The idea was brilliant and, to be honest, a long time coming.
I was approached a few months ago by Miami Springs Senior High School Athletic Director Craig Jay about being on a committee.
“What committee,” I asked?
“The Miami Springs High School Athletics Hall of Fame Committee,” answered Jay.
And so it was born. MSSH will now have what many other schools have had for a while. A Hall of Fame for past athletes, coaches, faculty and special contributors to the program. And what a great idea it is! (There will also be a Wall of Fame going up at the Community Center. More on that a few paragraphs down.)
Of course, my answer to Jay was “yes” and “why not?” At the risk of bragging, yours truly has been on the “sports beat” for the Gazette at Springs High for the last quarter of a century, so I’d like to think I’ve seen my share of great athletes, coaches and the like and in doing so was asked to emcee the event, which I gracefully accepted. (Letterman, Leno and Kimmel need not worry, I’m no threat.)
And so began a series of weekly meetings at the Hurricane Bar & Grill with myself and other members of the committee, namely Jay, Barbara Martinez, former AD Carlos Perez, former alum Roger Madan, and former player and coach Hector Gray. Not only did the logistics of an actual event need to be hammered out but, just as importantly, who would be in the charter class to go in and how many would there be.
The answer of how many was ultimately eight. The answer of when and where was another good decision as the event will take place on Thursday, April 10 at the Miami Springs Country Club, one night before the weekend-long River Cities Festival takes place. Perfect.
The “eight” is as good as it gets as well.
My leadoff hitter and the one I insisted be part of the charter class was long-time head football coach Buddy Goins. It took no arm-twisting on this one as there was very little discussion. Goins, who coached the Hawks program for a quarter-century (1976-2001) and led the team to three different undefeated regular seasons (1978, 1979, 1993) was a slam dunk.
Two other coaches will go in as well. Shelly Dunkel headed a highly successful baseball program from the mid-’70s to the mid-’90s and appropriately the baseball field at the high school is named Shelly Dunkel Field. The other coach is someone before my time but certainly worthy of the honor and that would be Bill Diaz.
In the half-century history of Springs High, only two programs — swimming (from the late ’60s, early ’70s) and girls soccer (1988) — have championship banners on the side of the school and Diaz was in charge of both the boys and girls swimming programs when they not only won multiple state championships but dominated along the way.
Speaking of that ’88 state champion girls soccer team (I felt it was important that both state champion programs be recognized with one inductee each), I lobbied hard for either of the LeGrand sisters, Tosie or Yatha, who were both outstanding. Ultimately it was Tosie, thanks in part to a remarkable military career that now has her ranked as a lieutenant colonel based out of Fort Hood, Texas, who got the nod. (Not to worry, Yatha, as your turn is on the way as well).
While we’re still on swimming, a female swimmer and a darn good one who swam in the water from 1969-72, Wendy Fordyce will be inducted. Now Wendy Fordyce-Gebhardt, she recently moved to the Jacksonville area from Nashville, Tenn., where she worked as an acute nurse practitioner for Vanderbilt University.
The final two athletic inductees will be a pair of football players. Vince Kendrick (Class of 1970) was a great running back from the late ’60s and Phil Jones (Class of ’73) will go in as well. Jones was not only a great defensive lineman for the football team, but an all-county wrestler as well. The fact that to this day he is the only MSSH athlete to ever receive The Miami Herald’s distinguished Overall Miami-Dade County Athlete of the Year Award (1973) made him another “slam dunk” nominee.
And finally, each and every year there will be an inductee to go in under a special category of “Contributor to the Program” and that honor will go to a very deserving Doug Orr. Now retired and living in North Carolina, Orr’s plumbing business established 40 years ago on the west side of town has flourished and thus many times he was approached about financial help for the athletic programs both at the school and the recreation center.
As coincidence would have it, the City of Miami Springs, thanks primarily to the efforts of Vice Mayor Billy Bain, who championed the project, will christen its inaugural “Wall of Fame” with a ceremony the very same weekend as the River Cities Festival. And fittingly, it will be a double dip for Orr who will enjoy a big weekend as he will be the first inductee to have his plaque go up on the wall of the second floor of the community center where the running track currently resides.
Cost for the MSSH Awards Banquet will be $75 per person or $650 for a table of 10, and it’s time for the Miami Springs business community and its citizens to step up to the plate and show their support for this worthwhile event. Whether everybody knows it, high school athletic programs these days barely have two nickels to rub together thanks to budget cutback after budget cutback over the past years by the Miami-Dade County School Board.
All profits from this event will go to the MSSH athletic department and be distributed evenly among the sports programs. While we’re on the subject, a big shout-out to MSSH principal Ed Smith, who has been a major administrative supporter of athletics at Springs High and a driving force behind getting the Athletics Hall of Fame off the ground.
Gazette Publisher Tom Curtis already has generously offered some complimentary display advertising for the banquet and our company will produce the small eight-page program as well. Advertising needs to be sold for the program and tables need to be bought up.
Will we hear from you? I would certainly hope so.