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Carbone's Fire Leaves A Lasting Mark

POSTED July 24, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

Torrington baseball coach, Gerry Carbone, has stepped down after 23 years at the Raiders helm. A class act who has given it all to the Raiders baseball program.

                                   Carbone’s Fire Leaves A Lasting Mark

           TORRINGTON – The fire burned fiercely across the Torrington and NVL landscape.  It was Gerry Carbone’s trademark for the 23 seasons he coached the Torrington High baseball team.  You tangled with the Raiders and you knew a couple of things right off the bat – you were in for a scrap and nobody was scrappier than the passionate presence coaching third base.

            The fire was the main ingredient that fueled a program. Not a game or season but a program that won consistently, battled Seymour, Naugatuck, Woodland and the likes in the upper echelon of the NVL. Seemingly every year.

            Carbone finished with a 308-95 mark and three NVL titles. It didn’t happen without good players and it certainly didn’t happen without Carbone.

            All of which makes Carbone’s resignation this past week a very big deal. Time chipped away at the fire. Not between the lines where the edge was always there, but off the field. He struggled with the idea his team faded in the second half of this season and he hadn’t checked on his players during the summer baseball season and he didn’t miss it that much. It was a sign that it was time.

            So time takes a very big bite out of our scholastic spring.  Carbone’s name carries with it the same impact that Tony Turina’s did for Red Raider basketball or former Kennedy coach Jack Taglia, Crosby’s Nick Augelli and Ed Generali of Holy Cross did and do during NVL winters. Naugatuck’s Art Nunes in NVL soccer and Northwestern girls basketball coach Fred Williams are in the same company.

            Like a select group of his counterparts, Carbone goes beyond the game. He has been around long enough and been good enough to become part of the fabric and culture of what he does. This is a very big bite out of the area scene. Don’t[ underestimate it.

            It was always fun to go to a game and watch Carbone and his clubs. You didn’t look like a ballplayer, you heard about it. You didn’t run as hard as you could, you heard about it. It was a festival of feisty. It was the only way Carbone ever knew.

            It was part personality reinforced through his playing days at THS  for the legendary Connie Donahue and on into the coaching ranks by his association and tutelage alongside another legend, Shepaug Valley’s Ted Alex.

            Seymour coach Bob Kelo, friend and baseball enemy, can tell you about Carbone and his teams.

            “When (All-Star) Jay Perez was a freshman we were up by seven runs and I told my kids no more stealing,” said Kelo was a big of a painful chuckle. “Torrington came back to beat us. Gerry always had his teams well-prepared.”

            It has always been Carbone’s way to speak his mind and push his point. When the NVL went to divisions several years ago and changes were made, Kelo and pal, Carbone, provided their input to the NVL Athletic Directors.

            “We took some of their advice, but not 100 percent of it,” remembered former Torrington A.D. Newell Porch. “We heard about it from both of them.’

            I caught myself on the end of Carbone’s wrath  back in the early 1990s when working for the Register Citizen in Torrington. We were working to expand coverage and did not cover two of Torrington’s games one week.

            We knew we were in trouble when Gerry didn’t phone the results in and we had to call the Waterbury Republican to get the final scores for our own local team. The next time I showed up at a Torrington game, I was dressed down in no uncertain terms about over where he thought Torrington writers should be on game day.

            That was the passionate side of Gerry and no offense was taken. It was part of the fire.  It might heat you up at times, but it didn’t burn you. Don’t tell anybody but behind the fire there was the sensitive side. He has become a respected friend in the 25 years I have known him.

            The “there’s no crying in baseball” demeanor might have been a dominant strain but it shared time.

“Gerry always put a tough face on but there was sensitive side,” said Porch. ‘Same thing with Tony Turina. Both are home town guys and had to cut kids with parents they knew. Some became outraged and there were some remarks about favoritism. Both took it personally.”

Kelo remembers when he couldn’t get a player on the All-Star team his first two seasons coaching and Carbone finally told him to vote for his own kids which he didn’t think he could do. Everything with passion and purpose.

The fire started to wane this season. After an 11-0 start, the team went 5-6. A lot of the early wins were one-run jobs and he knows that kind of good fortune usually doesn’t last forever. The team lost both first round NLV Tournament and state tournament games.

“At the end I couldn’t push the button to get us back on track,’ said Carbone. “To me the mental part of the game is just as important and I started thinking maybe I just can’t do it anymore.”

Frankly, it all started to wear on him, including the challenges of running a job solo. He misses the day, people like John Ferguson were there to help him out. The flame was flickering and if you know Carbone, a flicker isn’t enough.

He says it was not that a difficult decision of a decision and nothing that he lost sleep over. A strong admission for a man of baseball passion. At 55, there is much to do. He still teaches and after 33 years is still going strong. There’s involvement with the Torrington Park and Recreation Department and a little golf here and there.

The fire still burns it just won’t burn on the THS baseball field any more. Good guy, great career, big loss. The fire always heated up the area spring.              





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