DALTON, Mass. — Turk Wendell pitched 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, appeared in 552 big league games and made two appearances for the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series.
But reaching his hometown hall of fame?
"Very honored and very humbled," the Wahconah Regional High School graduate said on Saturday evening.
Wendell is in town to join his fellow inductees in the first class of the Dalton CRA Athletic Hall of Fame.
On Saturday evening, the honorees had the honor of being the first to view the exhibit at the recreation center. On Sunday, they will be at Wahconah Country Club for the ticketed induction ceremony.
Wendell said he was honored to be part of the group of athletes, coaches and contributors who make up the hall's first class.
"I wasn't that great in high school," Wendell said. "I peaked in college and went on and did better things and was very fortunate to play in the Major Leagues as long as I did.
"But there's a lot of people — the other inductees — who have done great things, greater than I did, I think, especially for the area. Like Jimmy Duquette — when he was the assistant GM of the Mets and I'm in the clubhouse as a Mets player, a lot of people didn't know we were buddies growing up. He'd walk through the clubhouse and say, 'You don't understand. That guy was a freaking legend back home.'
"And it's sad, because I do think Jimmy should have had a chance to at least play minor league baseball. I look at him as a player in today's era of the game as a Brett Gardner of the Yankees. He was that good, if not better."
All of Dalton's heroes — whether or not they went on to play pro ball — now have a place to call home and, organizers hope, inspire the next generations of athletic standouts from Dalton and the other towns that make up the Central Berkshire Regional School District.
Wendell was not alone in considering the CRA Hall of Fame induction a highlight of a stellar athletic career.
Pat Duquette was a captain of the Williams College men's basketball team, helped coach Boston College to six NCAA tournament appearances and has been a Division I head coach for six seasons at UMass-Lowell.
"Quite honestly, I'm proud of a lot of the things I've done, and I'm happy where I'm at, but this is one of the proudest personal moments I've had in my life," Duquette said.
He made that remark while being interviewed by Gary Campbell Jr. for a Dalton Community Television telecast being produced in conjunction with the CRA Hall of Fame festivities.
"I grew up in this town, as you know, and I've always taken so much pride in growing up in this town and succeeding in sports, playing on successful teams, and developing and continuing really important relationships with my teammates," Duquette continued. "This was a great town to grow up in, a great place to be a child."
Duquette and a number of inductees reminisced with Campbell about the experience of growing up in and around Dalton and how those formative years prepared them for success later in life.
Like others, four-time Major League All-Star and 1987 World Series champion Jeff Reardon considers the hometown hall a significant accomplishment.
"This means a lot to me," Reardon told Campbell. "Yeah, I wanted to make the big Hall of Fame. But, actually, this means more to me because I grew up here. Yeah, I didn't make the big Hall of Fame, but I don't care. I'm very proud to be a part of this."
Twenty-five individuals and three standout Wahconah teams are now part of the CRA Hall of Fame.
On Saturday evening, they were joined by one more team — one that will not be eligible for admission to the hall for a few more years but that surely belongs among the rest of the local giants.
The 2019 State Champion Wahconah Unified Track and Field team was recognized by the CRA Hall of Fame's executive committee as the "Story of the Year" in the community, a feature that is planned to be a staple in inductions to come.
Executive committee member Dustin Belcher explained that Unified sports, a program of Special Olympics that allows high schoolers of all abilities to compete together, dovetails nicely with the history of the Dalton Community Recreation Association.
In 1969, then-CRA Director Archie DeAngulas, Special Education Director Norman Carmel and Elementary School Supervisor Denis Duquette envisioned an adaptive program in swimming and bowling, Belcher said. In the first years of the 21st century, the CRA started its own adaptive programs in baseball, swimming and dance, precursors of the two Wahconah varsity Unified programs in basketball and track — the first such programs in Berkshire County.
"The CRA and the Central Berkshire Regional School District have always been trailblazers in developing adaptive programs," Belcher said.
That's the kind of competitive spirit that drove so many of Sunday's inductees and keeps them coming back to this corner of the commonwealth.
"Growing up, you didn't really appreciate it," Jim Duquette said. "But now, you look back, and it was something special. Even driving up here today, and whenever I come up here — three or four times a year. You don't realize how much you missed it until you've actually been away and then you come back.
"This is just such a unique place. And there are so many people who stayed here, understandably."
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