By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – Every year, the Plainville Observer picks its Male Athlete of the Year and, as always, it’s a challenging endeavor.
In fact, it’s an almost impossible task season after season.
This year’s senior class was certainly a special one and there’s more than one candidate was worthy of the end of year honor.
In fact, there were a couple of non-senior athletes who were possibilities this year as well.
Junior Omar Abdelsame comes to mind as he had one heck of a cross country and track season for Plainville.
It’s just not about running on the track for a guy like that…it’s a year round obsession.
That’s why Abdelsame is so good at what he does.
It’s a mental game and Abdelsame plays it as well as anyone – leading to first place time and state tournament appearances.
And someone like Plainville catcher Cody Charneski is in the mix as well.
That kid is a born leader and in both baseball and soccer this season, you could see it first hand on the field.
If he ends up playing at Western Connecticut State University, the program will be much improved by his presence.
Fellow senior Andrew Rottier had a great career for the Blue Devils as well.
On the soccer field, he truly was one of the the best Plainville had to offer.
One of the squad’s captains, he was a tough midfielder and was a three-time member of the CCC South all-conference team.
When your squad goes to the semifinals twice in Class M, a usually stacked field, Rottier and his accomplishments seem even more impressive.
And he’s smart too.
He’s off to Worcester Polytechnic Institute this fall to study computer science.
They just don’t let anyone into that place.
Rottier was recently honored at the Connecticut Association of Schools / Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s 31st Annual Connecticut High School Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet.
So, how could I turn him down as the Plainville High School Athlete of the Year?
I don’t know, I must be pretty insane to do so.
But this year’s award came down to another individual who also had success on the field and in the classroom.
He is a state championship and is one of those three sport athletes that seem to be so rare.
And on the soccer field, basketball court and on the baseball diamond, there was no one better than Shane Pugliese, the 2014 Plainville Observer Male Athlete of the Year.
“I felt like I had a good year all around,” said Pugliese of his senior campaigns. “I was the only person at my school to play three sports so that was cool. The whole time I was in high school, I was trying to be the only one to do that because I knew not many people were doing it any more.”
Pugliese is a bulldog at 5-foot-7 and simply could not be denied on the field.
He has the fire, and the enthusiasm, to match his will and while opponents might be bigger and opponents might be stronger, the warrior simply doesn’t have an off switch.
“He’s definitely an exceptional athlete for somebody his size in my opinion,” said Plainville assistant baseball coach Ryan Raponey. “He has a big heart, he’s a very big competitor, he puts a lot effort into the game. I had a positive experience with him, coaching him in baseball for the three years I’ve been in Plainville.”
“I’ve seen nothing but really good things out of him at the next level.”
Success is what drives Pugliese and in terms of soccer and baseball, the results are proof positive in terms of individual and team success.
He’s also an honor student at the high school and that all around success led to a very good senior campaign in the three sports.
However, it’s not about team success that fueled Pugliese. It was also about the individual, his teammates.
“More importantly, it was the memories with my teammates and the great contributions they had throughout the season to get to help us where we were in every sport,” said Pugliese. “In basketball, we weren’t a winning team but we had good chemistry, we had good kids, everyone liked each other…it was good in that way.”
But the fire is always ever present at the surface.
And he’ll knock some down if they get in way (an example was the soccer game at home from Alumni Field against Bristol Central…it was almost a Mike Tyson like moment).
He’s feisty and trying to wrangle Pugliese in is easier said than done.
Pugliese was a two-time All-state selection in soccer, a natural pest – an instigator – on the basketball court and, or course, a vital member of the Plainville baseball team over past three seasons.
His success in soccer was certainly impressive.
When you start all four years for your school, play just about every offensive position, and basically out-run everyone on the field, you have no choice but to be noticed.
During those times, Pugliese has grown not just as an athlete but as a leader as well.
“I think I’ve grown the way I hoped I would,” said Pugliese. “I put a lot of work into both sports (soccer and baseball).”
As a freshman and sophomore, Pugliese was a contributing member of both of Plainville’s CCC South championship teams and this past season – at 10-5-1 during the regular campaign – Plainville was once again a challenger in Class M.
Again, it wasn’t the fact that he netted game-winning goals and assists along the way, it was about this team getting better and better by the day.
And, according to Pugliese, the squad from Plainville had a great group of athletes to work with.
“Every day, the guys around me pushed me to work harder especially guys on the soccer team,” said Pugliese. “I remember every day, we’re going at it because we want to win so badly. It was a great atmosphere on the soccer team. Also on the baseball team…it was awesome this year.”
“We had a bunch of great seniors…it was definitely fun.”
And even though Pugliese and company only won three games in boys basketball, it was three more than the previous campaign.
A noted Bristol coach said he never looked forward to playing Plainville because of guys like Pugliese who was a game changer.
In fact, the Blue Devils picked off the Lancers 45-43 back on February 7.
Shane Pugliese notched 12 points in the opening season defeat at South Windsor but the numbers weren’t the big thing about the basketball season.
Again, he cared more about the individual as his stats meant little in terms of the grand scheme of things.
And in baseball, Pugliese was part of nine state tournament games over his career and the squad won seven of those.
This season, he helped the team into the round of 32 in the Class M tilt and earned all conference honors in the process.
His leadership proved invaluable on the diamond this past season.
And his glove did the trick again as he was a sure hand at shortstop.
In Plainville’s first victory at Fermi on Saturday, April 19, he went 2-of-3 with an RBI while helping the Blue Devils to a big 10-4 win.
And once again, Plainville was a state tournament qualifier – a streak that dates back to the mid-1970s.
In the end, a 10-1 loss to Plainville in the first round maybe wasn’t the way he wanted to go out but, in true Blue Devils’ fashion, he left in all on the field before things were said and done.
Pugliese was in the middle of several big wins for the Blue Devils but what was the highlight of his career at Plainville?
It was the 2012 Class M baseball championship when he was a sophomore of course.
In the championship tilt, Pugliese singled on with nobody out in the top of the fifth and made the play of the game.
Plainville followed with a sacrifice bunt as Pugliese raced to second base – and simply just kept going – until he reached third.
It was a huge play and that hustle typified his drive, his determination.
“It’s just special, it’s stuff to remember, stuff to tell you kids,” said Pugliese of the championship moments. “The biggest was celebrating with (Tyler) Favreau and all the guys on that team. It was a great team.”
“It was a great team, a great memory.”
And it didn’t matter if he batted .500 or .100 because it wasn’t about Shane Pugliese.
It was about the team Shane Pugliese was on.
“In the grand scheme of things, I can do whatever I do but if I’m on a subpar team, it’s not really that impressive,” said Pugliese. “If you can lead a team, be a good player, be a huge contributor to the team, it’s better that way.”
“I enjoy when a team has success…that’s when you’re having success, that’s when you’re playing good as a team.”
There’s no doub that Pugliese is a team leader.
And he certainly proved that point as he, along with Charneski, were the driving force behind the baseball team just this past spring.
Encouraging and leading by example, that’s what made Pugliese successful both on and off the field for Plainville.
“I think they did a great job (being leaders),” said Raponey of Pugliese and Charneski. “We graduated a pretty good amount of our starting line-up last season. We really only brought two starters back, Shane and Cody, at two very important positions on the field. I think they did a great job at anchoring our defense and really providing a spark in our line-up, getting on base and running and stealing bases.”
“They did all they could as leaders as well vocally and by example on the field.”