Major League Baseball player Carlos Peña talks with friends and fans following his induction into the Haverhill High School Athletic Hall of Fame. (WHAV News photograph.)
There were many emotions expressed by past players and coaches as Haverhill High School inaugurated its Athletic Hall of Fame Saturday night.
One inductee who reflected on the whole range of emotions was Major League Baseball player Carlos Peña, a 1995 graduate who went on to play professional baseball 14 years. He discussed his first days in Haverhill after emigrating with his family from the Dominican Republic.
“We get embraced by this beautiful community that make us feel so much at home, so much like a family, that we just could not believe it. The same feeling I got when I walked through those doors right now. We got overwhelmed by love,” he said.
Peña retired in 2014, after 14 seasons and a career of 286 home runs. Before baseball, he tried track and swimming. To cheers of laughter, he humorously referred to another, little known record of his at Haverhill High.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have a record. I am the only swim team member in the history of Haverhill High School who has never wore a speedo. Never! I wore my baggies, man. My baggies—the whole time.”
Peña, now at ESPN, said he did not excel at track or swimming, but he learned valuable lessons.
“Eventually, I went on to play professional baseball and that was an amazing journey. Let me tell you, many times, that was extremely difficult. You drift so far away from home, chasing this dream and it’s hard. You’re on your own out there. Everything that you take—these experiences, these interactions that we had when we were young—that prepared me for those moments.”
WHAV broadcast the ceremonies live over 97.9 FM with 25-year veteran sportswriter Hector Longo from the new Hunking School. The broadcast was made possible by the sponsorship of Trinity Emergency Medical Service, Flowers By Steve, Climate Zone and WHAV members.
Most of the 11 inductees came from out of town with their families, and Athletic Director Thomas E. O’Brien brought them up to speed.
“The football team this past year went undefeated in the Conference, when the Conference championship and was ranked number three in the state at one point during the year. Hillie football is back for sure.”
O’Brien said he has been most pleased by increased participation in the school’s athletic programs.
Some moving moments came during the induction of 60-year coach and athletic director R. John Ottaviani. Beginning at Haverhill High School in 1963 as a physical education instructor, Coach O. credited others with helping him when the sports program was endangered by budget cuts related to the tax-cutting measure Proposition 2 ½.
“I also had a right-hand-man named Dante Gobbi Sr. Dante was my right-hand man. When we ran the cow chip conbtest when I was AD, we made $36,000 on it, on a Friday night, waiting for the cow to do what it didn’t do. We had to pull a name out of the hat.”
The induction ceremony featured announcer John McCauley as master of ceremonies. Besides Peña and Ottaviani, nine others were inducted:
- Kate Abromovitch, 1989, Basketball, Golf, Softball
- Andy Alsup, 1997, Football, Track
- Matt Battistini, 1978, Football, Track
- Duane Carlisle, 1983, Football, Basketball, Track
- Dan Conway, 1976, Football
- Heidi Hannenian, 1989, Swimming
- Kerry (Horgan) DeVries, 1988, Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball
- John Ottaviani, 1957, Coach, Athletic Director
- Carlos Peña, 1995, Baseball
- Mary Schena, 1983, Cross Country, Track
- Kevin Woelfel, Coach
WHAV will rebroadcast highlights of the ceremony in the near future.