Allen Park rededicates Sports Hall of Fame

Photo by Sue Suchyta The Allen Park Hall of Fame held a re-dedication ceremony Oct. 30 and inducted eight new members for their voluntary contributions to youth sports activities as well as their own sports accomplishments. Walt Owens (left) accepted for his late father Walter Owens, along with inductees Ron Howle, Mario “Mike” Fregonara, Douglas C. Shepherd, William Matakas, Glenn Knight, Gordon Miller and Carson Smith.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
The Allen Park Hall of Fame held a re-dedication ceremony Oct. 30 and inducted eight new members for their voluntary contributions to youth sports activities as well as their own sports accomplishments. Walt Owens (left) accepted for his late father Walter Owens, along with inductees Ron Howle, Mario “Mike” Fregonara, Douglas C. Shepherd, William Matakas, Glenn Knight, Gordon Miller and Carson Smith.

 

8 new members inducted for coaching, personal achievements

By SUE SUCHTYA
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The Allen Park Sports Hall of Fame held a re-dedication ceremony, inducting eight new members for coaching and voluntary contributions to youth sports activities as well as personal sports accomplishments.

The event, held Oct. 30 at the Allen Park Community Center, 15800 White Ave., inducted  Mario “Mike” Fregonara, Ron Howle,  Glenn Knight, William Matakas, Gordon Miller, Douglas C. Shepherd, and Carson Smith, and posthumously inducted Walter Owens, whose honor was accepted by his son and namesake.

Photo by Sue Suchyta Allen Park Sports Hall of Fame inductee Carson Smith had the spotlight usurped by his granddaughter Zaylee Coker, 11 months, whose shirt declares that her “Papa” is in the Hall of Fame.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Allen Park Sports Hall of Fame inductee Carson Smith had the spotlight usurped by his granddaughter Zaylee Coker, 11 months, whose shirt declares that her “Papa” is in the Hall of Fame.

Parks and Recreation Director Pat Hawkins said he was pleased by the large turnout at the induction, and praised the Allen Park Rotary Club for its joint sponsorship of the annual event.

Dale Cook, Rotary Club president, said it was an honor to be part of the Hall of Fame program, and noted that Rotarians who are Hall of Fame members have the club’s emblem on their respective plaque.

Hawkins said a coin commemorating the re-dedication would be given to the existing Hall of Fame members and the new inductees.

The re-dedication was prompted by the movement of the plaques from the original hallway, which is less used since the expansion of Community Center, to the current lobby area, where he said those honored gain much deserved visibility.

“The Allen Park Hall of Fame membership may mean different things to different people, but individuals’ personal accomplishments and talents that are recognized is certainly admirable,” Hawkins said. “When those talents put you on the state, national or world stage, it’s pretty obvious that this individual possesses quite a lot of individual raw talent.

“To someone else it may mean helping someone else accomplish personal goals or a team accomplishments. Or it could mean developing an individual or team into a champion. But then again it may mean developing individuals to be better people.

“Whatever it means to you, I believe all of these members feel they didn’t get this recognition all by themselves. The support and sacrifice of family, coaches, teammates and community all play a role.”

Fregonara played basketball with the U.S. Army, and was a semi-professional basketball and football player with the Oakland Blue Jackets. He coached for the Allen Park Bulldogs, Allen Park Athletic Club, Allen Park South Junior High football, Melvindale Athletic Club football and the Oakwood Blue Jackets.

Howle is an Allen Park High School basketball single game scoring record holder, and was all-league, all-area, and all-state. He played college basketball at West Texas State, and is thought to be one of the best basketball players from Allen Park.

Knight was an outstanding Allen Park High School baseball player and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers. He coached Allen Park youth baseball, basketball and football, and was a founder of the Downriver Basketball League for boys and girls. He was also the founder of the Downriver Fastpitch Softball League for girls.

Matakas, Allen Park mayor, played sports on Allen Park youth and school teams and on collegiate championship teams. He was a quarterback, safety and punter on Allen Park High School championship football teams, and was a member of Allen Park High School championship tennis and basketball teams. At the University of Michigan he played football and tennis. He also coached and umpired youth sports in Allen Park.

Miller played football with Allen Park High School, and was recognized as an all-league, all-area and all-state player. He was a Michigan Wildcats baseball coach, an Allen Park Bulldogs football coach, an APAC baseball coach and a member of the Allen Park Board of Education.

Owens was a founding officer of the Allen Park Athletic League and the Melvindale Athletic Club, serving Melvindale and the northern Allen Park area. He coached youth baseball for more than 20 years with APAC and Mel-NAP, and coached the APAC Rangers to a state championship and 2 MAC teams to state championship finals. He also coached two Allen Park Mickey Mantle League All-Star teams to national championships. He coached and developed dozen of college baseball players and three professional baseball players.

Shepherd was on the first Allen Park football team that was an All-Suburban Six, and the first team recognized with all-area and all-state honors. He was the first Allen Park High School lineman named team MVP, and was a football scholarship athlete at both the University of Montana and Eastern Michigan University. He served more than 25 years on the Allen Park Parks and Recreation Commission, as the chairman for a majority of his time on the commission, and was an advocate, spokesperson and integral supporter of the planning and building of the Allen Park Community Center.

Smith coached youth sports for more than 30 years. He was an APAC baseball player, coach and board member, and he coached Wyandotte junior varsity American Legion baseball. He was an Allen Park High School boys and girls junior varsity coach for the Downriver Basketball League, a coach for Allen Park recreation and a coach for Mead Elementary School. He also coached the Allen Park Bulldogs and the Melvindale Indians, and has been recognized for his work as a community and civic leader.

The new inductees join the permanent roster of the city’s Sports Hall of Fame, which was begun in 1985, and is available at the Community Center’s Frank J. Lada Civic Arena.

The annual awards, jointly sponsored by the Allen Park Rotary Club and the Allen Park Parks and Recreation Department, seek to recognize individuals and organization who have voluntarily contributed time to youth sports activities, or who have distinguished themselves as athletes.

Eligible nominees must be 50 years old and have 20 years of service or experience in a given sport or endeavor. Candidates should have made an outstanding contribution either working with youth or in their sport, which has brought honor to Allen Park.

Applications for the 2018 awards may be submitted beginning Jan. 1, with forms available at the Parks and Recreation office.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)