A few months ago I had the opportunity to attend the induction ceremony for the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame.
I was so touched by the events leading up to that day and the ceremony that evening, I decided to write my thoughts down.
I spent some of the best years of my life in Saugerties which helped to shape me to be the person I am today. For all of us that have had that opportunity we are truly blessed.
It started when I had the opportunity to read an amazing article written by Tommy Whitaker about Jeff Dodig, arguably the best and hardest working baseball player to come out of Saugerties.
What struck me by Tommy’s article was that he covered every detail he learned through interviewing Jeff. Tommy paid Jeff the respect he deserved while also paying respect to the Dodig family and their contribution to Saugerties sports over time.
In this world of social media, the article made it onto Facebook where warm comments of congratulations came from Saugerties friends of Jeff who have both remained local and are spread around the country. This was a display of the type of person Jeff was but also a display of how folks from Saugerties are often very happy for those from town that have done well.
In terms of progression, prior to the event, a few groups played golf at the Lazy Swan, a relatively new establishment that offers those in town a great option to enjoy a great game with great views of the beautiful Catskills.
The venue for the event was the Diamond Mill Hotel, also a relatively new establishment in Saugerties. This is a world-class location with an amazing view of the beautiful Esopus waterfall. A waterfall that was once covered by an industrial building is now a resort-like establishment with quality food and drinks.
Add to this HITS and the venue where Woodstock ’94 was held and you can honestly say — true progress.
The Hall of Fame event speaks for itself. It is like a family reunion and a high school reunion rolled into one. People truly love catching up with old friends in Saugerties. The stories from the past are affectionately told again with much laughter.
The Hall of Fame Committee does a terrific job honoring those already in the hall while keeping the spotlight on the new inductees.
People like Pete Kramer and Rich Koegel lead some of the key events for the evening. These are two examples of men that stand for what the fabric of Saugerties is about — respect for hard work and the great people that have contributed to the sports aspect of the town.
An example of that is the late Jack Keeley, a great man of Saugerties who is honored by a scholarship in his name that is awarded each year to a deserving high school student.
Most impressive to me is the affection shown to Greg Helsmortel for re-creating the Dutchmen some 35 years ago or so. Greg had a very positive impact on many lives when he took this bold step and the Saugerties athletes take every opportunity to recognize him for what he did. Greg probably wouldn’t remember but I was the original Dutchmen Duck having rounded first and second ending with a head-first slide into third on more than one occasion.
Finally, it is awesome to see people like Dennis Sheehan, Coach Vizzie, Iggy Maines and the Lezette family support the Hall of Fame.
Overall, for me a great time and a reminder of how special Saugerties truly is.
Toward the end of the event someone mentioned to me that Saugerties was recently named one of the top small towns in America. I am not surprised. I am just glad that my dad still call Saugerties his home and that myself and my brothers, Steve and Chris, had a chance to spend a great part of our lives there.
Bob Caporale Jr.
Read the rest of this week’s letters in the print edition.