WOODBURY - Just a few days before the championship series began for the Nassau Titans in the National Junior Baseball League, their coach – who made a comeback after being convicted of a racially motivated attack – died from cancer.
Shannon Siegel helped found the Titans and coached the same group of boys for five years until he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. He died in August, and did not see his team win the championship.
Siegel made headlines on Long Island following a racially charged beating on June 1, 1991. Then 20-year-old Siegel was kicked out of a house party in Atlantic Beach. It was after he exchanged words with 17-year-old Jermaine Ewell, a star football player at Hewlett High School. A few hours later, Shannon and several friends found Ewell on the Atlantic Beach boardwalk and beat him into a coma with baseball bats.
Despite incredible odds against his survival, Ewell recovered. He testified at Siegel's trial the following year.
While serving 13 years in a maximum security prison, Siegel finally accepted responsibility for what happened and apologized to Ewell. After being released from prison in 2005, the two began the unlikeliest of bonds. They even spoke to News 12 in 2009 at the spot the incident took place.
“I finally woke up and saw that what happened was wrong and I wanted to be the kind of man who lives up to my responsibilities and says that I'm sorry,” said Siegel.
Over the years, Siegel and Ewell would see each other occasionally, once even going to a Mets game together.
“We did what we did to move forward and make the best of the situation. It's something spiritual within me that even I don't understand,” Ewell told News 12.
When Siegel became gravely ill this summer, Ewell made numerous trips to the hospital. They had plans to tell their story at schools and mentor kids.
While Ewell wouldn't go as far as saying that he and Siegel had become "friends" - he said the man who almost killed him on that boardwalk genuinely wanted to make things right.
“He did have…a good heart. All in all, he had a good heart,” said Ewell.