If you've spent any time around Rhode Island high school sports, chances are you know Lenny D'Errico — even if you never met him.
“I don’t even know if half the people know he played [sports],” Cranston Athletic Director Mike Traficante says. “They just know Lenny as the guy who was always there. That’s how everyone in the city knew Lenny.”
D’Errico passed away on Christmas Eve at age 72 and word of his death spread quickly. He was a retired Cranston police officer and, officially, the equipment manager and game supervisor for all sports at Cranston West. How was a man whose name didn’t show up in headlines or stories make such an impact?
Because D’Errico was the man who did whatever he could to help.
I never formally met D’Errico, but I’d see him at Cranston Stadium taking tickets or helping set things up in the press box. He did a lot more than that.
“Games started at 5:15,” Traficante says, “and he was there at 3:30 setting things up.”
It was his job, but D’Errico didn’t need to get paid. Not that his job was breaking the bank. Making money wasn’t the point. Giving back was.
When Cranston Stadium would host Injury Fund soccer, D’Errico used it as a chance to help Washington Trust’s annual peanut butter drive. Participating schools would be notified about the drive, D’Errico would put out the collection boxes before the games and he'd end up with 400 to 500 jars of peanut butter to donate, Traficante says.
D'Errico didn’t do it for accolades. He did it because he cared about his community, the one that gave back when he was at Cranston East. The one he served as a police officer. The one he’d do anything to help, whether it was setting up for high school games or helping Traficante or Ken Hopkins or the RIIL with whatever they needed.
His wake could have been an unofficial Cranston East/West reunion. Traficante said athletes from all eras showed up to pay respects to the man who did everything he could to help them.
“Lenny was just a type of guy that you will never find anyone to say a bad word about him,” Traficante says. “He was a wonderful man, loved the kids and the kids loved having him around.”
He will be missed in Cranston and by anyone who ever met him.
And even by those who wished they had.
The high school season ended in November, but for a few RIIL stars, it just ended.
On Dec. 19, La Salle’s Jacob Gibbons took part in the Football University All-American Bowl in Naples, Florida. He was one of 60 freshmen to take part in the game and was the lone Rhode Island representative.
San Antonio was the place to be for high school football players in the first week of January. Hendricken offensive lineman Jake Picard, Mount Pleasant cornerback Fredrick Mallay, Mount Pleasant lineman Jevon Blackburn, and West Warwick defensive lineman Mason Clark all took part in FBU All-American Bowl combine for the country’s up-and-coming underclassmen. The first three are juniors while Clark is a sophomore.
This was the same combine where Xavier Truss made a name for himself last year before becoming the highest-profile recruit in the state’s history.
Speaking of Truss, he was also in San Antonio and played in the All-American Bowl featuring the country’s top high school seniors.
He was the first R.I. player to take part in the game since Will Blackmon. Truss received a lot of attention from the Georgia-based media outlets, which reported he’ll head to Athens immediately after graduation.
Congrats to Coventry’s Troy Osterhout, who scored his 1,000th career point in a loss to Smithfield on Monday.
Scoring 1,000 points in your high school basketball career is quite an achievement and I’d prefer to be there when it happens. So athletic directors, coaches, players, fans, whoever — if you have a player nearing that number, let me know, preferably when they get within 100 points so we can plan a schedule and give it the coverage it deserves.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up on the list? Toll Gate’s Brandon Scott, who scored 17 points on Friday night, now has 980 career points. Scott and the Titans host Johnston on Tuesday night.
RIPCOA loves tennis
Most of the state’s tennis players don’t pick up a racket until they get to high school, but the Rhode Island Principal’s Committee on Athletics is trying to change that.
Twelve schools have submitted an official intent to play middle school tennis this spring: Cranston’s Western Hills, Hope Highlands and Bain; Warwick’s Winman and Warwick Veterans; Newport’s Thompson, Bristol’s Kickemuit, and Jamestown’s Lawn School, as well as Ponaganset, Smithfield and Mount St. Charles.
Niche sports like tennis need middle school feeder programs to help with development. Hopefully this will be the start of something good and more schools around the state will join. Would be great for city schools to get involved and introduce a sport to kids who normally wouldn’t play.