By MICHAEL LETENDRE
SOUTHINGTON – The Bristol Tramps held its 47th annual Bristol Tramps Sport Reunion dinner from the Aqua Turf Club in Southington on Friday, April 7 as over 360 people attended the grand event.
As always, the Bristol Tramps Sports Reunion honored nine persons, along with one team, that carried on the rich tradition and legacy of sports in the Mum City.
Also that night, the Tramps awarded scholarships to three outstanding Bristol high school seniors.
It was certainly a great evening that honored Bristol athletics and here’s a recap of the honorees from the event:
The Ron Choiniere Award – Jason “Coachie” DeCarolis
“Coachie” detailed the many years he’s volunteered and dedicated himself to various sports programs at Bristol Central and thanked one of the current Bristol Tramp members who gave a very young man an opening that ended up becoming a life-long commitment.
“To Gary Fleming, thank you for giving me an opportunity and the chance on how to run a score clock because that all started when I was in eighth grade. We didn’t even get to the school yet and I’ve already started.”
The Julie Larese Team Award – 1976 Forestville Little League All Star Team
Joey Jandreau was the squad’s representative from Forestville who spoke about his fondness for his team, for the Forestville baseball program, and his coach Bob Watson.
“Forty-one years later, it still amazes me to hear what we all accomplished together and it continues to bring back so many fond memories. As you all may know, our journey to Williamsport was before ESPN [existed] so honestly, most of us didn’t even know where Williamsport was. I still remember playing catch with my teammates after practice during the first district tournament and asking coach Watson, ‘what happens if we keep winning?’”
“For those of you who knew Coach Watson, he glared at me like only he could do and in his own booming voice said, ‘Jandreau, you just keep hitting those home runs and let me worry about the rest.’ That was vintage Bob Watson.”
The Bill Garrett Award – Matt Wilson
Leaving Bristol was tough for Wilson but baseball in the South was where the competition was collegiately as he was looking to play against the best, representing Stetson University.
But the lessons and values he learned in Bristol, playing baseball and competing in town, never left him.
“I had struggles early on but the one thing I always kept dear to my heart and what I learned was in Bristol, nothing is ever given to you. You’ve got to earn it. It was a driving force for me to excel and work harder.”
The Chuck McCarthy Award – David R. Cichon
Cichon was quick to praise the education system in town and some of the most important lessons he learned as a kid came at Greene Hills School, absorbing countless scraps of knowledge from mentors such as Johnie Floyd and Jim Bates.
“The real shock was when you walked inside the school. I had the greatest educators and coaches in my entire life right at Greene Hills. We had this one guy, a science teacher, he was incredible. He was a big guy, a real tough coach but a human being beyond comparison. That was Johnie Floyd.”
The Ed Lodovico Award – Bob Freimuth
The audience had to endure Coach Freimuth’s golfing exploits, and successes, against a couple former Bristol American Legion baseball players who couldn’t cut the mustard on the greens if you paid them.
Freimuth thanked all the individuals who helped him along the way as many boys from Bristol, Plainville, and the surrounding towns learned the game of baseball from one of the very best coaches and instructor the state of Connecticut has been graced with.
“I like to thank all the people who supported Blue Devils Baseball Camp throughout the years. Greg [Ziogas] and I are very appreciative of that. It was always great to see the Bristol kids do well. It was a lot of years.”
The Tony Savino Award – Ed Beardsley Challenger Division Discovery Program
Dee Valerio-Matyka, the Challenger Coordinator, accepted the honor for the program and has helped carry out the legacy Ed Beardsley started out in town.
“I had worked with him a few years before he got sick and he always said, ‘Help me out, do this and do that.’ And then when he passed away, the family just looked at me and said ‘You’re taking it over?’ So here I am still today. It’s a great program, I just love it and I’m so thankful for giving me the honor to fill his shoes to do this.”
The Lydia Jabs Bailey Award – Tami “Chap” Chapman
Chapman helped blaze the trail for girls athletics in the Mum City as she saw the rise of scholastic sports in Bristol, eventually balancing out for both genders.
“In 1972, entering Bristol Eastern, I met this fiery little spitfire of a coach named JoAnn Galati. It was also then that Title IX was in its beginning stages. All the long hours of dedication that [Galati] put in to the girls sports programs, demanding equal gym time, uniforms, and press time was totally unbelievable.”
The Coach Dan Valerio Committee Award – Malcolm Huckaby
Huckaby acknowledged at the individuals who helped shaped his upbringing in sports in Bristol including his parents, the Forestville Boys Club, his high school basketball coach at Bristol Central Ed Phelan, and even David Mills who brought a young Malcolm Huckaby to his first World Wrestling Federation event.
“For me, Bristol was a great place. I had some many people be responsible for where I am today.”
The Harp Broderick Award – John Benoit
The Bristol Eastern wrestling program wouldn’t be where it is today without the contributions by Benoit. But while he passed the credit on to other individuals, he was beaming with pride when speaking about the Bristol Eastern wrestling community.
“I am a worker and I spent my whole life just working, kind of developing a wrestling team that ended up being pretty spectacular.”
Also, the Julie Larese Memorial scholarship awards were awarded to Bristol Eastern’s Emily Stadnicki (Patricia D’Amato Memorial Scholarship), St. Paul Catholic’s Brigid Johndrow (John E. Tavera Memorial Scholarship) and Bristol Central’s Hannah Jones (Frank Scalia Memorial Scholarship).