UTICA — More than 1,000 people turned out Wednesday evening to cheer on more than 300 all-star athletes from 31 schools from four area counties.
The athletes attended the second annual All-Mohawk Valley All-Star Banquet — presented by the Observer-Dispatch — in the Jorgensen Athletic Center at Mohawk Valley Community College. This year saw all-stars also selected from girls gymnastics and girls lacrosse, raising the total number of sports teams the athletes came from. Former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott was the main speaker.
There were 364 All-Mohawk Valley All-Stars selected — not total athletes, as some were selected for multiple sports.
Being the second year for the banquet, it showcased some athletes who were returning. One athlete is Andrew Roden, a senior from Vernon-Verona-Sherrill.
At last year’s inaugural banquet, Roden was named an all-star in baseball. This year he was named an all-star in two sports — baseball and basketball.
“It shows the improvements I’ve made in the off season,” Roden said about being named an all-star in two sports this year. “It’s great to be recognized for more than one sport.”
He is going to University of Massachusetts Lowell in the fall and plans on playing baseball for the school.
Roden was at the banquet with his family, including his father, John. John Roden said he hopes that the banquet keeps kids in sports and gives them something to aim for.
“It’s great that they’re recognizing them,” he said.
After walking a special green carpet, the student athletes — all dressed for the occasion — sat with family and coaches at decorative tables with all-star centerpieces where they were served dinner. Following dinner, the top athletes in the 27 sports were recognized.
Then Abbott addressed the audience in a question-and-answer format. Abbott, born without a right hand, played 10 Major League Baseball seasons with the Angels, Yankees, White Sox and Brewers from 1989-99.
During his speech, Abbott spoke to the athletes about loss.
“If I could give you one piece of advice, learn from losing,” he said. “Get better from losing but don't take it too hard.”
Helene Narracci, mother of all-star Scott Mundorff from New Hartford High School, said it was no surprise to her that her son was named an all-star in golf.
“He’s been golfing since he was 2,” she said. “I’ve walked a lot of golf courses with him.”
Mundorff, a senior, is going to Mohawk Valley Community College in the fall. He is not yet sure if he will play golf at the school.
“We had a great season,” he said, listing the accomplishments of his teammates.
Notre Dame Athletic Director and girls basketball and softball coach Olivia Tooley said the schools and coaches have been looking forward to the banquet.
“It’s a lot of talent in one room,” she said, adding that these all-stars were the athletes people would be reading about as they start their college journeys, both for academics and sports.
Remsen native and United States Olympian Erin Hamlin also attended the banquet. She spoke highly of the event, the athletes recognized from her hometown and high school, and the all-stars as a group.
“It’s awesome to see so many student athletes,” she said. “It’s impressive.”
Last year’s Mohawk Valley All-Star Banquet — the inaugural — also was held at Jorgensen, also with a sold-out crowd. Buffalo Bills legend and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly was the guest speaker.
O-D Sports Reporter Marquel Slaughter contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Ed Harris at 315-792-5063 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_EHarris).