Bird, Ryba to enter New Britain Sports Hall of Fame

Published on Monday, 25 April 2022 12:14
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This is the last of our multi-part series highlighting the 2022 inductees into the New Britain Sports Hall of Fame

Eric Bird

2022 Don Clerkin Award Winner

Bird is a 1994 graduate of EC Goodwin Tech. He was a student manager for the Gladiators basketball team for three years. In 1994 he began his career as the team manager of the boys basketball team at New Britain High School under the tutelage of head coach Stan Glowiak. Over the next 30 plus years, Bird has been an integral part of athletics at NBHS. At any given event held at NBHS, whether its football, basketball, track or volleyball, he is there. 

Bird has acted tirelessly as team manager for many of NBHS’s sports teams and could always be counted on to keep equipment and coaches organized. Hundreds of coaches and players are grateful to Bird for his dedication over the years.

The Hall of Fame is extremely happy to honor him with the 2022 Don Clerkin Award.

Christopher Ryba 

Ryba grew up playing every sport he could. His baseball career started with the Cardinals Little League team. At St. Francis Middle School, he played on the basketball team and the summer league baseball team. He is a 1970 graduate of St Thomas Aquinas High School where he played both basketball and baseball for Dom Ferrara from 1966 to 1970. 

He was recruited to Stony Brook University in New York to play basketball by Rollie Massimino. He played basketball and pitched for the baseball team at Stony Brook for four years. He also played in the Hartford Twilight League while in college. His 1972-73 ERA of 2.58 still stands as second in career ERA for Stony Brook. He was the first player ever drafted from Stony Brook in 1973. He was selected by the New York Mets and played in the NY-Pennsylvania League for the Batavia Trojans for two seasons. One of his favorite memories of that time was throwing batting practice at Shea Stadium to Willie Mays. 

He began coaching baseball when his son was old enough to play tee-ball. He served as pitching coach/assistant coach for Newington Little League for several years and then moved to NB Mangan League in the same capacity as his son got older. He loved sharing his skill and teaching youngsters how to pitch and could be heard at games calling out instructions to the pitchers on both teams. He became involved with sports at St. Francis of Assisi Middle School while his four children attended and played basketball there. He served in many capacities there including being an assistant coach, facility manager, athletic director and athletic association president. In this capacity he was able to raise thousands of dollars that went toward giving youngsters a top-quality sporting experience. 

In 1991 his daughter was chosen for an AAU team and Ryba went on to serve as a co-director for Connecticut Starters AAU Girls Basketball Club for 10 years. At its peak Starters had over 250 girls on 22 teams playing across seven age groups. As a director, assistant coach and parent Ryba went to practices, summer camp, tryouts and easily attended a thousand games including dozens of national championship tournaments across the United States. He also never missed a basketball or volleyball game at NBHS as his three daughters went on to win state championships in both basketball and volleyball 

Ryba worked as a property manager in Westchester County, NY during this time, and despite the 65-minute commute time, he was still able to serve on the St. Francis of Assisi School Board and the St. Francis Parish Council, including several terms as president. He also restarted Boy Scout Troop 75 out of St. Francis Church and served as Scoutmaster for many years guiding many boys to Eagle Scout rank. He has served on the New Britain Zoning Board of Appeals and is currently a Commissioner of Public Works. He was forced to stop working and coaching in 2008 due to a cancer diagnosis, but can still be found in the spring at Stanley Quarter Park watching baseball games with his two Labrador Retrievers. He still lives in the house he was born in New Britain with his wife of 42 years and is known as Pop-Pop to his six grandchildren.

The New Britain Sports Hall of Fame 25th annual induction dinner will take place Sunday, May 1 at the Generale Ameglio Ballroom, 13 Beaver Street, New Britain, beginning at 3 p.m. There is a $50 donation per person and tickets can be purchased at Scott’s Flowers, Paradise Restaurant, YMCA New Britain or by calling Bob Smilnak at 860-666-6835 or Joe Lombardo at 860-970-6364. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain, New Britain on Monday, 25 April 2022 12:14. Updated: Monday, 25 April 2022 12:17.