Five people who have contributed their time to sports in their communities will receive a 2012 John Wentworth Good Sport Awards from the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance.
Given in memory of the longtime sports editor of the New Britain Herald, the CSWA will recognize Wayne Potvin of Montville, John Riley, John Commune, Ed Gadomski and Bob Peruzzotti for their voluntary support of community sports and charitable organizations at the 71st annual Gold Key Dinner on April 29 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.
Wayne Potvin has spent the past 25 years raising money and spearheading the success of the Christopher Potvin Baseball Tournament. The popular tournament honors the memory of his son, an outstanding baseball and basketball player who lost his life in January 1987 in an automobile accident on his way to St. Bernard High School, where he was a freshman.
In June 1987, the Potvin family established the Christopher Potvin Scholarship Fund that would award $1,000 scholarships to graduating student-athletes from area high schools. Since then, over 300 scholarships have been awarded to deserving seniors who exemplified Christopher’s engaging spirit and academic and athletic credentials.
Potvin, a former all-state baseball player in Vermont who played two years of professional baseball, works throughout the year to raise the scholarship money, a good portion of which is a result of cards he mails out.
In addition, all proceeds from the baseball tournament go toward scholarships. The tournament began with six teams and has now grown to 30 teams, mostly from Southeastern Connecticut. The 2011 tournament included 13U, 15U, 17U and 19U teams, and culminated with championship games on “Christopher Potvin Day” at Dodd Stadium, where Wayne Potvin awarded 25 $1,000 scholarships in honor of the 25th anniversary.
Other recipients of the award this year include:
John Riley has been a familiar figure on the Berlin youth sports scene for nearly two decades. He was involved with the Berlin Little League from 1993-98, beginning as a coach in the Tee Ball Division, moving up to the Instructional League, and then becoming a manager and coach in the Minor League division. He also served as the Instructional League supervisor.
Since 1994, Riley has been a fixture with the Berlin Youth Soccer Association, first as a coach in the Instructional Division, then as a head coach in the Junior Boys Division and Junior Girls Division, and later as a head coach in the Travel Division. He also served as treasurer from 1996-99, and has been president of the BYSA since 2000, continuing even after his daughter graduated from the program in 2003.
Riley has also been active on the state level with the Connecticut Junior Soccer association since 2003. He is currently in his 10th year as the Connecticut Cup Age Group Director, in his sixth year as State Cup Age Group Director, and in his fourth year as CJSA state treasurer.
Bob Peruzzotti of Groton has coached a variety of sports at all levels the past 35 years, including the Mystic Little League, Mystic Babe Ruth League, Groton/Mystic Youth Football, Groton Girls Softball, and several parks and recreation league activities.
Now in his 13th year as a member of the Groton Board of Education, Peruzzotti is the assistant softball coach at Fitch High School, where his daughter Kate is the head coach. This past year, he helped raise $550,000 in private funds to improve the baseball field at the high school.
He was also instrumental in getting lights installed at the football field and just recently a new scoreboard for the football field with private donations. In fact, Peruzzotti still holds the sideline chains for home football games. In 2005, he was named the National Football Foundation Man of the Year.
John Commune of Seymour has had a lifelong involvement with Seymour High School athletics and since 1968 has served as the football team’s statistician. The 1969 SHS graduate works every game from the sidelines and also handles the team’s publicity, calling in games to most of the state’s newspapers.
In 2008, Commune’s 40th season with the Wildcats, the football press box at DeBarber Field was dedicated in his honor.
After years of being the official scorer for both Seymour’s girls’ and boys’ basketball teams, Commune is currently the clock operator at Ansonia High School for their girls’ and boys’ teams. He also coached slow-pitch softball for many years for the Norwood Athletic Club in Ansonia.
Ed Gadomski of Thomaston has been the commissioner of the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League since October 2003 and has since done wonders for one of the longest-standing amateur baseball leagues in the state.
Gadomski, a Thomaston native who began playing in the league with the Thomaston Spoilers in 1992, has expanded the league from six to 18 teams since he took over as commissioner. He's responsible for the league's hosting of the AABC Stan Musial State Tournament for the past eight years, and has orchestrated several charity fundraiser games and tournaments in Litchfield County. He also created the Tri-State League's website in 2007.
In addition, Gadomski's relationship with the local press has been instrumental in the league's growth. He even has instituted fines for coaches who do not report results to the press, ensuring full publicity for the league.
In addition to the Good Sport Awards, the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance will be presenting Gold Keys to Kristine Lilly, Dave Shea, John Dunham and Mike Walsh. Also, Granby Memorial field hockey coach Sandy Wickman Mason will receive the Doc McInerney High School Coach of the Year Award in a female sport, while Manchester High boys track and field coach Thayer Redman will be honored as the Doc McInerney High School Coach of the Year in a male sport.
Former UConn basketball player Kemba Walker will receive the Bill Lee Male Athlete of the Year Award, while former University of New Haven track star Shannon Gagne will be honored as the Hank O’Donnell Female Athlete of the Year. Former Masuk High quarterback Casey Cochran was selected as the Hal Levy High School Athlete of the Year Award winner, Dave Balfore will receive the Bob Casey Courage Award, and Peter Vander Veer is this year’s recipient of the Art McGinley Award. The final award recipient will be announced next week.
Tickets to the 2012 Gold Key Dinner, which begins at 4 p.m., can be purchased by contacting either CSWA President George Albano of The (Norwalk) Hour at Truckin114@AOL.com, or Vice President and Dinner Chairman Bob Ehalt of The New Haven Register at Ehalt.B@sbcglobal.net. Tickets can also be obtained by mailing a check for $75 to Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance, P.O. Box 70, Unionville, CT, 06085. For more information on the history of the dinner, visit the Alliance website at ctsportswriters.org.