THIS + THAT: Previous stars, where are they now?

It sure feels good to look up and out the window and to not see snow falling. It has been a while since I have written this section without the white stuff falling outside. Thinking of warmer climates, I give a shout out to Ludlow’s Brad Pearson who gets to work outside each day in Florida in his role as head trainer for the Red Sox. This former Ludlow President is a big part of any Boston success every season.

Spring sports’ team practices were able to get a one-day jump on spring on the calendar. Spring officially began Tuesday, March 20, but the practices in both Vermont and New Hampshire were allowed to start on Monday, March 19. It was the first time in a long time I remember the two states starting any season on the same day.

A couple of weeks ago, I passed along word that Springfield football and baseball coach Rich Saypack was facing a battle with cancer. The coming of spring was also significant on his schedule since he had major surgery on that same March 20 date. All our prayers and wishes are with him.

One fellow Cosmo faced a battle with a different kind of cancer during the 2016-17 school year. Alex Naccarato missed much of his senior basketball season, but in the end he was successful in his battle with the disease. I have had the pleasure this winter of speaking to Alex a number of times at University of Vermont basketball games where he is a second semester freshman in the honors college.

Naccarato told me recently, “I have been in remission for almost a year. I don’t have any symptoms. I feel good. I have a lot of energy every day. Most importantly, I don’t feel tired.”

Tired is one of the calling cards with Hodgkins Disease. Naccarato and I have shared stories, as we both were lucky enough to survive Hodgkins. I knew where he was coming from when he told me it didn’t matter how many naps he took or how much sleep he had during his battle, “because you never felt refreshed.” Naccarato also sends out a message to Saypack, wishing him the best.

It wasn’t easy for Saypack to give up baseball, but especially in this case timing was everything. A former Otter Valley baseball player, Jim Winslow, who now teaches in Springfield will be at the helm of the Cosmos this spring.

Bellows Falls also has a new varsity coach this spring campaign. Pete Fry stepped down from the softball position he held for more than a decade. Kim Wells, a teacher at the school will be faced with the challenge of making the program competitive. The biggest obstacle in recent years for the Terrier softballers has been numbers. Bellows Falls students have so many choices in the spring – especially with a very successful track program – softball has lost a number of quality performers.

In case you were watching the Nevada-Texas game in the NCAA basketball tournament late last Friday afternoon and wondered whom the familiar people spotted in the stands were, you could very well know them. Former Springfield football and basketball coach Mike Hatt and his wife Sherry were picked up on camera in a break from the action. They were at the Nashville first round games cheering for the Longhorns. Their son Cody is part of the Texas coaching staff. Young Hatt is in his third season on the Texas staff.

Many area fans will remember Hatt as a 1,000-point scorer at Springfield. He has had loads of success in the sports’ world since leaving the Cosmos. He played basketball at Norwich University where he graduated with honors academically and was the Male Scholar Athlete of the Year. He drew raves when he spent time working at ESPN where he was even part of putting together SportsCenter. Eventually though, his deep love of basketball brought him back closer to the game where he became a major contributor to the New England Recruiting Report.

He coached a couple of years at Vermont Academy. Contacts there brought him close to Shaka Smart who made a name for himself by bringing his Virginia Commonwealth team in 2011 from the inaugural First Four to the Final Four in that year’s NCAA Tournament.

Smart was so impressed with Hatt’s basketball knowledge and expertise that he brought him to VCU and kept him as an important contributor when he took over the Texas program.

 

If you would like to comment on the sports in this paper, feel free to email me at bmurphy@vermontjournal.com.

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