.”
Tony’s beekeeping is a bit smaller in scale than his league-mates, Andy and Karen Perna, who own the Red Maple Apiary. Tony and the Pernas enjoy talking bees when they can.
“We’ve been beekeeping six to seven years. I’m always asking the Pernas about their bees,” says Tony. “We’re not into selling the honey. We plant flowers around for them. We keep it for ourselves and maybe just give some to friends. We just want the bees to survive the winters.”
With all of the ingredients stemming from his garden, Tony loves to make food for friends and family. Jolly says that Tony’s performance at the horseshoe pits can only be outdone by his culinary skills.
“Tony’s a good player. He’s really moved up the ranks. He throws very well and practices often. A lot of the league plays pickup games on Sundays, and he usually helps put that together,” says Jolly. “Tony’s a tremendous cook. When we play in the wintertime, he always makes food for the nights when he plays, and he brings desserts, too.”
Tony’s happy that he had the chance to get back out there and toss some shoes with his fellow league members this year. Tony hopes that the Cardinals wind up making the playoffs, but either way, he’s glad that the DRHL got to play its 2020 season.
“It’s good still going out to see people. It’s always nice to talk to the other players. It’s great to be able to play with the social distancing. You’re at least six feet apart with the pits. It works out nicely,” Tony says. “We’ve got four weeks left, and we have a chance to get up there. I still have to play some tough players like Cris Christensen, Kris Toohey, Frank Jolly, and John Hutra. So, it’s going to depend. Each night is different. You never know.”