Back in high school, I played soccer and ran cross country at Washingtonville High School.
I was a Wizard. No kidding, pre-Harry Potter, we had the Wizards in this Orange County, New York hamlet.
Located in a beautiful part of New York State, close enough to the Big Apple for frequent visits, far enough away to enjoy the quiet calm of the country.
It was the 70’s, bell bottoms and long hair abound, I rocked my share and it was during my senior year in 1976 that I joined the school newspaper to write about sports.
My writing was born from my love of all major sports, baseball being my favorite. I’ll never forget going to baseball games at Shea Stadium with my dad and watching him meticulously keep score like it was a job, a devotion.
Writing also became a way for me, not the best athlete in the world, to stay involved at the ground level.
I was a shy kid in high school and the two sports I tried out for and made could not have been more ill-suited for something I lacked at times.
Oxygen in my lungs.
You see, turns out I had excursed induced asthma which was triggered by the very activities I had chosen.
Trouble was, back in 1976 most coaches and doctors and your friends just suggested you suck it up and run faster which, you guessed it, made the challenges greater by the step.
It was though, when I fell in love with soccer. The Wizards were a powerhouse in Section 9 in New York State.
We had a legendary head coach in Tony Martelli, and some tremendous athletes.
Martelli had great success in high school coaching. He was a 1995 inductee to the New York State High School Coaches Hall of Fame. Martelli had a 249-54-23 career record at Washingtonville High School, Pretty good stats.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those great athletes.
Too slow, not confident enough nor skilled enough but what I saw (usually from the bench) helped me fall in love with a game that didn’t also have a ton of scoring but the story within the action was something I picked up on quickly.
I would write 300-400 words per week on the highlights that week, in football, soccer and baseball mostly.
Waiting to see the school newspaper come out on a monthly basis was something every writer looked forward to.
Some things never change. When you write you want to see what you’ve written in print and in future years online.
The roots of writing that I developed in high school took a wild to take hold but were there when I needed them in 1999 when I was looking for a part time job.
I saw an ad in the Torrington Register Citizen for a part time sports Reporter working out of an office on Water Street
My job was for two to three hours a night to take phone calls from coaches and try my best to type down one finger at a time on to a page that would eventually end up being the next day’s newspaper.
It was then that I met one of my future writers Patrick Tiscia who was a full-time sportswriter at the time.
For most of the time I was there we were kind of bored, talked about sports, watched sports on TV before the bedlam a phone calls came rushing in. I always enjoyed the 10:45 track meet results with an 11:00 PM deadline and me being the slowest typing guy on planet earth.
At that time, I also worked with a gentleman who is a great friend to this day, Peter Wallace who would take my work, rip it apart, send it back to me and make me do better. Something I will always thank him for.
It was a time of great camaraderie and friendship and how I developed so many relationships around the Northwest Corner.
I’ll never forget nights where I would bring in Frito Lay cheese dip and Tostitos from my day job at with the chip giant or buy Chinese for the four or five guys that were working in the Sports Department or have a homemade meal made by Mrs. Gaffney that certainly was appreciated by guys who didn’t always eat the best based on their schedules.
Over time though newspapers started to shrink. The freelance writing that was once prevalent was disappearing.
While I was at the Register, I created a sports program on WA PJ down the street from us on Water Street.
I’ll never forget my first show was with Michael Ciesco, A multisport star at Torrington high school who was kind enough to come on the program for the first 30 minutes.
I laugh when I think about that first show I did.
I was so nervous being on the radio for the first time while working the controls that I wrote the entire thirty minutes down because I didn’t think I could fill thirty whole minutes of airtime.
Have you met me? Nowadays, I don’t say hello in less than ten minutes.
Patrick Tiscia was next to come on the program and he never left. My good friend Rick Wilson came on the program next and never left.
we didn’t even notice it at the time, but we had created our own team.
I’ll never forget one night after a show the three of us were standing on the sidewalk of Water Street with not much freelance work left for any of us that I mentioned that we needed to create something for ourselves.
Saying we wanted to do something was the easy part. Doing something about it, not so easy.
The one thing I knew is that we had a great product.
Rick and Pat are great writers and I had been starting to find my groove as well.
We had some connections with a friend who developed websites and created Litchfield County Sports.com on a desk in Plainville at the offices of Crucial Networking not having any idea what the heck we were doing.
I’ve always believed that part of the strength of a leader or someone that creates a company is being able to identify others who know more than you do and letting them do their thing so that’s what I did.
Rick and Pat didn’t need any help in knowing how to write, had great connections and I just needed to let them do what they needed to do.
It was a thrill watching the website come together.
We launched in the fall of 2009 and haven’t looked back since.
Suddenly, we could do what we wanted to, anywhere at any time. We were our own assignment desk editors. Because of the connections that we had made throughout the Naugatuck Valley and the Berkshire Leagues, coaches knew and welcomed us. Athletic Director’s as well.
No story of how Litchfield County sports was created can be told without giving credit to a friend who has been like an older brother to me. Former Torrington head basketball coach Tony Turina, owner of Tony’s Coffee Express in Thomaston.
I’ll never forget the day I was delivering chips to this coffee shop on Waterbury Road in Thomaston, not knowing that Turina, a Torrington native owned a coffee shop in Thomaston until he came up to me while I was stocking shelves and said, “Hey Tim what are you doing here?”
From there it was all uphill. Turina’s positive, upbeat always supportive tone inspired me every time I walked in. That and an excellent cup of French Vanilla coffee.
The fact that his girls always knew your order was a bonus. My visits to the coffee shop became more frequent.
We would talk sports for 15 or 20 minutes and then I would eventually meander off to my day job.
It was during those times there’s so many great ideas came from coach Turina.
It was during one of those visits that he told me that I had a gift. You don’t often hear that from people and when you do you tend remember it.
I remember him telling me that when I told a story he felt like he was there something every sportswriter wants to do.
One nagging question hung over the entire business model.
How will we make money?
One thing I can guarantee you is the making money part of it was a slow and tenuous venture at best for the first few years.
Selling advertising online was a fairly new phenomena at the time.
Questions abound. What do I charge? How do you make ads?
All unchartered territory. Kind of like throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what stuck.
I was extremely fortunate to have a large part of the Torrington community get on board with us early and stay on board with us for a long time, long enough to help me get my feet underneath me.
Our brand of writing was positive and upbeat.
My blood type is B-Positive, something that would help propel Litchfield County sports forward.
The challenges of sustaining our website though were daunting.
How does one continue to stay afloat?
We were told many times that we would not be able to do this. How could we compete against the Register Citizens and the Waterbury Republicans of the world?
Slowly but surely, I made my way throughout the Torrington community, talking up what we were doing, and we had created, and the buzz started.
We found ourselves everywhere. State Championship games, thanks largely to the Torrington Boys basketball team at first and then the Thomaston girls’ basketball team for many a year afterwards. At times we would have as many reporters at a state championship game as any of the statewide newspapers.
2017 proved to be our breakout year.
It started with an idea that at first seemed crazy followed up by a trip that sounded just right.
During a basketball game at THS, I was sitting at the scorer’s table talking sports with Raider baseball coach Pat Richardson when he suggested we come out with a magazine.
At first, I thought he was crazy. Print was dying right in front of our eyes, but I did not completely dismiss the idea.
What if I came out with a magazine, they focused on the positive in our communities?
I felt that all the negative news around us was wearing on people.
Could a positive, upbeat publication catch on?
Show, I got to work on the creation of the Litchfield County Sports Magazine
Its creation was similar to us creating our website. There is something remarkably exciting about creating something yourself.
At the same time, that trip I mentioned was coming up. We were going to follow the Torrington girls’ softball team to Florida where they were scheduled to play regular season games at the Wide World of Sports Complex.
It was a tremendous trip that we turned into a family adventure by driving south, with our granddaughter Skyy, who was a pretty good player herself.
Skyy was 13 at the time and got to practice with the varsity, something I’m sure she has never forgotten.
The sight of her shagging fly balls with the Raiders was a thrill for her grandparents as well.
It was during that trip that the premier edition of the LCS Magazine was being developed back in Torrington by my partners at Minuteman Press.
Sydney Ash (our designer) and Jack Reynolds (the owner) had never produced a magazine before but put in time to create something truly remarkable.
The magazine became a monthly staple for many and is available in stores around the Litchfield County area.
We have since branched out to do magazines for the Torrington Public School system, pointing out all the great things that go on in our schools every day.
Staying involved in the community has always been something near and dear to me and through LCS, I have been able to make a positive impact on the communities we serve.
Becoming the Kids Marathon Coordinator five years ago was a natural progression as was the creation and the hosting of the Litchfield County Sports Banquets.
The banquets, which honored athletes from Torrington High School and most recently Oliver Wolcott Technical school, were a way to honor athletes that would not always get the recognition that they deserve.
Last year, even in a pandemic we held a virtual banquet at THS.
This winter we are launching a new, updated website with a new address.
Litchfield-County-Sports.com with premier in late February with the old site remaining as our archive.
So, as you see, no grass is growing under our feet as we look to continue to bring you the good news in the world around us.
It’s been ride and we have only just begun.