UNICO inducts four into baseball and softball Hall of Fame
For the 22nd year, the Pittsfield Chapter of UNICO National honored the very best in the diamond sports from Berkshire County. This fall brought four new additions to the now 122-member Hall of Fame. Francis Majchrowski, Richard Rabideau and Chrissy Wellington-Garner were all inducted as amateur players, while Kevin Stannard was brought in as both an amateur and coach.
All four were honored and spoke during a ceremony on Nov. 17. They were also encouraged to fundraise for UNICO, which is a non-profit Italian-American service organization that provides a number of scholarships to local students and allocates funds to various other families, organizations and programs in need.
Majchrowski spoke of his memories as a three-sport All-Berkshire player at Wahconah. He helped Dalton Babe Ruth to its first ever district championship game, was a basketball MVP and was on a Warriors baseball team that went 18-2, before he spent time playing with the semi-professional Dalton Collegians.
"Baseball in the beginning was the passion of my life, like it is for a lot of kids," said Majchrowski. "The amount of people I've run into here is incredible. So many people I played with in some way, I didn't even know their names were in here. Just a spectacular thing. Baseball develops a whole community of people you run into and it just grows."
Majchrowski was one of a few people to bring up fellow Hall of Fame member George "Buddy" Pellerin (Class of 1997), who passed away last summer. He recalled a game up at Renfrew Field against Pellerin's Pittsfield High team in which he belted a deep home run and then bunted a run home in his second at bat. The Generals defense sent Pellerin off the wall and he flung his trusted fungo bat over the fence.
After an injury shortened his post-high school career in Westfield, Majchrowski spent time coaching girls soccer, softball, golf and basketball, as well as Babe Ruth and five-plus seasons at the helm of Dalton American Legion Post 155.
Wellington-Garner had the most recent playing career of the group. The current Pittsfield resident was a four-year varsity starter at Lee before playing at Division I Saint John's University in the Class of 2002. While with the Red Storm, Wellington-Garner was a four-time Big East Academic All-Star and is now a member of the program's all-time team.
"It was an unforeseen honor. I've been out of softball for a long time now, but it was a beautiful feeling, a great recognition," said Wellington-Garner. "I really just wanted to thank the people that are most important to me and helped me get to where I am today."
Surrounded by parents, siblings, her husband and children, Wellington-Garner credited her support system with putting her in a position to receive the honor.
After graduating St. John's, she returned to the Berkshires and joined her father, who coached Lee to its last state softball championship, on the Wildcats staff. Wellington-Garner eventually took over the program and coached it for 10 years, the last four with her husband, a deputy in the Pittsfield Fire Department and assistant football coach at Taconic. Wellington-Garner works at Canyon Ranch doing nutrition and fitness.
Rabideau is perhaps better known for his ice hockey prowess, but doubled as an excellent baseball player during his tenure at Pittsfield High and beforehand as a part of Pittsfield's dominant Little League and Babe Ruth programs. During the spring, he played under Pellerin and helped drive a Generals squad to a Western Mass championship during a year with no state tournament due to budget cuts.That team was stacked, yet Rabideau, who went on to sign with Division I Holy Cross, stood out as the heavy hitter among a group of college-bound players.
"I think there are about 40 family member and friends here, at least five tables, all grew up in Pittsfield," said Rabideau. "The baseball tradition in this area is unbelievable and all these people being here represents that."
As a Crusader with the Class of 1986, Rabideau patrolled the outfield on the diamond and skated as an All-Time Letterwinner with the ice hockey team.
Stannard is still building upon his now Hall of Fame resume as the current head baseball coach at Taconic. His induction comes on the heels of guiding the Braves to the first Division I state baseball championship in school history earlier this spring.
"It was very humbling. You never think that something like this will happen. When I got the call from Tony and Brian, I was really taken aback," said Stannard. "It's always about the kids. My playing career was always about trying to win as a team, so for this, an individual award, I kind of share it with them.
"I know this group that just left won the state championship, but it is all those kids before them that have been a part of it."
Stannard, who has coached over 300 wins in his 25 seasons at the helm, is a Taconic graduate himself, who went on to play ball at Nichols College under coach Al Malkasian. With the Bison, Stannard was the William Horrigan-Bud Sessions Award winner for Outstanding Male Sophomore Athlete in 1985, scoring 38 runs in 34 games and helping Nichols to 21 wins.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6201.
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