The kids sat there at Cohen’s Children’s Hospital completely enraptured, both by the presents in front of them and the music emanating from the kids playing it.
It was the holiday season of 2019, and the last place any young person wants to be during Christmas and Hanukkah is cooped up in a room getting medicines and hooked up to machines.
So the members of Miracle Musicians, both of them, had come to the facility to try to play some tunes and bring out some holiday cheer.
Matthew Fliegler was blowing on his trumpet with gusto that day, and the kids heard him loud and clear.
The just-graduated Roslyn High School student loves two things more than any other: making music and playing baseball, and on this day, he was doing a third thing he loves as well: Helping other people smile.
“They were really into it, and it was such a fun atmosphere considering where we were,” Fliegler said. “I was just so happy we could brighten their day just a little bit with some music, to distract them and make them feel good.”
Fliegler beamed when he talked about that day, but that afternoon at Cohen’s was just one of the many ways he gives back to his community.
He and Miracle Musicians founder Sammy Lichtenstein played monthly at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in Roslyn at their “Curb Your Mitzvah” events, and Fliegler was also active in Special Olympics volunteering.
For those reasons, and his fantastic play on the baseball diamond this season for Roslyn, as he batted.413 at the plate and as a pitcher went 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA, Fliegler was honored on June 14 with the Michael Capozzi Scholar-Athlete Award.
The honor, presented by the Nassau County Baseball Coaches Association, goes to a student-athlete who combines excellence on the field with a strong commitment to community service off the field and academic excellence in the classroom.
Fliegler, headed to Cornell this fall, became the third Roslyn player in six years to win the award.
“He works harder than almost any player I’ve ever seen,” said Roslyn head baseball coach Dan Freeman. “From the first day he was on the team, he’s struck me as a born leader and kid who was talented but wanted to work hard to get better. I couldn’t be more proud of him and I’m thrilled he got this award.”
Fliegler said the award meant a lot to him especially because Roslyn’s last winner, Danny Rosman in 2021, was one of his mentors on the Bulldogs squad.
“He and our other captains when I was sophomore, Hayden Leiderman and Jordan Zucker, really taught me a bunch about baseball and about life,” Fliegler said. “They really showed me the way.”
For Fliegler, who sports an academic average of 103, doing community service is something he always saw as part of being a good person.
“I know some people do fundraising and give money and that’s great, but for myself I always wanted to be in person directly and help people one on one,” he said. “By joining (Miracle Musicians) I knew I could help make people’s days brighter.”
In addition to playing at the JCC, where director of Teen Services Steve Cohen said the Miracle Musicians “always keep the joint jumping” with their music, Fliegler and Lichtenstein have played at the Sunrise nursing home in town, entertaining the senior population.
On the field, Fliegler’s baseball career has been on a straight trajectory since eighth grade, when after a one-year fling with playing tennis, he returned to baseball to begin climbing the ladder toward varsity.
“I love tennis too, but once I hit eighth grade my parents encouraged me to pick one and I loved the team sport aspect of baseball,” Fliegler said.
A three-year varsity player for Roslyn, Fliegler shone with his lefthanded pitching and his hitting which he says “isn’t flashy” but results in singles and doubles sprayed around the field.
“He never gets tired and always wants the ball on the mound,” Freeman said. “He’s such a humble young man and never talks about the wonderful stuff he does off the field. For a kid as young as he is, to treat people as well as he does is really something.”
Fliegler’s leadership shone this season as he tossed a no-hitter against Great Neck North on April 4, and then was one of the Roslyn athletes who tried to keep the sports community together at the school after the devastating tragedy on May 3 that saw school tennis players Ethan Falkowitz and Drew Hassenbein killed in a car accident.
“Matt led the charge in helping everyone on our team deal with the pain, and was really there for the other kids,” Freeman said. “He’s a born leader.”
“That was such a terrible time for everyone at the school, and everyone playing then had to fight through the grief,” Fliegler said. “We were all in pain, but we all knew we had to go out and try to focus on what we could do ourselves, and try to just focus on playing.”
Fliegler, who also helped Roslyn win a state marching band championship, plans to study environmental sustainability at Cornell, an interest sparked when he said he was terrified of thunderstorms as a kid.
He hasn’t decided if he’ll try out for the baseball team at college; he said he was pretty sure he was done with the sport a few weeks ago, but realizing his career may be over has made him reconsider.
“I don’t know, it’s hard to let go of,” he said with a smile. “But I’m very excited to go up (to Cornell) and be in that great campus environment.”
And you can have no doubt that Fliegler’s trumpet, and love of helping others, will be going with him as well.