Big Crowd Attends Hall of Fame Dinner

All photos by Bill O'BrienFor the past 10 years the Branford Sports Hall of Fame dinner has averaged over 300 attending the annual recognition banquet at Woodwinds. Last Friday, 320 attended the 31st annual dinner honoring 11 inductees who played sports, and either through sports or life after sports, brought honor and distinction to the town of Branford.

“It’s pretty amazing year after year we have such great attendance at our dinner,” said Alex Palluzzi, vice chairman of the Sports Hall of Fame committee. “Some people told me they come every year even if they don’t know the honorees personally. They attend to hear what they’ve accomplished and hear what they have to say.”

All three women honored at this year’s banquet came a distance to be honored.

2863 Olympic medalist Caitlin Cahow (center, above), who grew up in Short Beach and won bronze and silver medals in ice hockey in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics games, came from Chicago.

2938 Record-holding track star Tahari James Castilla came from Atlanta where she now lives.

Rachael Chamberlain who was all state in both field hockey and track and field came from New York City. Rachel and Tahari both thanked their high school coaches for what they did for them while they were at BHS.

David Delise, who accepted for his late father Philip, a former principal at Branford High School, spoke about how his dad worked hard to raise funds from sponsors for the Post 83 American Legion baseball team and attended games at the high school on a regular basis to support the players.

Frank Barron, with Master of Ceremonies Paul Criscuolo, was recognized for his involvement is promoting lacrosse, which has grown significantly over the past 20 years. “I’m proud of what happened with the growth of lacrosse in Branford and the small part I played in it,” he said.

Criscuolo introduced Craig Kenney as the most intense football and basketball player in Branford history. Kenney told how he hoped one day to be in the Hall of Fame and he was very excited to be honored with his family attending.

Gary Gravina coached the Hornet football team to the 2005 Class MM state championship.

Paul Rowan started his acceptance talk by reaching down and putting on his Branford soccer coach’s hat from back in 1968 when he started a club soccer team at the high school, which became a varsity sport the following year. He coached until 1985.

Former Connecticut Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year Brian Sager thanked his former coach Walter Novak and told the audience of his gratitude for all that Branford did for him to put him on the road to help him achieve his dream. His baseball career came to an end after a chronic arm injury.

Scott Torello was described as “smooth as silk” for his performance on the basketball court. He thanked his family for their support during his playing days at Branford and celebrated with them after the dinner.

Probate Court Judge Frank Forgione told of his love of baseball and thanked all the players he coached over the years for giving their all.

Part of the crowd of 320 at the 31st awards dinner.

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