Class gesture by Derby boys soccer, one that will not soon be forgotten by the Friscia Family.
TORRINGTON: Sometimes, if we are lucky, sporting events become something so much bigger than what we witness during the competition.
That was the case on Thursday night as a pair of Raider teams, one from Torrington, the other from Derby, lined up after the team from the northern part of the Naugatuck Valley League won the boys soccer game on the field by a 7-0 final behind three goals from Naseem Thompson.
What happened after that was the remarkable part of what makes being part of the family of sports is truly all about.
As most folks in the Torrington area know, Joe Friscia, a magnificent supporter of all things related Torrington sports and just a guy you feel privileged to know, has been battling Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer since his discovery of the ailment back in July.
His son Jimmy is a forward on the 9-4-1 Torrington team and on Thursday night, found out that he is also part of something so much bigger, something so much more important.
Unbeknownst to Friscia, his teammates or his coaches, the Derby Raiders had something special planned for him at the end of the contest.
After going through the handshake line, Derby head Coach Chris Kalesavich told Torrington head Coach Mike Fritch Jr that the team has something for Friscia.
The team had all gotten together and presented the Raider forward with a soccer ball, signed by every member of the team and the coaches.
Derby had come to the game ready to send a message to Friscia that they were behind him, something not lost on the Torrington head coach, who described his reaction.
“I thought it was a pretty awesome gesture,” Fritch said. “Caught us all by surprise. Each member of the Derby team also wore purple wrist bands in honor of Jimmy’s dad as well. I’m glad they did the presentation after because it got to each and every one of us. Probably not a dry eye on the team. It shows how much of a family we all are when together. The boys really do care, not just about soccer but what's going on outside of the game as well. I really do have to give credit to the kids on Derby. After enduring a defeat they were still willing to do what they did. The game result had no bearing on their selfless act. Complete class all around.”
That this game happened at this time was due to an early scheduling conflict that originally was requested for the day of his father’s fundraiser which drew hundreds to Chatterley’s in Torrington on Thursday, September 15.
“We were supposed to play Torrington back in our second game of the season,” Kalesavich said. “I’m in the National Guard and had a conflict so I asked them if they were willing to move the game. As we were trying to figure out a make-up game for that, I put out a date and coach Fritch got back to me to tell me they couldn’t do that date because they had the benefit for Mr. Friscia that night. He then told me the story at that time.”
When the date for the game got closer, the fourth year head coach remembered the story and talked to his team about it last week.
“I asked the kids if they would be willing to wear purple arm bands during the game if I was to order them,” Kalesavich said. “I was blown away by the kid’s reaction. They didn’t just want to wear the purple arm bands, they wanted to see what else they could do.”
Purple is the color used to support those battling Pancreatic Cancer.
So, bands on wrists or over their socks, the Raiders from Derby took to the pitch to honor a family they mostly did not know and by the half trailed 3-0.
What was the halftime talk about? Major motivation? How to get those three goals back? Not so much.
“It was funny,” Kalesavich said. “We spent the majority of the halftime not talking about X’s and O’s but figuring out how we were going to present the ball to Jimmy and what we were going to say. It was amazing to see how much the kids put playing soccer on the back burner so this family could feel like they were supported by people outside their community up there in Torrington.”
When the game ended, the Raiders from Derby put their plan into action.
“I told coach Fritch that after the cool down that some of my kids were going to over to present the ball to Jimmy,” Kalesavich said. “But it turned out the entire team went over to see him. Afterwards, Jimmy shook every one of my players and coaches hands.”
An outstanding gesture by a group of young men in the midst of a tough season (2-11) but they just became champions in most people’s eyes, especially the Friscia family.
The power of sports and the power of youth in our society, empathizing with their fellow man.
Great job, Derby players, great job coach.