PAWTUCKET – One cannot quantify with simple words what John Scanlon and Ray McGee mean to this city’s public school athletic programs.
So given recent developments, two coaches – one from Tolman and the other from Shea – feel that it’s time to begin a new tradition to preserve the legacies of these two dedicated and beloved athletic directors.
Following the final out of Tuesday’s Division II baseball game between the Tigers and Raiders at McCoy Stadium, the first-ever awarding of the “McGee/Scanlon Trophy” will be made to the winning team.
“It’s going to be informal, but I think it’s cool to have their names attached to something,” said Theo Murray, the head baseball coach and assistant football coach at Tolman, which is Scanlon’s jurisdiction.
Added Dino Campopiano, who as one of McGee’s charges at Shea is the head coach of the football and baseball teams, “Athletics in the city don’t run without these two guys. There are really no words to explain it.”
With Scanlon retiring at the end of the school year and McGee on the fence about whether he wants to follow suit, the idea of creating a meaningful honor with plenty of staying power was a no-brainer. Remember, we’re talking about a pair who have been strongly linked with Pawtucket sports and for several decades.
“These two guys are legends in the city. Anyone who grew up in the 1960s to the present knows these two names. They are synonymous with Tolman and Shea and both have their connections between both schools,” Murray pointed out. “Ray was the football and hockey coach at Tolman for the longest time and John was the basketball coach at Shea.”
This token of appreciation came about as the result of a conversation between Murray and Campopiano during a recent gathering of Division II baseball coaches. Once the business of selecting the participants for the 12th grade and underclassmen all-star games was complete, the attention shifted to McGee and Scanlon and how to appropriately honor them.
As currently situated, Tolman and Shea are in the same baseball division, with the guarantee of two regular-season meetings. With realignment on the horizon and whispers about the creation of a third division, there’s a chance that the Tigers and Raiders could be scaled back to one get-together on the diamond for the next two years.
If Tolman and Shea end up in different divisions, Murray plans to line up a non-leaguer with the hopes of having McCoy Stadium as the backdrop.
“Every year, we’ll designate one of the games as the McGee/Scanlon game,” Murray stated.
You would be hard-pressed to attend a Tolman or Shea sporting event and not run into McGee and Scanlon. Both would have been locks to attend Tuesday’s baseball game, yet Scanlon had an inkling that something was up when Murray informed him to make sure that he and McGee would be present.
Then came last week when the trophy appeared in Scanlon’s office, which is when Murray’s friendly hint made total sense.
“It’s nice to be appreciated and we do appreciate what they’re doing,” said Scanlon, who decided as far back as last June that the 2013-14 school term would mark his final one as the overseer of the Tolman athletic department. “I smelled something, but I didn’t realize that they were going to have a trophy.”
Scanlon was the one who broke the news to his good pal at Shea.
“That’s fantastic and great. I appreciate it and I know John does too,” McGee relayed.
Looking strictly at their careers as athletic directors, the joint work Scanlon and McGee put forth in solidifying Tolman and Shea as Thanksgiving football rivals might go down as their greatest accomplishment. Last November marked the 12th all-time holiday meeting between the neighboring public high schools.
“The best way they handled that was making sure that everyone was set,” said Campopiano, whose Raiders used to meet Lincoln on Turkey Day while Tolman had a longstanding engagement with St. Raphael. “They took care of the city schools, but they did it in a business-like manner. Everything about them is class act.”
What’s on tap Tuesday at McCoy not only helps to legitimize the creation of the Tigers and Raiders as Thanksgiving partners, but also on several other fronts as well. To the two coaches who were instrumental in creating something that pays homage to two longtime pillars of Pawtucket athletes, there is nothing more fitting that having McGee’s and Scanlon’s names fixed to something lasting.
“All I need to know is that every once in a while, we’re reminded about how good these guys have been to all the coaches and athletic programs at both schools,” said Murray. “They give us plenty of freedom, but they also have our backs.”
Echoed Campopiano, “Even with the financial times the way they are, they make sure to give our student-athletes everything possible. Our kids don’t go without as far as equipment, uniforms ... everything. Without those two, there would be no athletics as it stands today.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03