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O'Connell Has Time In His Hands

POSTED January 30, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                                O’Connell Has Time In His Hands

             Rick O’Connell is a gym rat. Even at the young age of 66, he can’t stay away from the bounce of the ball, the sound of the coach and the whistle, the sweaty aroma. It is part home; it is part of who he is.

            It has been and is a full life – marriage, three daughters, grandchildren, Vietnam, Pratt and Whitney, an admirable golf game that still holds up, a model of civic involvement from the Board of Education to Board of Finance and Recreation Commission to Board of Selectman, it has always been a life of living and giving, void of a stationary position.

            You can take O’Connell out of the gym and life has, but you can’t take the gym out of O’Connell and life hasn’t. From his days as a player and proud starter on Thomaston High’s undefeated 1962 state championship team to his stint as a referee to his presence at THS boys practice in recent years to helping out coach Joe Frascatore, O’Connell has never strayed far from the friendly court.

            On game night you will find O’Connell keeping the clock at the Golden Bears’ gym. If there is a gym, there is a role to be had and O’Connell has had most of them. So it is no surprise that he widened his scope this season and become a timer for college games.

            When the Bears aren’t in town, O’Connell can be found somewhere in the tri-state area this winter making sure the seconds tick away efficiently for a schedule of about 20 to 25  mostly Division III games.

            “I got hooked up through Frascatore,” said O’Connell. “He said, `you’re a junkie why don’t you go do some college games, you’re efficient. Most of the guys that do this are basketball junkie’.”

            Prior to the season, O’Connell went to an AAU Tournament in Springfield where they bring in referees, timers and scorekeepers to see how they react in certain situations. O’Connell passed muster and credits his background as a major ingredient in handling the process.

            “Being a former referee was a big advantage because I know the rules.”

            With his experience keeping the clock at Thomaston games, you might think the move is just more miles, more gyms and more money. Hardly.

            “The biggest difference is the coordination between the timers, scorers and officials,” said O’Connell. “It is unbelievable. There is no small talk, you have to focus. A mistake could cost somebody a shot in the tournament.”

            O’Connell calls the college officials, "your best friend.” “Nothing happens and the score doesn’t go up until the officials say so. It’s mandatory to go into the official’s room and talk to these guys.”

            Out of a class of 20, only three guys were kept so you know O’Connell has got this thing down. He goes to the games in his timer’s shirt, although at some schools, school colors are in vogue and at Yale and Harvard, the suits and ties dominate the scorer’s table.

            O’Connell is not getting rich doing the college scene. This is no second retirement. He says it covers expenses and maybe you get a dinner out of it. He makes more with his golf handicap and occasional appearances on the senior tees. The bottom of line is that it is fun.

            He has done games that involve Sacred Heart, Hartford, St. Francis and Babson to name a few of the schools while traveling the New York, Connecticut, Mass., Rhode Island area.

            It is about the love of the game. It is about a life-long affair with the gym that started back when Chubby Checker was twisting.

            Just another way to stay involved on a different level. It has always been the game he can’t escape. Nor does he want to. He’s a gym rat and the clock is in his hands. 



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