Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame to induct six members
The Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame announced its class of inductees, naming six prominent sports figures into its three wings, bringing the number of sports figures recognized in its 16 years of existence to 103.
The Hall of Fame, which is overseen by the Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc., will honor this class at a later date. The Commission has postponed its annual Sports Night gala dinner until 2021. The class of 2020 honorees are:
Jackie Robinson Professional Wing: Matt Barnes (Bethel), John Sullivan (Greenwich)
James O’Rourke Amateur Wing: Jim Fitzsimmons (Fairfield), Barbara Reinalda (Stratford)
J. Walter Kennedy Community Service Wing: Don Foust (Stamford), Dianne Nolan (Fairfield)
Barnes is the first selection from Bethel, bringing the total communities represented in the Hall of Fame to 20.
Barnes is in his seventh year with the Boston Red Sox as a relief pitcher. He made his pro debut in 2014 and was a key bullpen performer in the Sox’s World Series title season in 2018. He made a team-high 10 appearances in that post-season, and gave up just one earned run to post a 2-0 record in winning Game 1 of the Series and Game 2 of the ALCS. Barnes has a 0.87 ERA with 10Ks in 11 games and 10.1 innings in his post-season efforts. For his career, including 19 games this season, the right-hander has appeared in 320 games, all but two in relief, has 434Ks in 333 innings pitched and 12 saves — 6 this year — with a 26-21 record. The Bethel High graduate was the Red Sox first round draft pick, the 19th overall, in 2011, after an All-American career at UConn.
Sullivan concluded his stellar 10-year NFL career in 2019 as the starting center for the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. While his team lost that NFL title game to the New England Patriots, it did not tarnish Sullivan’s pro football experience, as the only low point of that longtime journey was losing the entire 2015 season to a serious back injury. After being selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, following his college days at Notre Dame as a four-year starter and senior captain, he quickly became a force on the team’s offensive line. In ’09 he moved into a regular starting role and made 93 starts in the 109 games he played for the Vikings through the 2014 campaign. He was one of the top graded centers in the league in pass protection and played a key blocking role in the success of running back Adrian Peterson.
Sullivan was named to the Pro Football Writers All-Pro team in 2012. The back problem then wiped out all of 2015, followed the next year by accepting a backup position with just one start after signing with Washington. His decision to leave the team to join the Rams proved wise, as he took over as a starter there in 2017, then started in all 19 games in their run to becoming NFC champions. When the Greenwich High graduate decided to end his pro football life his career totals were 153 games played, plus eight more in postseason, and 132 starts including the playoffs.
Fitzsimmons was one of the most prolific high school basketball scorers in state history during his career at Fairfield Prep. The three-time All-MBIAC and two-time all-state pick led Prep to three straight Class L title games, including winning the crown in 1969 when the Jesuits earned a No. 1 ranking in New England. He is the only Jesuit basketball star to be named an All-American. Fitzsimmons holds the school record for career points (1,732), averaging 32.5 points per game in ‘69, and points in a single game (64), which was then a state record. After being named New England Player of the Year, he played in the prestigious Dapper Dan national high school tourney. The dead-eye outside shooter went on to lead Duke’s undefeated freshman team in scoring before transferring to Harvard, where he had to sit out a year. As a sophomore in the 1971-72 season, the 6-foot-3 guard led the team in scoring average at 24.2 ppg. (still a school record), third best in the Ivy League, and was named first team All-New England. Fitzsimmons was inducted to the New England Basketball HOF in ‘06 and Prep’s HOF (2017).
Reinalda is one of the long line of Stratford (Raybestos) Brakettes’ world-class pitchers and she tops all of those greats with the most wins in team history with 441 over her 19-year career (1976-94). In 675 games, fifth all-time for the club, she posted a 0.38 ERA, with 2,172 strikeouts, 19 perfect games and 31 no-hitters and won 11 national titles. Those numbers earned her a coveted spot in the National Softball Hall of Fame in 1999. The right-hander made an immediate impact with the perennial champions as a rookie on the 1976 team that was severely depleted by the formation of a new professional league. Reinalda pitched the Brakettes to another national title and won the pitching and batting awards with a .429 average to win MVP honors. She followed that up in ’77 by repeating as a national champion as well as MVP. Reinalda, who also played for Team USA internationally, had an outstanding collegiate career for two years at Cal-Poly Pomona (1978-79), where she was the school’s first All-American and is a member of CPP’s athletic HOF (1992). The Shelton resident was a women’s softball coach at Yale for 21 years, including eight years as the head coach (2005-2012). She was inducted into the Connecticut Scholastic/Collegiate Softball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Foust spent 34 years coaching basketball at all levels and also was highly successful working with both girls’ and boys’ teams. His contributions to the girl’s and women’s game earned him entry into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball HOF in 2000. After helping the Stamford Catholic and Norwalk High boy’s teams to FCIAC titles during eight years as an assistant in the early 70’s, Foust turned his focus to leading the girls’ program at Norwalk in 1976. He coached seven years there, posting a record of 143-22 that included 58-straight FCIAC regular season wins. His Lady Bears made five straight FCIAC finals and in 1980-81 won both the FCIAC (the first of three straight league titles), and the Class L state title in a 24-1 season.
His next challenge came in turning around a struggling program at the University of Bridgeport. He again spent seven years building UB into a Division II power, winning 129 games, leading the school to its first NCAA tourney appearance (1989) with a 25-5 record and being ranked in the DII Top 20 for five straight years. The Stamford native concluded his career with more than 400 victories after a two-year stint at Notre Dame High (Fairfield), and also coached 10 years with boys’ and girls’ Catholic youth teams.
Nolan is one of the most successful women’s college basketball coaches in history. In her 38 years as a Division I head coach she won 575 games, including a school-record 456 during her 28-year run building the Fairfield University program into a perennial winner. She took over the Stags in 1979 and oversaw their transition to DI in 1981. She is in the Top 50 all-time in DI victories. At Fairfield, Nolan’s teams earned four NCAA tournament bids, one WNIT appearance and captured three MAAC regular season and tournament titles. She had six 20-win seasons, including three 25-win campaigns.
Nolan was recognized for her accomplishments as a five-time MAAC coach of year, Connecticut Women’s Basketball HOF inductee (2005) and selection to the Fairfield U Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. She concluded her college head coaching career in 2015 after five seasons at Lafayette, following three years as an associate head coach at Yale. Nolan, who began her head coaching journey at St. Francis College in 1974 and is also a member of its Hall of Fame, continues her association with basketball by doing TV color commentary for MAAC and Quinnipiac games.