Diamond memories: 92 inductees honored for contributions to Berkshire County ball by New England Baseball Hall of Fame

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PITTSFIELD — Reuniting with a long-time friend is always a joyous experience. For members of the inaugural Berkshire County class of the New England Baseball Hall of Fame, having a chance to reconnect with former teammates, coaches and opponents offered a trip down memory lane, taking them back to the dugouts and dirt infields where their names became legendary.

As honorees and their families began filing into the Colonial Theatre on Saturday, almost instantly, their faces lit up at the sight of a familiar person from their illustrious baseball careers. Handshakes and hugs were exchanged, and tales of a baseball were retold in vivid detail, transporting the honorees several decades into the past.

NEBHOF inductee and longtime Pittsfield coach Bob Moynihan said being around fellow baseball legends brings back so many memories of time spent on the diamond. He added that connections start on the baseball field and grow into lifelong friendships. Catching up with former players that now have families and kids of their own is always a surreal experience.

"I just can't believe its been that long," he said. "Guys that graduated in the 80s... It's a long time and there's been some great memories.

"Every guy that I see that I've either coached or played against — there's a memory. There's no one specific memory that stands out. They all stand out when you see the player and it just jogs the memory of that year."

The opportunity for baseball legends such as Joe Zavattaro and Ed "Itch" McMahon to hold court with fellow baseball greats was the brainchild of Pittsfield coaching legend Paul Procopio.

Since the earliest written reference to baseball — the 1791 Baseball Bylaw — was found in Pittsfield,      the NEBHOF executive committee thought the best and brightest Berkshire County baseball players should be honored in the home of baseball. Procopio and his team started with the Unity/Neighborliness/Integrity/Charity/Opportunity (UNICO) Baseball inductees list as a base for the first class. Then, they expanded their list to members not in the UNICO hall such as Paul Stockley and Sean McGrath, baseball figures they felt deserved recognition in the NEBHOF.

In total, 92 people were inducted into the hall as a player, coach, player-coach, scout, contributor, renaissance person and cultural icon. Zavattaro, Mitchell and the late George "Buddy" Pellerin were members of the inaugural class, to name a few. The Eagle's own Howard Herman was also an inaugural member, joining the hall as a contributor with 30-plus years covering sports in the Berkshires.

Each member received a certificate, a gold medal and a hearty handshake from boxing pioneer Gail Grandchamp. The ceremony concluded with a slideshow featuring the inductees and a reading of a play based on the life of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.

In addition to a Berkshire County class, the NEBHOF is planning future induction ceremonies for Springfield-area baseball players in Worcester and Boston-area baseball players. By 2021, Procopio said the committee plans to induct its first class of Major League Baseball players.

With all the talent in the room: a 1st-round MLB draft pick, Western Mass. and state champions and more combined wins than any one person could count, the thing that remains the same and bonds baseball's greats is the sense of community within the Berkshires.

Zavattaro said he can't pinpoint one reason why the Berkshires is such a close baseball community, but he does know that growing up, most kids, and certainly everyone being honored on Saturday had an undying love for the game.

"When I was young, everyone spoke about baseball," he said. "You'd walk down the street and everyone was talking about baseball. The number of players from Berkshire County that went on to excel in college or pro ball. ... Pittsfield's been noted for baseball and I think there's great coaching coming up from Little League and the kids love it."

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2017 Berkshire County Class of the New England Baseball Hall of Fame

The categories are Player (P), Player Coach (PC), Contributor (C), Scout (S), Renaissance (R), and Cultural Icon (CI) in recognition of Normal Rockwell:

Pasquale Arace (P), John Barbarotta (P), Larry Bossidy (P), Carl Boteze (P), Chris Barbarotta (P), Gary Barcher (P), Glenn Boyer (P), Pat Bassi (C), Al Belanger (PC), Terry Bishop Jr. (P), Tom Bowler (P), Terry Bishop (P), Joe Bonacquisti (C), Jack Brennan (P), Gene Curletti (P), Tim Carroll (P), Joe Costanzo (P), Dan Cariety (PC), Kevin Connolly (P), Don Cormier (P), Rocky Daley (P), Joe DiCicco (P), Dan DeSantis (P), Dick DiOrio (PC), Randy Driscoll (P), Bob Drury (P), David Eisenberg (P), Rick Flynn (P), David Fields (P), Chuck Garavaltis (P), Matt Gladu (PC), Paul Hermanski (P), Tom Hankey (PC), Howard "Hawk" Herman (C), Kristen Huss (C), Mike Koperniak (P), Tim Kearns (P), Kevin Kinne (P), Dick Lenfest (PC), Phil Lennon (P), Keith Lovellette (P), Mike LaRochelle (P), William "Duke" Lahart (P), Billy Lahart (P), Sean McGrath (PC), Ed "Itch" McMahon (P), Charles Massaconi (P), Stephen Messina (PC), Rick Murphy (P), Jim Mazzer (PC), Tom McGrath (PC), Sean McMahon (P), Bob Moynihan (PC), Fran Majchrowski (PC), Bill Madden (P), Tom Mooney (S), Mickey Mahoney (P), Brian O'Keefe (P), Lou Orazio (C), Peter Pellegrinelli (P), George "Buddy" Pellerin Jr. (PC), Paul Procopio (PC), Paul J. Procopio (P), Paul Pierce (P), Jeff Puleri (PC), Alex Pires (P), Tony Procopio (P), Tom Pia (P), Russ Quetti (P), Mike Quadrozzi (P), Geno Quirk (P), Mark Ringie (P), Fran Reardon (PC), Tom Rizzo (PC), Norman Rockwell (CI), Pat Ryan (PC), Gary Soldato (P), Shaun Sottile (P), Tony Simonelli (PC), Kevin Stannard (PC), Bill Stumpek (P), Paul Stockley (P), Jerry Sprague (P), Joe Sondrini (P), Dan Sullivan (P), Glenn Tatro (P), Matt Torra (P), Brian Traversa (P), Ray Woitkowski (P), Mitch Wood (P), Armand Walger (P), Johnny Walker (P). Joe Zavattaro (PC)

Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.


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