The Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance honored four Gold Key Award recipients for 2003 at the 62nd Gold Key Dinner on Sunday April 27 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. The Gold Key is awarded to those who have made significant contributions to Connecticut athletics.
The group included retired major league first baseman Rico Brogna of Watertown, UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, auto race track owner/golfer Don Hoenig of Thompson and CAS/CIAC executive director Mike Savage of Litchfield.
Other honorees at the 62nd Gold Key dinner included pro golfer Suzy Whaley (Female Athlete of the Year), NCAA champions Ryan Bak of Trinity College and Ben Michaelson of Southern Connecticut (Male Co-Athletes of the Year), girls basketball coach Jim Rooney of Guilford and football coach Ed McCarthy of West Haven (Doc McInerney High School Coaches of the Year) and Manchester Journal Inquirer sports writer Matt Buckler (Arthur B. McGinley Meritorious Service Award) . Five John Wentworth "Good Sport" award winners -- Marc Allard of Dayville; George DeMaio of North Branford; Brother Robert Houlihan of Middletown; Peter Kiro of East Hartford; and Tom Sullivan of Guilford -- were also recognized.
Brogna, 32, is one of the youngest recipients of the Gold Key award. He graduated from Watertown High School in 1987 after an outstanding three-sport (football, basketball and baseball) career.
In football, he completed 59 touchdown passes and also kicked 11 field goals, including a 54-yarder in 1987, which stands as the second longest in state history. His 70 consecutive PATs is a state record and his 6,083 career yards passing is third in the state record book. Brogna passed up a full scholarship to play collegiate football at Clemson when he was selected in the first round of the 1988 major league baseball draft by the Detroit Tigers.
He played nine years with the Tigers, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox and Braves and finished his career with 458 RBI, .269 batting average, 106 home runs and 176 doubles. A lifelong Red Sox fan, a highlight of Brogna's career came Aug. 14, 2000 when he hit a grand slam at Fenway Park to give the Red Sox a 7-3 victory over Tampa Bay.
Upon his retirement, he spent last season as a batting instructor for the Reading Phillies of the Eastern League in 2001. In the summer of 2001, he was named football coach at Kennedy High in Waterbury. His two-year record is 1-20 after going 0-11 this past fall.
Brogna, who does not plan to return to Reading this year, said he is negotiating with ESPN for a studio baseball job that would keep him close to home during the summer. Brogna and his wife, Melissa, have two children
Calhoun, 60, is in his 17th season as coach of the Huskies and 31st overall (632-286, 68.2 winning percent), which includes a 248-137 record in 14 seasons as head coach at Northeastern University before coming to UConn.
During the 2001-02 season, Calhoun became the 26th coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 600-win plateau. He has more wins than any coach in UConn and New England Division I college basketball history. In addition to directing UConn to the 1999 NCAA championship, Calhoun has led UConn to 10 NCAA bids and eight Sweet 16 berths in the past 13 years. Calhoun is the only coach in the history of the Big East Conference to have been named conference coach of the year four times.
Calhoun is also involved in a number of regional and national charitable and educational efforts. In November of 1998, Calhoun and his wife Pat donated $125,000 to the cardiology program at the UConn Health Center, establishing the Calhoun Cardiology Research Fund. During the past four summers (1999-2002), the Mohegan Sun/Jim Calhoun Celebrity Golf Classic has raised nearly $750,000 for the Calhoun Cardiology Research Center. In 1999, Calhoun launched a charitable initiative to help families in need during the holidays-with the Calhoun Thanksgiving Turkey Drive. Calhoun has continued to battle hunger annually with a food drive during the Christmas/Hanukah season and personally donated hundreds of turkeys to the drive.
Calhoun served as Honorary Chairperson for several charitable programs: the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Ronald McDonald House Golf Tournament; the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Fundraising Dinner; and the Ray of Hope Foundation Golf Tournament.
He has been honorary chairman of the Connecticut Children's Medical Center and Children's Miracle Network as well as serving as Honorary Co-Chairman (along with Gov. John G. Rowland) of the "Character Counts" program in the state. In addition, Calhoun is active in the Coaches vs. Cancer program sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is an active supporter of Y-ME, the New England Breast Cancer Awareness and Fight program. In 1990, he was honored by the Franciscan Life Center with the "Saint Francis Award" for his dedication to Christian values and outstanding athletic achievements. In April of 1998, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist dedicated an outdoor basketball area, "Calhoun's Court", in honor of Calhoun at the Franciscan Life Center in Meriden.
Calhoun and his wife, Pat, live in Mansfield, and have two sons, James and Jeffrey, and three granddaughters.
Hoenig, 71, and his family have been long-time owners of the Thompson International Speedway.
The 5/8-mile oval was the first paved track in the U.S. when it opened May 26, 1940. Thompson Speedway was one of the charter NASCAR tracks when the organization was formed in 1948.
Racing was dominated by the Midget, Sprint and Champ cars and driven by those with aspirations of running the Indianapolis 500 and the track quickly earned the nickname, "Indy of the East." Three regulars at Thompson eventually went on to win the Indianapolis 500: Mauri Rose (1947, '48), Bill Holland ('49) and Lee Wallard ('51).
Hoenig is also an accomplished golfer. Across the parking lot from the speedway is the Raceway Golf Course, which Hoenig designed with dad, John, on the family's dairy farm in Thompson. The first nine holes opened in 1947 and in 1964, Hoenig designed and built the second nine at Raceway.
Hoenig also was the architect of Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass., which hosted a PGA Tour event from 1965-98. Hoenig also played in seven U.S. Amateurs, four U.S. Opens as a professional and in 1987 and '88, made appearances on the Senior PGA Tour. In 1952, Hoenig finished 17th and was low amateur at the Insurance City Open, which now known as the Greater Hartford Open. In 1957, Hoenig joined Gold Key recipient H.H. Mandly Jr. of Avon as the only state golfers to win the State Amateur and Connecticut Open titles in the same year.
Hoenig was inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 1981. Hoenig's Raceway GC annually hosts six high school golf teams' matches during the season as well as the Jack Kelly Junior Classic in June, which has raised upwards of $150,000 for junior golf. The tournament is held in memory of Jack Kelly, former Raceway pro who was 31 when he died of cancer in 1993. Hoenig's daughter, Tracy, was married to Kelly, and he has three other children: son Donald and daughters Heidi Bouchard and Kim Rizk
Mike Savage, 64, has been executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CAS-CIAC) since 1988 and with the organization since 1980.
A former teacher and coach (track, basketball and soccer) at Litchfield High School, he was the school's athletic director for three years. He spent two years as a junior high principal and three as princpal at the high school. During that time, he was active with CIAC on various committees and served as both vice-chairman of the CIAC Board of Control and Treasurer of CAS-CIAC. He also was president of the Berkshire League.
At CAS-CIAC, Savage has engineered a variety of changes. He added elementary schools to the membership, created an endowment fund, oversaw the move to new headquarters, and has helped establish programs as diverse as the Scholar-Athlete dinner, the Center for Early Adolescent Behavior, a Unified Sports program for disabled athletes and a coaching certification program. He helped bring about corporate mergers with the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors and with the Connecticut Association of Interscholastic Officials.
Savage is involved with numerous national and regional efforts as well, and is a member of the National Federation Constitution Revision Committee as well as treasurer of the NASSP Region I Executive Directors.
A 2001 inductee to the Litchfield Hall of Fame, Savage also has been honored by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association with the Joseph Calvanese and Joseph Fontana Awards, CAAD, the National High School Athletic Coaches Association and has received an Unsung Hero award from Special Olympics.
Savage and his wife, Margaret, have two sons, Michael and Christopher, and four granddaughters