The full court press; Jim Senich championed the Knights with his pen and his golden voice

Senich became a fixture on the sidelines. Southington had already established itself with a rich football tradition that reached back to the 1940s. Baseball was emerging as another state dynasty, and girls sports were emerging with Southington leading the charge. When he was let go by the local radio station, a new weekly newspaper was just starting up. Just before Christmas in 1975, Senich was hired as the first sports editor for The Southington Observer. He served at the local paper for the next 13 years in ever changing roles from sports editor to executive editor. His column, ‘Senich’s Sportscope,’ chronicled the town’s emergence as a leader in Connecticut sports.

“Although he wasn’t from Southington, he adopted this town and showed a lot of passion for it,” said former Observer sports writer Art Secondo. “It showed in his coverage of Southington sports. He got into it, and he really became a big part of covering our stars and our history. He loved it so much that I think he would have done it for nothing.”

Senich still recalls those times as one of the high points of his career. He covered Southington’s only wrestling state title in 1978. He witnessed the town’s first and only cross country title in 1984 and the high school’s only golf title in 1987, but it was the coverage of the Lady Knights that really set him apart. His columns tracked nine state titles in softball and four state championships in basketball with a seriousness that was uncommon for girls sports in the 1970s.

His coverage never wavered whether it was a Thanksgiving football game or a preseason gymnastics meet.

“Jim Senich was probably one of the first writers in the state that felt like the female athlete deserved as much ink as the male athletes got,” said former Lady Knight softball coach Joe Piazza. “When he was the sports writer and the editor of The Observer, he went out of his way to feature female athletes in his columns as much as the males, and that was new. He was always really friendly and open with the kids. He was open with the coaches. When he interviewed you, you always knew that what you said was what was going to be printed.”

His coverage opened the door for women’s sports, and the accolades began pouring in. He was recognized by the CT High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) in 1997. He had to fly to San Diego to accept a national award from high school coaches two years later. He was inducted into the Southington High School Baseball Hall of Fame (1982), the Connecticut Scholastic and Collegiate Softball Hall of Fame (1994), and the CHSCA Hall of Fame (2007) because of his coverage of Southington sports.

Senich used his newfound power to change the community and help the athlete. He was sometimes critical, sometimes thoughtful. He wrote one series of columns aimed at the Board of Education after witnessing injuries to a soccer player and a gymnast, and that series led to the hiring of a full-time medical trainer at the high school.

“I told them that they had to find the money for a full-time sports trainer. They fired back at me, saying that they couldn’t afford it, and that really ticked me off,” he said. “Couldn’t afford it? You can’t afford to protect the health of the athletes? They finally gave in, and I felt proud about that.”

It’s no surprise that the Southington Sports Hall of Fame selection committee chose Senich as just the second member of the press to be inducted into the local hall of fame. His coverage of Southington sports set the bar for all who followed and his influence changed the athletic landscape. His focus on girls sports helped launch dozens of graduates into the collegiate ranks.

“We didn’t have as many sports as we do now, so a lot of people were just writing about football, basketball, and baseball. We didn’t have girls track, field hockey, or gymnastics,” Secondo said. “If it wasn’t for people with that sort of passion, sports in Southington would not be what it is today. He helped carry on the tradition and legacy of Southington sports by constantly printing it.”

On Thursday, Nov. 14, Senich will be honored in an induction ceremony at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville. To reserve tickets, contact Jim Verderame at (860) 628-7335.

“Being inducted into the Southington Sports Hall of Fame is precious to me because Southington was like my second hometown. I worked elsewhere. I worked all over the state. I even worked in Augusta, Ga. for a while, but Southington will always be special,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this honor. I’m surprised that people even remember me because it seems like it was so long ago.”

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.

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