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188 strong. The Torrington Hall of Fame inducts seven into their ranks.

POSTED April 25, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: Their ranks have now grown to include 188 of the best Torrington has had to over the past two decades.

Seven more stellar individuals have been added to the prestigious Torrington Hall of Fame and as it has the previous nineteen years, this time around proved to be another great night which always seems to serve as part class reunion, part family reunion.

Are they really any different?

On Sunday evening at the Torrington Elks Club, we saw a former minor league baseball player (Michael Fabiaschi) enter with his beloved grandfather (Gino Fabiaschi) who was one stellar athlete and an even better friend to those who knew him.

We saw one of the best play by play announcers the area has ever known (Michael Conway) join a guy who devotes his life to making sure we on the sidelines know what’s going on from the PA spot in the press box (RJ Poniatoski).

A women (Patty Fairchild) who has devoted countless hours over the past 7300 days (20 years) to making sure student athletes at Torrington High School had what they needed to do what they loved to do while making sure the clubs she helped run did so in an effective way.

We heard from a multi-sport athlete who verified that he indeed use a strong spice to thwart off those who played across from him on the gridiron (Joe Rinaldi) and from a father of the best left handed pitcher the Raiders have ever thrown out to the bump (Herb Lehmann III).

Seven remarkable individuals who learned the values that made them successful in life on their respective fields of battle.

Conway, the Master of Ceremonies for 18 of the 20 events, got the night off to be honored as former THS Athletic Director Charles McSpiritt did the honors of running the show with help from current AD, Michael McKenna.

26 past members were also on hand to celebrate this year’s class and to keep this rich tradition alive.

Gino Fabiaschi may have kept his message short as he thanked everyone involved in him being inducted, but he sat and listened to his grandson, Michael carry the torch for the family.

The younger Fabiaschi, who did a stellar job on our Cable 5 Show last Thursday (a re-broadcast will be played on Thursday, April 28 between 8-9 p.m.), spoke of how his love of sports started at any early age when he attended Raiders games.

“I grew up idolizing the players I saw at Torrington High School,” Fabiaschi said. “Friday nights were the highlights of my weeks. It was everything I dreamed of and aspired to be.”

Fabiaschi gave thanks to two of his coaches, Tony Turina and Gerry Carbone whom he credited with pushing him to become the player and man that he has become today.

The former Oakland A’s prospect told the story of his parents, Julie and John Fabiaschi who each in their own way had a great deal to do with his success including a story of how his mother was his personal catcher in either baseball or football.

“My mother would be out in our front yard as the designated quarterback or designated catcher,” Fabiaschi said. “You don’t realize until you go to other people’s house that just didn’t happen. When everyone came over to my house, we had one extra player. Even with a bad back, my mom would be my personal catcher in the driveway. I’d pull out a picnic chair and I would throw to her for hours on end. I think my parents traveled to around 20 states to see me play.”

That kind of dedication creates great people.

Conway has given so much of himself to the City of Torrington, first as a City Council member and then later as Mayor for six years. He has also dedicated 30 years to the Dick’s Scholarship Committee as well.

His smooth delivery and well timed humor is always on display and his dedication to his family was evident by the large contingency that showed up to watch him be honored.

What can you say about the man known as RJ?

If someone needs something done involving Torrington High School, RJ is there. From serving as President of the Dick’s Restaurant Scholarship to the John Ponte Memorial Scholarship, RJ is always available for those who need him.

As the “Voice of the Raiders” from high atop the bleachers at the Robert H Frost Complex or on the bench for the American Legion P-38’s, RJ is there.

He has been a major force in developing one of the best Unified Sports programs in the state and also serves as an advisor on the Torrington Varsity Club to boot.

RJ is also the right hand man for McKenna if needed.

Fairchild is simply one of the most dedicated supporters of anything to do with Raiders sports from behind the scenes.

She has been the consistent force behind the Torrington Booster Club since 1991 and is a founding member of the club she joined on Sunday night.

The effort she has put forward of these past decades is remarkable and she takes her rightful place amongst the greats in Torrington.

Rinaldi, a four sport athlete in his day, played semi-pro football from 1971-1973 with the Kirkland Bulldogs and served as the co-captain of the team.

During his days on the gridiron for the Raiders, Rinaldi was known for eating garlic before games, making playing across from him a challenge.

He resides in Seattle, Washington but still considers Torrington a place he can always come back to with pride.

Herb Lehmann III was represented by his father on Sunday night who told of the pride his son felt growing up playing for the Raiders and head coach Carbone.

A usual, a remarkable night, this Hall of Fame dinner.

188 strong.

A Raiders tradition marches on.

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