Tri-State celebrates the life of Mary Jane Lemieux. By Gerry deSimas.
By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Special for Litchfield County Sports.com
TORRINGTON, July 17 -- It is so difficult when a loved one is ill. You want to help ease the pain, reduce the suffering. But frequently, we can only watch and offer support.
Last year was a rough one for the Vinny Lemieux family in Torrington. Vinny’s wife, Mary Jane, was fighting cancer and battling hard. But she lost that fight last October, leaving Vinny, her son Cody, 20 and daughter, Carlee, 18.
Support from family and friends was there for the Lemieux family but it was a sad time.
On Friday night, the Lemieux family gathered together again with their friends and neighbors at Fuessenich Park. It was a time to remember Mary Jane and support Vinny, Cody and Carlee. It was also an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, smile and enjoy a night at the ballpark.
Cody, a 6-foot-5 rookie with the Torrington Rebels, was on the mound as the Rebels took on the Bethlehem Plowboys in a key Tri-State League contest. It was also a fundraiser game to help the Lemieux family. With donations at the door and a raffle for more than 20 prizes, more than $1,200 was raised for the family. It will help with paying for college costs for Cody and Carlee.
Cody went eight innings, scattered five hits and struck out nine but it wasn’t enough as the visiting Plowboys earned a 4-1 victory. The Rebels committed four errors and allowed three unearned runs.
But a majority of the crowd, it was a time to catch up, hug, share a story and laugh. Vinny moved throughout the crowd chatting with family and friends. “I couldn’t think of a better evening,” he said.
“It’s amazing,” Vin said. “You go through difficult times and all you hear (in the news) is about bad things. It is incredible the amount of love and support there is – the good in people that you never hear about.”
Greg Bodnar, the Rebels’ first-year manager, organized the fundraising effort. “My family has known the (Lemieux) family for a while,” he said. “The more people I asked about this, the more people wanted go with it.”
Bondar received raffle donations from teammates and area businesses including Alfredo’s Italian Eatery, the Torrington Titans and Cross Fit Torrington. “It’s incredible for (Greg) to ask to do this,” Vin said. “It is such a nice gesture.”
Mary Anne would have enjoyed the game. She never missed a chance to see Cody play whether it was with the Torrington High baseball team, the Sports Palace Connie Mack squad or Elms College in Chicopee, where Cody, who is majoring in Accounting, just completed his sophomore year. She didn’t let her illness stop her from seeing a game or from seeing Carlee play her clarinet with the Torrington High band.
Carlee, who graduated from Torrington High in June, plans to study at UConn-Torrington in the fall. Carlee threw out the game’s first pitch to Cody.
Cody, who struck out 10 batters in six appearances at Elms College this spring, struck out Bethlehem’s Mike Milius to begin the game. In the fifth inning, he had back-to-back strikeouts to end the Plowboys' inning.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Cody was thrown out trying to steal third base to end the inning. Bodnar, who is also the catcher, was close to pulling Cody from the game. But Bodnar left him in the game and Cody responded with an outstanding seventh inning.
Cody struck out the side. “He pitched his (tail) off tonight,” Bodnar said. “He didn’t give me a chance to pull him. It was his best stuff of the year. Bethlehem is a good-hitting team.”
“I’m still working on stuff but I felt pretty good out there,” Cody said.
Bethlehem is fighting to finish in the top four in the league to earn a first round bye in the upcoming Tri-State playoffs and be one of the four teams to represent the league in the Stan Musial state championship tournament.
The Plowboys (9-3) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Catcher Teddy Gravel coaxed a two-out walk off Cody. Gravel stole second base and scored on Doug Green’s deep single to left field.
Bethlehem added another three unearned runs in the sixth thanks to a pair of Rebel errors. Two runs scored on a two-out fly ball by Greg Campbell that bounced off the glove of Rebel outfielder Matt Keiser.
Torrington (6-10) is fighting to earn one of the 12 spots in the league tournament. The Rebels couldn’t convert on a few scoring opportunities against Plowboy lefthander Mike O’Neill, who allowed five hits and struck out seven in eight innings of work.
Down by one, Torrington loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to singles from Chris Beck and Joe Mateo and a walk to Adam Fuoco. But O’Neill got Matt Harrington to pop up in foul ground to end the threat.
In the sixth, Torrington got on the board. Bednar led off the inning with the second of his two doubles. He moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly from Jake Narveson.
The home team may have lost on the field but it was a winning effort all around the park. Even when the game was complete, few rushed to leave. There were still more stories to tell, more hugs and handshakes to give and smiles to share.
The Rebels return to action Sunday at 6 p.m. at Fuessenich Park when they host Burlington.
Bethlehem 4, Torrington 1
Bethlehem (9-3) 010 003 000 – 4-5-0
Torrington (6-10) 000 001 000 – 1-5-4
Mike O’Neil, Kyle Capaldo (9) and Teddy Gravel; Cody Lemiuex, Chris Greatorex (9) and Greg Bodnar; WP: O’Neil; LP: Lemieux; 2B: Bodnar (T) 2