Elgin Sports Hall of Fame banquet a night of nostalgia
If you're a fan of nostalgia, the Heritage Ballroom at The Centre of Elgin was the place to be Sunday night.
Putting aside the fact that many of us in the room showed our age by reminiscing — catching up with former Larkin football coach Ray Haley was my favorite part of the night — it's always a special time when the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame Foundation holds its annual banquet and induction ceremony, and bringing the event to an Elgin venue this year made it even better.
After holding a rededication ceremony of the Wall of Fame, and having an excellent buffet dinner catered by In The Neighborhood of Elgin, the Hall of Fame doled out a plethora of awards to scholarship recipients and Outstanding Achievement Award winners. The foundation's main purpose is to serve the youth of Elgin and the $25,000 in scholarships awarded to 2011 graduates would be enough in itself to hold a ceremony.
The Outstanding Achievement Awards are also a special part of the night because they recognize present-day accomplishments. Sunday's loudest reaction went to Elgin senior softball standout Hannah Perryman, who last spring tied an IHSA record by hitting 3 grand slams in one season. It was also good to see two of the honored teams — the Elgin American Legion baseball team and the St. Edward boys golf team — have many of their team members in attendance. We all know that kids are our future, and those kids who had a chance to be at Sunday's banquet are also the future of the continued success of the ESHOF. Time to get them in the fold now.
For all the great acknowledgments on the program leading up to the induction ceremony, which included the Vic Masi Serice Award being presented to Elgin Sharks founder Bob Pleticha, inducting five new members into the Hall of Fame still, as it should, took center stage.
Here's just a few random comments from the induction ceremony.
•Larry Hight, now retired Larkin softball coach who received an OAA for his 300th career win, recalled when inductee Stacey Nagel Cheek was mad at him during a game, hit a home run, and then refused to high-five Hight when she came around third base. I recall being at that game, as well as many others watching and covering Nagel, one of the truly great softball players to ever play in Elgin, but also — admittedly — one of the freest spirits I've ever seen in a high school athlete.
"She was a lot of fun to coach," Hight said. "She had a great passion for the game. They broke the mold when they made Stacey Nagel."
Nagel wasn't able to attend the ceremony (she lives in Georgia now and is seven months pregnant), but she did send her appreciation though her dad, Steve and said, "This is truly an honor that I will cherish with my family for years."
•Raul Rodriguez, a former Larkin and University of Illinois gymnast who had many family and friends in attendance, recalled his days in Elgin.
"I'm very proud to have grown up in Elgin; what a wonderful town," said Rodriguez, who closed his speech by thanking his parents in Spanish. "What a wonderful decision my father made for our family by moving here from Mexico."
•Inductee Gary Kane, a 1958 Elgin High grad, wasn't able to attend Sunday's ceremony as he was recovering from surgery. His award was accepted by another former inductee and great former Maroon, Chuck Brandt.
"Gary was the best all-around athlete I ever played with," Brandt said. "He's the only guy I can ever remember getting all-state at Elgin High in football and basketball the same year."
A footnote: Funniest photo of the night was Brandt, who stands around 6-10, with ESHOF president Mark Sharf, who stands about 5, um something less than 10.
•Phil Sokody passed away 10 years ago but his accomplishments as an Elgin High basketball player and as a friend of sports were remembered by his daughter, Paula Sokody Wilding. "He loved Elgin, he loved basketball and he loved Elgin High School," Paula said. She also reminded us all how instrumental Phil was in his contributions to the development of athletic facilities, particularly the basketball facility, at Westminster Christian, where the officials' locker room is named in his memory. Phil's dad, Paul, was a longtime official and Paula recalled how Phil would often recall Paul telling stories of officials having to change clothes in janitor's closets.
"Officials meant a lot to my dad," Paula said. "And he wanted to make sure at Westminster they had a decent place to call their own."
•It was fitting that Jay Goedert was inducted last. Former DePaul basketball coach Joey Meyer made the trip out to introduce Jay's wife, Sue, to accept the award for Jay, who passed away from a heart attack on July 4, 2004. "Jay was a proud member of this community," said Meyer of Goedert, who was a DePaul and NIU assistant coach for 12 years after stints at Elgin High and ECC. "I've been coaching 35 years and I don't think I ever had a better assistant that got our teams more prepared for the opponent."
Meyer also recalled how Goedert helped Meyer's dad, the legendary Ray Meyer, at Final Fours during the last few years Ray was able to attend the NCAA championships.
"You couldn't be inducting a better person," Meyer said.
Goedert's wife, Sue, spoke of how she knew Jay would have felt Sunday night.
"Jay would be truly honored," Sue said. "He had a deep love of sports in Elgin. Jay lived his dream and carried his Elgin roots with him. He never lost his love for the game or his love for Elgin. Thank you for bringing him home tonight."
And thank you to the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame Foundation for coming home as well.
Road trip: Saturday's trip to Hanover River Ridge for the Class 1A girls volleyball supersectional game had some nostalgia to it as well. I had enough time to stop and take in a quarter of the Freeport Aquin at Stockton playoff football game at Stockton High School, whose football field is right along U.S. 20. It reminded me that this is the 35th anniversary of Hampshire's 1976 Class 1A state football championship, and watching the farmers who had stopped harvesting to come and watch the game sent me even further down memory lane. Stockton, by the way, is now home to former Burlington Central and Elgin boys basketball coach Dave Gilliland, who is now the superintendent of the Stockton school district as well as the high school principal.
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