SOUTHINGTON - In almost any venue, it would be an impressive list of names. The list of accomplishments running long, from all-conference, to All-State, to state championships.
So it was only fitting Sunday afternoon, those six names and boys basketball team were officially etched among some of Berlin High School’s athletics best when they received induction into the 10th annual Berlin Athletic Hall of Fame, becoming members of the Class of 2019.
Some of the inductees told stories of former teammates and coaches, while others reflected on their time in the Redcoat uniform or how something that seemed so simple at the time turned into such a big difference later in life.
Ed Maguda was the first to be inducted. A 1937 graduate, Maguda was one of the school’s first three-sport athletes, starring in football, basketball and baseball during the programs’ first years at Berlin. After graduating from Berlin, Maguda played with the Kensington Maroon semi-pro baseball team and in 1941 he joined the U.S. Navy, serving in the South Pacific.
Unfortunately, Maguda passed away 1997 and was inducted by his nephew, Richard Avery, who shared about Maguda prowess on the baseball diamond.
“Growing up, I heard one guy say he had an arm like a rocket ship, like a rocket launcher and I couldn’t fathom that,” Avery said. “…When I got close to the other bench, I heard the manager say, ‘if you get on first base, don’t under any circumstances try to steal second on Ed Maguda because you’re going to be in that dugout.’”
Ken Burt was a standout on the football field and on the golf course for the Redcoats before he graduated in 1957. During his football career at Berlin, Burt played offensive end and defensive linebacker and was part of the 1955 state championship team. He medaled in the 1956 golf state tournament and the following year, placed sixth in individual scoring. After graduating, Burt joined the Air Force and continued to play in a number of golf tournaments.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is an honor,” said Burt’s daughter Deb, who spoke on his behalf. “I was glad to play four sports at Berlin High: baseball, basketball, football and golf. It was a wonderful time in my life. Thank you to the Class of ’57 for nominating me.”
Sean Garrison excelled on both the soccer pitch and baseball diamond during his time with the Redcoats, but it was in baseball where the 1990 graduate really excelled.
He was an All-Northwest Conference selection and CHSCA All-State section as a pitcher and first baseman in 1989-90, the 1990 ABCA All-District Player of the Year and the 1990 Gatorade Circle of Champions Connecticut Player of the Year. Garrison had a career pitching record of 21-1 with his only loss in the state semifinals during his sophomore year and during his high school career, helped lead the Berlin High baseball team was a two-time state champion in 1989 and 1990.
Garrison was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 1990 MLB amateur draft, but chose to attend CCSU with both an athletic scholarship and the Arute Full Tuition Academic Scholarship.
“Berlin High has a great tradition of excelling in every sport,” Garrison said. “Our baseball team excelled then and excels now. I was lucky to be a part of it. … We had great success and that goes back to coaching. We had great coaching.”
There wasn’t much Joy Cooper didn’t accomplish during her high school career. A 1992 graduate, Cooper was a three-sport standout, excelling in volleyball, basketball and football. In all three, she was an All-Northwest Conference selection and was an All-State selection in softball, where she helped lead the Redcoats to the 1990 Class M state title and an appearance in the 1991 championship game.
“Completely humbling and overwhelming experience,” Cooper said. “I never in a million yeas thought that I would be honored like this. I wasn’t someone who was about individual stats and compliments. It was much more about winning and the team, so when I got the call, I was complete floored and was like, ‘this is pretty cool.’ I look at the female athletes who were inducted before me and it’s unbelievable. It’s completely awesome.”
Bill Robinson starred for the Redcoats in the late 1990s on the football field, basketball court and on the baseball diamond. He was selected to the All-Northwest Conference Team in football in 1998 and 1999, when he also earned Honorable Mention All-State recognition. In baseball, Robinson was an All-Northwest Conference selection in 1997, ’98 and ’99; a CHSCA All-State selection in 1999; and participated in the CHSCA All-State baseball game. He was also part of the 1999 baseball team that won the Class L state championship and hit .540 his senior season and .886 in the state tournament.
After graduating, Robinson went to Wesleyan University and left with seven all-time individual records, including career hits, RBIs and doubles. For Robinson, the experiences he got at Berlin have permeated in the years since.
“There’s a culture of excellence in Berlin,” Robinson said. “The coaching there leads to a culture of success and winning and it’s a real thing, this Berlin tradition. I have a unique perceptive. I grew up in Meriden and moved here when I was 12 and it was a dream come true. … Now that I have a two-month son of my own, Charlie, a perquisite for Charlie is finding a program like Berlin.”
Kyle Zarotney, the youngest member of this year’s class starred for the Redcoats in basketball and baseball, where he ended up winning state titles with both before graduating in 2006. In his junior year, Zarotney was a key member of the Class L state championship baseball team and earned All-Northwest Conference honors and received CHSCA All-State Honorable Mention. In basketball, Zarotney was a key piece on the 2006 boys basketball team, which won the program’s first and only state championship in the Division III tournament over Wilby. That season, he was an All-State Second Team selection in basketball as well as a preseason McDonald’s All-American nominee.
After graduating, Zarotney was played baseball at CCSU where he was selected to the NEC All-Tournament team as a sophomore and as a senior. The Blue Devils won the 2010 NEC baseball championship. He focused on a moment in his high school career that helped shape is outlook as an athlete.
“It’s my sophomore year, and this stuck with me throughout my career and made me a leader instead of just a player,” Zarotney said. “I just threw down my first career dunk and I was ecstatic. Coach [David Bosso] just took me out because I have asthma, I needed a little breather. I go over to the water cooler and I see my buddies over in a corner pointing at me and embracing the moment and I was pointing back at them. I turn around and coach is in my face and tells me I should be pointing at my teammates on the floor, teammates on the bench, my coaches. They were the ones who were with me through the morning practices, the tryouts. I sat back down on the bench and though about it and he was right, I should be celebrating with them. I was fortunate enough to play two teams sports and it’s a group effort and I wouldn’t be celebrating here today without them.”
That 2006 boys basketball team was also inducted. In their run to the state championship as an 11 seed in the CIAC Division III state tournament, the Redcoats defeated Wright Tech in the first round, Waterford in the second round, Coventry in the quarterfinals, Woodstock Academy in the semifinals and fourth-seeded Wilby-Waterbury, 58-53, in the state championship game.
“So much of what we were as a team when unnoticed for what was critical to our success,” Basso said. “So many little things that collectively made a big difference that didn’t show up in the box score or in the paper such as going for the loose ball or showing up in the huddle to make sure we shook hands with everyone else before we ended practice. … We played as a team and won as a team.”
The Class of 2019 will be looked upon as a great one in future years and one which will provide stories to be told for years to come.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org