NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Hall of Fame will induct six new members into its ranks during the 44th annual Awards Banquet Oct. 17.
The Class of 2015 is Steve Croce, Jennifer (Rosenblatt) Gampel, Shawn O’Brien, Robert Plasky, Daniel Starziski and Heather Yablonski.
“It’s hard to compare an athlete today with an athlete of 20 years ago,” said Fred Scheithe, vice president of the Hall of Fame’s election committee, about selecting inductees. “We try and look at the different decades and come up with a group that’s very deserving. We have expanded the election committee that covers all the areas of sports so we get a broader pool to pick from. This year’s group of inductees represents our goal of having a well-rounded group of athletes.”
The awards banquet will be at the Continental Room, 1006 New Haven Road, and starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $40 each. For tickets, contact Ray Rossi Jr. at (203) 525-7193 or any of the recipients.
Booster and personal ads for a booklet are also being sold. For more information on ads, contact Kim Pruchnicki at (203) 808-6776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Croce earned 10 varsity letters as a three-sport athlete for the Greyhounds. He received All-NVL honors in football, basketball and baseball, and was a member of the 1981 state and New England champion football team. He went on to letter in football at the University of New Haven.
Following his collegiate career, Croce coached at Holy Cross, Pomperaug and Cheshire high schools and Post University.
Croce has become an outstanding broadcaster and is as an analyst for WATR-AM. He was the sideline reporter for the first live telecast of CIAC championship football on CTSN, now known as CPTY Sports.
Jennifer (Rosenblatt) Gampel
During her time at Naugatuck High, Gampel earned All-NVL honors all four years in three sports: cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She was captain of all three teams in her senior year.
Gampel earned All-State honors in cross country all four years and earned All-New England in all three sports. She competed just as hard in the class room, and graduated fifth in her class in 2000 with a 3.9 GPA.
Gampel went on to have an outstanding collegiate career at Marist College, earning All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference honors for three years and was the MAAC 5K Champion in 2003. She is a biology and science teacher at Masuk High School in Monroe and is the track coach. In 2013, she competed in the Boston Marathon.
A three-sport athlete at Naugatuck High, O’Brien was a member of the swim team for three years, track team for four years and earned three varsity letters while playing on the line for the football team. He earned All-NVL honorable mention in 1977 during his senior year as an offensive and defensive tackle for the 9-1 Greyhounds.
O’Brien went on to play football for the University of New Haven, and was a member of the team that won the 1979 New England Football Conference championship.
After college, O’Brien was encouraged by the late Ed Mariano to become an official. He has been officiating for 33 years now in the Western Connecticut Football Association, and has won numerous awards.
Plasky ranks among some of the finest athletes to ever wear the Garnet and Grey. Plasky earned 11 varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball, and All-NVL honors in all three sports.
After starting for four years on the Springfield College baseball team, which won a New England 10 championship, Plasky returned home to Naugatuck. His passion turned to coaching. In 2000, he replaced Naugatuck High’s legendary football coach Craig Peters.
It mattered little if Plasky taught his players how to win, his main goal was to instill in them that same kind of passion for the game. In 12 seasons his teams won two NVL titles — in 2000 and 2010 — and appeared in two state playoff games. Plasky compiled a 68-47 record that ranks fourth all time on the Naugatuck High coaching list.
Starziski is not the typical youth sport volunteer who takes part while their son or daughter is playing. He has been volunteering his time to youth sports in Naugatuck for over 30 years.
Starziski has coached baseball at the Little League level for Union City and for the Babe Ruth League. He has volunteered with the Joe Triano Boxing program at the Naugatuck YMCA, coached in Watertown and has been a mentor at City Hill Middle School.
Starziski is best known for his 30 plus years of coaching and being a referee for the YMCA’s Little Pal basketball. He became the driving force behind the formation of the Little Pal girls basketball league in 1992. The success of the Naugatuck High girls basketball program in the late 1990s and early this century can be attributed to his efforts of providing the opportunity for young future Greyhounds to learn the game of basketball.
Arriving at Naugatuck High School as a 5-foot, 10-inch tall freshman, Yablonski made an immediate impact and affectionately was given the nickname “Shaq” after NBA all star Shaquile O’Neal.
Yablonski earned All-NVL honors, The Dottie Shortell Award winner as the league’s top senior, and was a member of The Connecticut Post’s Super 15 team. She went on to set two school records for free throw percentage (74.6) and blocked shots (90). She is third all time in school history in rebounds (732) and sixth on the all-time scoring list (906). She was also a good volleyball player for Naugatuck High.
Yablonski went on to excel at Sacred Heart University. She set two school records for field goal percentage in her senior year (56.6) and for her career (51.2). She finished fifth all-time in scoring (1,191) and fourth all-time in rebounds (722) at Sacred Heart. She earned All-ECAC and All-NECC honors.
Following her collegiate career, Yablonski coached the Ansonia girls basketball team. She is currently the assistant girls basketball coach at Naugatuck High School and the assistant volleyball coach at Seymour High School.