Lawrence County Historical Society holds 39th annual Sports Hall of Fame banquet

Apr. 29—The Lawrence County Historical Society inducted a new class to its Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The 39th annual Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame banquet welcomed eleven inductees, a Hall of Honor recipient an an Ellis Hoffman Memorial Team Award at the New Englander.

Doug Bleggi, Toni Wimer Prejsnar, Gary Roth, Paul Cameron, Allan Jackson, Ryenn Micaletti, Sarah Shaffer Harrison, Anthony Ascione, Matt DeSalvo, David Hasson, and Mary Beth Acker Brecker were the 2024 hall of fame inductees. Alberta Kelly was the Hall of Honor recipient and the 1981 Wilmington High baseball team received the Ellis Hoffman Memorial Team Award.

Before dinner was served, Lawrence County Historical Society's first vice president, Jim Haas, gave a welcoming speech.

"High school sports are a great thing," Haas said. "Personally, I played three years of varsity tennis at New Castle. It was a wonderful experience that helped me grow as a person. Participating in sports contributes to a person's identity and their well-being. It helps to build self esteem and it helps young folks build personality traits that enhance their success as they make their way in the world. It's fantastic that both boys and girls are participating these days."

After Haas, toastmaster Larry Kelly introduced Grant MacKay, Joseph Roth, Tori Atkins and Mia Preuhs who were 2023's student athletes of the year.

After dinner, the inductees took to the stage for a question and answer segment with Larry Kelly. Larry Kelly asked each of the inductees questions of who inspired them, aside from their parents, what plays standout to them in the coaching or player capacity and then a personal question relating to each inductee.

A majority of the inductees credited coaches on inspiring. Paul Cameron credited Bob Bleggi and Jim Longnecker.

"Without Jim Longnecker and Bob Bleggi, I wouldn't be sitting here today," Cameron said.

Ryenn Micaletti, the current head coach for the Slippery Rock University women's basketball team, was going to say coach Luann Grybowski inspired her, but before she could, Larry Kelly read a note Grybowski gave to him to read to Micaletti.

"She was the first woman that made being competitive cool for me," Micaletti said of Grybowski. "I just didn't see women walking around like that at nine, 10 years old. She just made wanting to reach goals so satisfying. I can't thank her enough because she changed my life."

Some multi-sport athletes were asked which sports came easy to them and what was the hardest. Bleggi, a three-sport athlete, said golf was the hardest and baseball was the easiest, adding, "I just really enjoyed the competition, getting on the mound and pitching."

DeSalvo, a professional who got his start in the major leagues with the New York Yankees, told a story on his first day with the team and facing Ichiro Suzuki as a pitcher. Kelly asked DeSalvo later what advice maybe to give a young kid who wants to be a great pitcher.

"Obviously, throw strikes but I think it's not worrying about failure," DeSalvo said. "Just don't care about it. Baseball's a game built around failure...You have to have that competitiveness."

Alberta Kelly, Lawrence County's first girls basketball coach, talked about triumphing over a recorded 0-19 season in the earlier part of her time as a coach.

"The kids wanted to play. You give them the best that you can give them and they'll respond," Alberta Kelly said. "They really do respond. When they were 0-19, I remember sitting in the locker room after one game, the kids were saying 'Are we really this bad?' I looked at them and I said, 'No,' that's the whole thing. They weren't. After we went 0-19...we did go 26-0. When I won 20 games, the high school principal said to me 'You seem to be having a good season.'"