STAMFORD — Sports has always been an important part of life in Fairfield County.
The area’s athletic pride was once again on display Monday night as the Fairfield County Sports Commission Hall of Fame inducted the seven honorees in the Class of 2019 along with a host of SportsPersons of the Year at its 15th annual Sports Night at the Stamford Marriott.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Charlie Morton of Redding and former LPGA golfer and current LPGA executive Heather Daly-Donofrio joined the FCSC Hall’s Jackie Robinson Professional Wing.
Brakettes softball star Pat Dufficy of Trumbull, Roger Haggerty of Stamford and Pete Tucci Jr. of Norwalk are now members of the James O’Rourke Amateur Wing.
The late Jack Casagrande of Brien McMahon High School and Boys Lacrosse coach and pioneer Guy Whitten gained entry into the FCSC Hall’s J. Walter Kennedy Community Service Wing.
“When I received the phone call (last summer) from (FCSC Hall of Fame executive director) Tom Chiappetta, it was a proud moment,” Tucci Jr. said. “You go through Little League, American Legion and high school baseball, the Hall of Fame isn’t something you think about. Now this honor allows me to look back and savor all I did accomplish in my baseball career.
“Even though baseball is a game with a lot of failure. If you make out seven out of 10 times, you’re considered a great hitter,” Tucci Jr. continued. “Being able to look back at this induction with my family is a great honor.”
Tucci Jr., after playing three seasons for Providence College as well as a 25-1 senior year at Norwalk High that included an FCIAC Championship and a state final berth, was the 1st round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1996 MLB Draft.
Today, Pete Tucci Jr. is proud owner of Tucci Baseball in Norwalk focusing on baseball bat production.
“I’m for where major league baseball is now. The teams which are utilizing the analytic data the right way are thriving,” Tucci Jr. said. “The Houston Astros are at the forefront of the movement and you see their success. The art of hitting is special. Every pitcher throws harder than ever. Stadiums and baseballs are smaller. It’s harder to connect. But if you connect you do damage.”
Heather Daly-Donofrio joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour in 1993 and played for 12 years. She then became a part of the LPGA organization in Daytona Beach, Fla. She is currently LPGA Chief Tour Operations officer with responsibilities on the LPGA Tour, the LPGA Qualifying School, LPGA Player Development and Sports Medicine among other areas.
Daly-Donofrio flew in from the LPGA’s latest tournament in China to be a part of Sports Night.
“Being inducted into the FCSC Hall of Fame is a tremendous and unexpected honor, Daly-Donofrio said. “You don’t think about Halls of Fame when you’re competing. Looking back I’m lucky that (then-Roger) Ludlowe High School decided to field a girls golf team. I started playing golf because I thought it would look good on my college entrance resume.Read Full Article
“I look at the LPGA Tour today and our international diversity is our strength,” Daly-Donofrio continued. “We have the best golfers in THE WORLD on our Tour. And with Danielle Kang’s win last week there are four Americans ranked in the Top 14 which is great. The mix of cultures is key to our business. Every country we go to inspires young girls to become golfers.”
Roger Haggerty was a three-sport standout (baseball, ice hockey, football) at Trinity Catholic High School.
Haggerty preceded Tucci Jr. to the Providence College baseball program (1986 Big East Conference Player of the Year). He also coached the Stamford High School boys ice hockey team to a Division II state title in 2001.
“It’s humbling and unbelievable to think about joining this Hall of Fame. There are so many great athletes who came out of Fairfield County to be part of that is a great honor,” Haggerty said. “Mickey Lione Sr. coached my dad. For me to have the chance to play for Mickey Lione Jr. was special. We all learned a lot about life from Mickey Lione Jr. You don’t fully appreciate at the moment. But looking back now, Mickey Jr. was a great human being.”
Former Stamford Advocate sports editor Bob Kennedy, the man who knew everything about local sports in Stamford before the advent of the internet, received the 2019 Bill Gonillo Local Sports Media Award.
The FCSC Hall of Fame 2019 SportsPersons of the Year honored included Bassick HS boys soccer coach Sal Hanaif, the Darien Little League All-Stars, who reached the Section 2 LL finals, the Class L champion Joel Barlow girls volleyball team, U.S. Short Track National Speed Skating titlist Kristen Santos of Fairfield, the FCIAC and Class LL champion Greenwich HS football squad, pitcher Samantha Schiebe of the Masuk HS Class L champion softball team, Coach Danny Melzer of the New Canaan HS Class M boys basketball team, SWC Baseball Player of the Year Todd Petersen of Newtown HS, Brien McMahon HS National triple jump champion (51-feet, 6 1/2 inches) Justin Forde, Current San Diego Padre Class AAA infielder Matt Batten of Shelton, the Class S champion Trinity Catholic HS girls basketball team and coach Mike Walsh, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team goalie and World Cup champion Alyssa Nacher of Stratford, 2019 Class LL and State Open boys tennis champion Andrew Ilie of Trumbull, 27-year Weston HS varsity ski coach Rich Fanning (29-0 combined last three years), the state champion Staples HS boys and girls tennis teams as well as the FCIAC and Class L finalist Wilton HS boys lacrosse team.