Tag: high school

April 28th Ribbon Cutting at Johnny Taylor Field

In Hartford’s newly refurbished Colt Park, the Bulkeley High School Varsity baseball team will take on New Britain High School at Johnny Taylor Field, 3:45 PM on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. The matchup will mark the inaugural game at the field. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place 30 minutes before the first pitch.

The schedule of events will be:
3:15 – Welcome
3:25 – City Councilman John Gale
3:35 – Superintendent of Schools/Diane Callis Bulkeley High School Athletic Director
3:45 – Cut the ribbon – scoreboard revealed
3:50 – Lynette Taylor Grande, Bobby Grande & Taylor family
4:00 – Let the game begin!

RSVP to the event of Facebook. Click here.

In attendance will be members of the Taylor family who still reside in the Greater Hartford area. Local officials, park advocates and members of the press are also expected.

Complete with real grass, a well-manicured Igor of, custom scoreboard, bullpens and dugouts, Johnny Taylor Field is a major improvement for baseball at Colt Park. For more than three decades, the enclosed “Field #9” was in disrepair and unplayable more often than not.

The field is named after Johnny Taylor, perhaps Hartford’s greatest pitcher of all-time. In the 1930’s, Taylor was a graduate of Bulkeley High School and a local star in the Hartford Twilight League. The New York Yankees scouted Taylor, but due to racial discrimination they declined to sign him.

Taylor went on to play for the New York Cubans of the Negro National League. In the 1937 all-star game at the Polo Grounds, Taylor pitched a no-hitter to defeat baseball great, Satchel Paige.

After a long career in various professional leagues, Taylor returned to Hartford. He was signed to pitch by the Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League, the Boston Braves minor league affiliate.

Taylor was Hartford’s first professional black athlete. His legacy of perseverance and athletic dominance still resonates today. Taylor’s story now has a permanent place in Colt Park and in Connecticut’s capital city.

The Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is pleased to have led the effort to commemorate Johnny Taylor. The league partnered with the Friends of Colt Park (now Colt Park Foundation) and local activists to collect signatures to petition for the renaming. The initiative gained full support from the City Council and Mayor Luke Bronin.

The renovation project at Johnny Taylor Field was finished earlier this year. Hartford schools, American Legion and twilight league clubs intend to use the diamond this summer. Two GHTBL teams, Hartford Colts and People’s United Bank, expect to schedule several home dates at Colt Park.

The return to Colt Park is significant for the GHTBL because our summer league was established on the premises in 1929. For about 40 years, the park and its many diamonds served the Greater Hartford area as a veritable baseball playground for youth and adults. During the 1950’s and 1960’s Dillon Stadium, on the easternmost parcel of Colt Park was used for baseball games by various leagues including the twilight league.

As the league returns to Colt Park, we pledge to be good stewards and donors of the park. In 2020, GHTBL raised $2,000 for Johnny Taylor Field in charity games held up the road at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The donation will be used to improve and maintain the diamond.

Jimmy Gonzalez, East Hartford’s Greatest

A young, talented catcher from East Hartford, Connecticut, named Jimmy Gonzalez caught the eyes of local scouts in his junior year at East Hartford High School. During the summer of 1991, Gonzalez was selected as the 40th player overall in the Major League Baseball Draft – a first round draft pick of the Houston Astros. He went on to play fourteen seasons in professional baseball with the San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos and New York Mets organizations. Gonzalez played with Mike Piazza, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada and Tony Gwynn. He was an understudy of Gary Carter and Dave Engle. He also spent 4 seasons of winter ball in the Dominican Republic, capturing two Caribbean Series championships.

Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, East Hartford High School, 1990.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1991.
Jimmy Gonzalez, East Hartford High School, 1991.
Jimmy Gonzalez, East Hartford High School, 1991.
Jimmy Gonzalez, East Hartford High School, 1991.

Gonzalez is a graduate of the Major League Scout School and has worked with the Boson Red Sox as an Associate Scout. He has been a minor league manager in the Chicago Cubs organization for the past 6 seasons and was named Manager of the Year in the Midwest League in 2016. Most recently, Gonzalez was at the helm of the South Bend Cubs in 2018 but has since been promoted. Gonzalez was hired for the 2019 season as the new Manager of the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League – the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.

Jimmy Gonzalez Topps Stadium Club card, 1992.
Jimmy Gonzalez Topps Stadium Club card, 1992.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, Quad City River Bandits, 1993.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Houston Astros, Bowman card, 1993.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Houston Astros, Bowman card, 1993.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, Quad City River Bandits, 1993.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, Osceola Astros, 1994.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, Binghamton Mets, 2000.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, South Bend Cubs, 2016.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, South Bend Cubs, 2016.

Career stats – https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=gonzal001jim

Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, Tennessee Smokies, 2019.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, Tennessee Smokies, 2019.

Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, Tennessee Smokies, 2019.

Dom Amore: East Hartford’s Jimmy Gonzalez Was There At Right Time For Gleyber Torres – https://www.courant.com/sports/baseball/hc-sp-amore-column-gonzalez-0529-story.html

GHTBL Alumni Enter Hartford Public Hall of Fame

Among the inductees: Ed Skehan, 100 year old World War II Veteran.

On Sunday, November 4, 2018, a select group of former Hartford Twilight ballplayers were inducted into the Hartford Public High School Hall of Fame. Three of the four inductees are members of the GHTBL Hall of Fame joining three other GHTBL/HPHS Hall of Fame crossovers: MLB-alum Pete Naktenis, Johnny Dione, and Pete Sala.: 

Ed Skehan’s Amateur Baseball Career
– 1935 to 1937, Hartford Public High School.
– 1936, Lincoln Dairy, Hartford Twilight League.
– 1936, Prospect Tavern, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1937 to 1941, St. Lawrence O’Toole, Catholic League.
– 1937, East Hartford Red Sox, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1938, Pope Park Drug, Keene Senior Twilight League.
– 1941, Conrose All-Stars, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1942, Finasts, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1943, Owen’s All-Stars, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1944, Joe Laing’s Spartans, a Hartford Twilight team turned semi-pro club based in Colt Park.
– 1948 to 1950, Hartford Fire Department.
– 1985, Inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame (Gold Glove Division).

Edward Skehan (100 years old), class of 1937, was an outfielder on conference championship baseball teams at Hartford Public High School. In a game against LaSalette, Skehan led off with a home run and contributed two hits in the 8 to 4 win over the crosstown team. He would have many other multi-hit games and he played any position where HPHS Hall of Fame Coach Jimmy Woodworth needed him. Skehan became a utility player but would later find his niche at first base.

Ed Skehan turns 100 years old, 2018.

After high school, Skehan attended Hartford State Technical College, graduating in 1939. Skehan played amateur baseball for over 20 years in multiple local leagues. Most notable were the Greater Hartford Twilight League and the East Hartford Twilight League. He was a perennial all-star, a .300 hitter, and an outstanding defensive first baseman. 

Life was disrupted with the onset of World War II and soon Skehan was in the U.S. Army. He served from 1943 to 1946 as a Combat Engineer and spent two years in the European Theater.  He is a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, a key turning point to facilitating the end of the war in Europe. 

In 1946, Skehan became a full-time employee at the City of Hartford Fire Department after working as a part-time firefighter in previous years. He would serve as a Hartford firefighter for 25 years.  While in the department he played on their highly competitive baseball and bowling teams. 

In 2017, at the age of 99, Ed Skehan was the guest of honor at the GHTBL’s Camp Courant Kids Day at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.  The entire Skehan family celebrated their patriarch that day as Ed threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Ed Skehan throws out first pitch at Camp Courant Kids Day at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017.

Jack Hines
– On the 1958 Robinson Builders team in the GHTBL.
– Played for the Riley Redlegs in the GHTBL from 1959 to 1961.
– 1962 Ames Construction team in the GHTBL.
– Manager of the 1963 Herb’s Sports Shop team in the GHTBL.   
– Manager of the Hartford entry into the Connecticut Summer Collegiate Baseball League.
– Manager of the 1965 Royal McBee team in the GHTBL. 
– Inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame in 1988.

Jack Hines, Hartford Public High School class of 1956, played on the varsity baseball and basketball teams.  In baseball, he was catcher and team captain. He caught HPHS Hall of Fame pitcher and minor leaguer, Pete Sala.  Jack was behind the plate in Sala’s 10 inning 1-0 shutout and win over New Britain and their flamethrower Steve Dalkowski.  His leadership helped the Owls to the City championship in 1956. In basketball he was on solid teams that were City Champs his junior and senior years.  

Jack Hines, Riley Redlegs accepts Hartford Twilight League trophy, 1959.

Jack played basketball at Central Connecticut State University after high school.  He began a long career in the Greater Hartford Twilight League, most notably as a manager.  In 1988 he was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame.

Jack was involved in amateur athletics in Bristol for many years.  He also currently serves as the President of the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame after serving as executive director and a board member. He authored the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame scholar–athlete ceremony that is named in his honor. In 2017 Jack Hines was inducted into the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame. Jack was also a founding Board member of the Hartford Public High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Jack has received the Bristol Boys & Girls Club Humanitarian award and the Bristol Tramps Chuck McCarthy award in 2008. Jack Hines also received an honorary degree from Tunxis Community College, the first the school ever granted. 

Jack Hines of Bristol, Connecticut.

Bill Wishinsky
– Hartford Insurance Group from 1969 to 1974
– Herb’s Sports Shop player-manager from 1975 to 1992.
– Inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame in 1995.

Bill Wishinsky, class of 1967, was multi sport star, playing baseball and football.  In baseball he was one of Hartford Public’s greatest baseball players ever. He was an outstanding pitcher, but also a great hitter on strong teams in the mid 1960’s.  

In baseball, he lettered all four years. He was the winning pitcher in 19 games which is believed to be a school record. As a freshman he beat East Hartford 1-0 and struck out 8 batters for his first career win. Highlights of his sophomore year were beating Hall for his 5th win of the season and against Bulkeley, in a 7-2 win, he drove in 5 runs. 

His junior year was the winning pitcher in eight games. In a game against East Hartford he was the winning pitcher, had three hits, including a home run.  In a win over New London he had 5 hits, 2 of which were triples.

Bill Wishinksy

Some highlights of his senior year were five more wins as a pitcher.  He pitched 12 shutout innings against Norwich in a 0-0 tie. Bill was the winning pitcher in a 3-1 besting of Bulkeley and had 3 hits and a rbi. In another win over Fitch he collected three hits and drove in five runs. He was the winning pitcher over Bulkeley (4-3) to clinch the city title and tie for the CDC crown. He hit .438 as a senior.

Wishinsky also played football and was a solid fullback and outstanding punter. His punting was key in an 8-6 win over rival Bulkeley in 1965.

Bill Wishinsky served in the military as a Marine.  He had a short stint in the minor leagues before returning home and embarking on a long career in the Greater Hartford Twilight League.  He was a fixture playing and managing for Herbs Sports Shop. He won the league batting title in 1974.  He was inducted in the Twilight League Hall of Fame in 1995.

Bill Wishinsky (born: 1949 – passed away: 2017). 

Hartford Courant article on Bill Wishinsky, 1990.

Jake Fournier

– On the Society for Savings team in the GHTBL from 1991 to 1992
– On the Newman Lincoln-Mercury team in the GHTBL from 1993 to 1996 led by manager, Gene Johnson.
– Player for KGA in the GHTBL from 1999 to 2002 and later player-manager from 2003 to 2004.
– Player-manager of Bill’s Sport Shop in the GHTBL from 2005 to 2007.
– Player-manager of RMR Construction in the GHTBL from 2008 to 2010.
– Played part-time for the Ferguson Waterworks team in the GHTBL from 2012 to 2013. 
– Fournier made his final appearance in 2015 in a GHTBL game with the Ulbrich Clippers.

Jake Fournier, class of 1990, was a versatile athlete playing multiple positions and competing in four sports during his time at Hartford Public. He earned at total of seven varsity letters.

In football, as a senior, Fournier played tight end and led the team in receiving and was also the punter, averaging over 40 yards per kick. He also threw an 82-yard option for a TD to tie South Windsor. Fournier was part of the group that helped transition Hartford Public football from the tough years in the 1980’s back to being a state power in the 1990’s.  Fournier lettered two years in basketball on strong teams that were city and conference champions in 1990 with an 18-4 record.

In baseball, Fournier earned a varsity letter three times and was team captain twice.  He was named All-CCC after his Junior and Senior season.  The HPHS baseball team made the state tournament his Sophomore year.

Jake Fournier hit a grand slam for Newman Lincoln Mercury of the GHTBL, 1994.

Fournier was the valedictorian of his class and was accepted at Yale University. While at Yale he played baseball as a walk on for two years.  In his Senior year, he earned the starting catcher spot and had an outstanding season.  He hit .301 and led the team in walks as Yale won the Ivy League championship.

After college Fournier explored professional baseball opportunities but decided to move to Portland, Oregon.  While there he met his future wife and played in very competitive amateur baseball leagues while on the west coast. He moved home to Connecticut in 1998 and continued his amateur baseball career as a key player for manager and leader in the the GHTBL. 

Fournier has coached his son’s team in Mayor Mike’s Little League in Hartford for the past five years. He has also has coached basketball locally in a travel league. Congratulations to Jake and the entire Fournier family! 

Jake Fournier of Hartford, Connecticut.