Christopher Potvin Memorial Baseball Tournament History
Christopher Potvin was an outstanding athlete in his Freshman year at St. Bernard High School in Montville. He was the starting point guard for the Freshman basketball team, but his favorite sport, the one he excelled in, was baseball. Chris won the batting title three of his four years in Little League, was the only 14-year old to be selected for the 1986 Montville Babe Ruth League All Star Team, and was in his second year as a player for American Legion Post 4 in Norwich. According to a New London Day sports writer who had covered American Legion Baseball in the area for many years, Chris was the only 13-year-old player he remembers to have hit safely at that level of baseball.
In March 1987, only a couple months after he was tragically lost in a car accident on his way to school, a Scholarship Fund was created in his memory. The Board of Directors elected to sponsor the Babe Ruth Tournament of Champions in Chris’ memory as a fundraiser for the Scholarship.
The first baseball tournament was held in 1987 with four teams. Several years later, it became an open tournament drawing teams from all over the state. A softball tournament was added in 1993.
The Christopher Potvin Tournament became one of the most respected baseball tournaments in the state because of the efforts and contributions of hundreds of volunteers who donated their time and services. These tournaments could not have achieved that level of success without their energetic leadership, including the dedicated services of Pete Greco and his umpire organization, and Dave Nilssen from Diamond Baseballs, who donated the baseballs and softballs used in tournament games.
The 31st Chris Potvin Baseball Tournament was held in 2017, which turned out to be the last one. In 2018, the Board of Directors transitioned to a Golf Tournament to fund-raise for the scholarships. While the golf outing has been a great success, it was bittersweet to end the baseball tournament tradition as it was the sport in which Chris most excelled.
Regardless of the type of tournament we hold to help generate funds, we are thrilled to have been able to keep Chris’ memory alive for over 30 years by rewarding deserving student-athletes throughout the region.
Potvin Tournament is More Than Baseball
This story about the Potvin Memorial Baseball Tournament & Scholarship Fund was originally published on Aug 9, 2010 by Brett Poirier for the Norwich Bulletin
It was fitting that Billy Buscetto, Jr. crossed the plate for the game-winning run to end the Christopher Potvin Memorial Tournament at Dodd Stadium on Sunday. The CT Rebels defeated Groton by one run in the 15-U title game, 4-3.
For Coach Bill Buscetto, Sr., the tournament championship was even more special as Christopher Potvin was one of his closest friends. “It means a lot to me,” said Buscetto. “I’m still really close to the family, and I was extremely close to Chris.”
Wayne Potvin, Chris’ father, runs the tournament each summer in his late son’s name. All of the money raised goes toward scholarships for local high school seniors. On Friday, Potvin will award $1,000 scholarships to 22 students on the field at Dodd Stadium.
The Rebels’ victory in the 15-U Championship game means the team will end baseball season on top. “This is the unofficial end of the baseball season,” said Buscetto.
The Potvin Tournament has become a tradition in eastern Connecticut. Winning the tournament gives teams in the area the ultimate bragging rights. It doesn’t hurt that the championship games are at Dodd Stadium.
“You know if you play good all week, you’re going to be here for a championship game at Dodd Stadium,” said America’s Gamers 17-U coach Ron Serrano. Serrano will be back next year to coach his son’s 13-U team. He is not the only one already looking ahead to next year.
The 25th anniversary
Potvin said this year’s running was one of the best ever, but he is already brainstorming ideas for the 25th anniversary.
Instead of just having the championship games at Dodd Stadium, Potvin is hoping to have the tournament there all week. His ultimate goal is to sell enough tickets to fill Dodd Stadium for the championship games. “There is no doubt in my mind that I will do that,” said Potvin.
The retired Potvin does most of the organizing himself. He sends out cards each year telling people about the scholarship fund and the tournament, and 100 percent of the money he receives goes toward the scholarships. He even buys the trophies himself.
During the selection process, Potvin had two finalists for the final scholarship he had the funds to offer. He couldn’t decide between the two candidates, so he gave it to both of them. Potvin picked up the tab.
Potvin has also received help from local towns. Each year, several recreation departments and high schools allow Potvin to use their fields free-of-charge for the start of the tournament.
Upon inception, Potvin never thought the tournament would be as successful as it has become. He accepted 24 teams this year and turned away many others. He will give scholarships out on Friday and start building toward next year.
“Chris would want me to do this,” said Potvin. “I know he would. I’ll feel like a million dollars (this) Friday when I give those scholarships out.”
Potvin Tournament Profile
This story about the Potvin Memorial Baseball Tournament and Scholarship Fund was originally published in 2004 by Marc Allard for the Norwich Bulletin
Walk through the gates at Dodd Stadium and look straight ahead. You will see this young, vibrant, almost angelic fact looking down at you from a back-lit board thanking those who donated time and money in honor of a young person the community – and his family – refuses to let go.
The smile is of that is hard to forget for the normal, everyday fan of baseball It’s even harder for the father of that smile to forget.
The smile and fact belong to Chris Potvin, who died at 15 because of a car accident in January 1987 near St. Bernard High School. Chris succumbed to his injuries several days later in the hospital.
“I loved the little guy” said Wayne Potvin, Chris’ father. “A little blond-haired kid who never talked back, always wanted to help. I’ve found out that everyone in the community loved him just as much as I did.”
When such a tragic event happens, however, sometimes something good arises and that is this case, is exactly what happened. Wayne channeled his grief into doing something positive, keeping his son’s name alive and using it to give others a chance that his son never had.
The Chris Potvin baseball tournament actually began on a very small level when Ron Meadows started it with just four teams – Mystic, Groton, New London and Waterford Babe Ruth. Meadows ran that tournament for eight years before Wayne became involved and decided to take over the management of it because he saw the potential to do more.
This year’s tournament concluded late last week with 31 teams involved from all over the state. There are now three divisions – 19-under, 15-under and 13-under – and it’s all run by Wayne and his right-hand man, Harold Fengar.
“Wayne puts so much time into this,” Fengar said. “He loves the game and so do I, and no one runs a tournament like Wayne.”
“It can drive you crazy with all the little, petty problems like field and scheduling, “Wayne said. “ But that’s when I stop and think about Chris and it makes it all worth it.”
The two-week tournament itself it not the driving force behind what will happen today. Potvin has kept the entry fee cost down of $200 entry fee cost down of $200 per team and that money is usually sucked up by the tournament expenses such as umpires ad lights. The tournament is there to keep Chris’ name and the sport he loved so much tied together.
“We used to go out together every Saturday to the Little League games and then over to Legion” Wayne said of his son “I used to hit him balls in the dark. I think he was the only one who loved sports as much as me. He was my best friend and companion.”
The money comes from a new idea hatched by Potvin and Fengas, a direct mail campaign featuring a little card with pictures of the previous year’s scholarship recipients on it and a request to donate to the scholarship fund.
“The first year we sent out 460 and 404 came back and we raised $14,000,” Potvin said. It went up to $17,000 the past two years and this year, for our 20th annual tournament, we raised $20,000-plus.”
And all of that money will be handed out tonight, plus an extra thousand because the Potvins couldn’t decide between two worthy candidates and the Defenders, especially on-field announcer Johnny Gill, will be looking on.
“When I got here three seasons ago, I met Wayne and I took a liking and emotional attachment to what he was doing, so I took it over here,”said Gill, who serves as the corporate sales director for the Defenders.
“I’ve made the field available for four days” Gill said. “We give them the lights and the kids have the time of their lives up here.”
For Wayne, it has been a salve on a wound that has will never truly heal.
“If the good Lord had to take Chris, then it’s good to see something good come of it,” Potvin said “It has helped a lot of kids and I’m proud to do it in Chris’ name. I’ll be doing it until they put me in a casket and, who knows, maybe some day we can give out 50 scholarships.”