By MIKE CHAIKEN
The Observer’s sportswriter Michael Letendre received the Media Award for 2017 from the Connecticut American Legion Baseball Committee.
The ceremony was held Jan. 5 at the Aqua Turf.
The veteran reporter has long been a supporter of the Legion program through his comprehensive coverage of the Bristol program.
“It feels great to be honored by the Connecticut American Legion,” said Letendre who started at the Observer in 2009 and who wrote for the Bristol Press from 2001-2009, and at Bristol Today from 1999-2002. “(The Legion is) a world class organization that has so many dedicated individuals, giving of their time freely, to promote baseball. It’s truly an honor and a privilege to cover baseball in Bristol.”
Letendre, who currently lives in Plainville, has long been a fixture on the sidelines of Bristol Legion baseball.
“I wrote a little Legion baseball for Bristol Today, a little weekly newspaper, for Dave Fortier and David Lepore around 2000 or so,” said Letendre. “But I’ve been going to games long before that with my dad. Many of my Bristol Eastern classmates have gone through the program over the years and done very well.”
One of the dimension of Legion baseball that is most attractive to Letendre is the level of play fostered in the program.
“Even though other summer baseball programs have allowed players to compete elsewhere, as of late, American Legion baseball is still where it’s at as far as I’m concerned,” said the Observer sports writer.
“(Bristol’s) Post 2 always plays several games outside of its own zone, allowing players to compete against talent from all over the state – and beyond,” said Letendre. “And with the Junior Legion program growing in the city, the opportunity to stay and play locally is very appealing.”
“Plus,” added Letendre, “you get to play at Muzzy Field.”
Letendre also appreciates the sense of community under the Legion baseball umbrella.
“You can see the pride when the boys are wearing and competing in a Bristol uniform,” said Letendre. “The Bristol American Legion baseball team brings players from all three high schools in the city together over the summer. It’s one of the few programs in town that has that kind of total representation. It’s a pretty impressive grouping of local athletes that encompass the entire city.”
As for the most satisfactory aspect of covering Legion ball, Letendre said, “Let’s be honest, print media in town has changed and Bristol American Legion baseball has taken a back seat.”
“Frankly,” said Letendre, “it’s not fair to those young men. Those athletes put their butts on the line several nights a week, working hard at their craft, and represent Bristol to the best of their abilities. These guys deserve coverage in our local newspapers and I’m proud to be able to provide Bristol American Legion baseball stories and results in the Bristol Observer. That won’t be changing any time soon.”
The following awards were distributed Jan. 5.
Hall of Fame Inductees
Craig Zimmerman, Joe Mattei, Paul LaFleur
Alumni of the Year
Lou Verdi, North Haven
Distinguished Coaches Award
Rob Manzo, Berlin
Committee Leadership Award
Chris Sabia, Stamford
Minor League Player of the Year
David Speer, Westport (Akron RubberDucks – Cleveland Indians)
College Coach of the Year
Charles Hickey, (CCSU)
College Player of the Year
Kevin Radziewicz, RCP (Fairfield University)
EJ Lavoie, Simsbury (WCSU)
High School Coach of the Year
Bob Bromage, East Granby High School
Michael Letendre, Bristol Observer
Elmer Deschaine, Central Board
15U Coach of the Year
Tim Hunter, Greenwich
17U Coach of the Year
Jim Laughlan, Ellington
19U Coach of the Year
Kevin Murray, Stamford
Region 1 Baseball Scholarship Winner
Luke Johnson, East Haddam
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.