A Hall Of Fame Night

From left to right: Ed Gadomski, Bill Leifert, Tim Hamel, Rich Thomson, Pat Murphy, Jay Rocca, Chris Clark, DJ Reese
Copyright Rick Wilson   LitchfieldCountySports.com   8/20/13
Was it about baseball? Sure, the eight inductees into the Tri-State League Hall of Fame wouldn’t have been at Fuessenich Park Wednesday night receiving the highest honor league can bestow on them if they hadn’t played the heck out of the game. They loved baseball and in the end baseball loved them back.
But for D.J. Reese, Chris Clark, Pat Murphy, Jay Rocca, Ed Gadomski, Tim Hamel, Rich Thomson and Bill Leifert the night was as much about what the game did for them as it was about what they did in the game.
There was accomplishment all over the field. Leifert was an MVP, Thomson also earned MVP honors and was part of eight titles for the Torrington Rebels. Murphy was a Bethlehem Plowboy and won three titles and earned and MVP award as one of the league’s top pitchers. Rocca was a two-time MVP for Bethlehem and Clark played on three title teams for Torrington, coached the Rebels to three titles and won an MVP. Gadomski was an MVP winner and has guided the league to unprecedented heights with a record 19 teams as Commissioner.
Hamel played 23 seasons and was part of two title teams with the Thomaston Spoilers while Reese played on a title team with Bethlehem and coached Winsted to a title. You could have filled up Fuessenich Park with all the records, statistics, performances that brought them here. But while justifiably proud the honor shared time with just being with friends again.      “It’s great to go in with this guy,” said Clark motioning to Thomson, his former Torrington Rebel teammate. “There’s not many people that say they played together for 15 years after high school.”
“It’s just great to get together with longtime friends and baseball is the vehicle to do it,” said Rocca. “I haven’t seen Billy (Leifert) in 15 years.” Leifert, looking resplendent in a bright red shirt talked about it being an honor to be in the Hall of Fame with former inductee Bill Neller who was on hand and glowing in yellow. Gadomski, who has done so much to build the league into the premier amateur league in the state, was thrilled to be inducted but it was especially important for him to go in with this group.
This was his group. The last of the old guard if you will. It was about being inducted with friends, most of whom did their thing in the 1990s and early in the new century. It was again only partially about what was done, who it was done with equally important. “It means a lot to be recognized by your peers,” said Gadomski. “When the committee told me I was selected I was glad to be going in with this group. These are some of the best friends I played with. These are the guys I wanted to go in with.”
Leifert came from Southington, Thomson, soon to be the father of twins from West Hartford. Rocca made the ride from Wolcott. Some wore the old uniform tops. Hamel had his Thomaston Spoilers shirt on while Clark pulled out the Rebels top. They came with wives and children and home run like smiles. Old friends were on hand including the Plowboys’ Gregg Hunt and Leifert’s old pitching mate, `the Ancient Mariner’, Ed Freimuth. It was a Hall of Fame induction but it was as much a get-together.
Most hung around to watch some of Game I of the Tri-State championship series between Tri-Town and Naugatuck. Checking out the new guard at the same time. But most of all they hung around to catch up with one another. Being at Fuessenich was about having an outstanding career and they all got their plaques and took their ceremonial pitches. But it was about the camaraderie the game bred. It was about seeing all friends. The game is yesterday now for the group, this a reminder that Gadomski mentioned. Ah, but the memories and the friends they made the memories with, never gets old.
Eight players came back to be honored at Fuessenich Park. But they also came back to touch yesterday with old friends and it was good to be back. They would all tell you that.