Vincent will always be a Ledyard guy, even as he retires to Florida

Waterford — Taking time to appreciate people and their contributions has gone the way of the bunt. It’s just not that important to know or do any longer.

And that’s what made one night earlier this week so special for the Ledyard High School family. They took the time to honor a true blue — and bleed blue (and white) — guy, who made the place a better place for more than 30 years.

They gathered for a night of laughs at Filomena’s to bid adieu to Peter Vincent, the (literal) Coach For All Seasons at 24 Gallup Hill Road. Vincent and his wife Denise are off to Florida for retirement, following his three-decade career coaching football, basketball (both genders) and baseball.

“I can’t think of a better sportsman than Pete,” Ledyard grad and former UConn Avery Point baseball coach Roger Bidwell told the crowd.

Roger shoots; Roger scores. That’s the word to describe Pete Vincent. Sportsman. He was always there, on every court and field, a perpetual representative of all the things schools and their athletic programs are supposed to stand for. It was also sporting of him to pretty much play every position within the hallways as well. He taught math, biology and physical education. Interesting trifecta.

Jim Buonocore, Ledyard’s assistant principal and athletic director, arranged the night. It hit every note. Buonocore addressed the gathering as well as Steve Bilheimer, Ledyard’s wrestling coach and assistant athletic director; Don MacKenzie, the football public address announcer and Vincent’s former assistant coach; and Chris Vincent, Pete’s older son.

Pete Vincent was such a good coach that both his sons are in the profession. Chris is an assistant basketball coach at Miami Dade College (where East Lyme’s Dev Ostrowski will go this fall) while younger son Chad is an assistant basketball coach at the University of San Diego. Pretty smart kids, leaving our corner of the world for Miami and San Diego. Mom and dad taught them well.

I remember my first conversation with Pete. It was in 1992. His basketball team at Ledyard was off to a great start to the season (his best player was Kyle Chapman, as I recall). I called Pete at his house to chat.

“Nobody from The Day ever called me before,” Pete said.

That one stuck with me.

We’ve been friendly for the last 27 years. A good guy, good source, good friend who gets the ultimate compliment: He is The Guy You’d Want Your Kid To Play For.

My favorite story about Vincent came from Jim O’Neill, the man who coached New London American Legion to the World Series in 1985 and 1986. It was a few years earlier and Vincent was coaching third base for O’Neill when a dilemma called for some resourcefulness.

New London’s best player, Norm Tonucci, was feeling a little sick and went to the woods, tending to nature’s calling. Problem: It was Tonucci’s turn at bat. They had to stall. Vincent decided to fake a fainting spell in the third base coach’s box, delaying the game long enough for Tonucci to have emerged from the wilderness.

O’Neill has told that story many times and never fails to laugh every time he tells it.

We’re all busy during our summers here, hoping to extract every morsel of fun from summer weather. It’s not easy to organize a special night in the middle of the week in the middle of July and fill a room. But they love Peter Vincent enough — and respect his life’s work — to have made it a great night. Vincent wasn’t the only one touched.

Bravo to Buonocore and all the gang who send a guy belonging to any list of Ledyard Lore and Legend away with a proper goodbye. Vincent will get to watch his kids coach more, enjoy nicer weather and the residual effects of 32 years of good work.

They’ll always leave the light on for him at 24 Gallup Hill Road. Hope he’s not a stranger.

Happy retirement.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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