The Fairfield County Sports Commission hosts numerous events every year and two of the most notable are the annual Hall of Fame dinner every October and the annual celebrity breakfast held at the Continental Manor in Norwalk. Both events feature some great sports memorabilia items depicting some of the greatest athletic moments in history.
The Sports Commission has a variety of missions, but its most important one is the Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy. In August 2010, the Fairfield County Sports Commission created the Cohen Fitness Academy, to further honor the late Chelsea Cohen, for whom the Commission’s Courage Award is named since her passing in 2006. Cohen was a star soccer player at Norwalk High School who died of a rare form of cancer while still a student.
The commission gives an annual award to the Commuinity Sports-Person of the Year for each Fairfield County city or town. This year’s Bridgeport SportsPerson of the Year is Erica Beverly, star women’s basketball player at the University of Hartford. But back to the memorabilia.
Being a sports junkie, I can attest to some of the wonderful photos, bats, balls, etc., that I have seen at these events. I always keep looking for Yaz mementos, but that’s a story for another day.I also get to see them at many Swim Across The Sound events. In the past few years, I have seen Greg Nettles, Bucky Dent, Mike Torres, Jim Calhoun, Jim Lonborg, LLucchino and Brian Cashman speak at various events. Besides being enamored by all of these sports figures, I again get a chance to wander into the sports memorabilia room and feel like a little boy again.
Where does all this stuff come from?
Essentially, it comes from one guy, Mike Riccio, Fairfield County’s sports guru.
Riccio arrived on the scene in 1987 with what seemed like contacts in every corner of the sports world. Sports fanatics could always count on some star appearing at a Mike Riccio sports memorabilia show, which provided fans with the opportunity to meet and greet with one of their heroes.
For years, Mike Ricco Sports was a retail outlet located on the Post Road in Westport. Not only were famous athletes found at the store on a regular basis, but sports fans could walk in the door, peruse the seemingly endless supplies of sports goodies and be transported to a different time of place.
“We loved having the retail store,” said Riccio. “We were really able to make a connection between some all-time greats and the everyday fan. It’s a connection that’s not usually made.”
Economic realities set in earlier this year and the store was closed, much to the dismay of local sports nuts, such as myself.
“We would have loved to have kept the store open, but it was extremely expensive to operate,” Riccio explained. “We made some sales there and we loved the interaction, but it was actually more of a headquarters. Financially, it made more sense to work our shows and also set up at special events.”
But things change. Mike Riccio Sports is back in retail mode. Located on the lower level of the Danbury Fair Mall directly behind Starbucks, Riccio will again specialize in sports memorabilia at the retail level.
One aspect of Riccio’s business is giving back to the community. The merchandise he provides for Swim Across the Sound, the Fairfield County Sports Commission and numerous other nonprofit organizations is often donated, with the proceeds going directly to the charities. Ricco calls it “giving back.”
“Right from the start, Mike Riccio has been an important component in the success of all of the sports commission’s fundraising efforts over the past six years,” said Tom Chiappetta, president and CEO of the Fairfield County Sports Commission. “His auction items provide a first-class, professional look to our events and he has always been generous in donating back several items to us to personally help our cause. Mike also has great relationships with sports personalities throughout the area and beyond and is always willing to work with us to develop contacts with them. He’s very reliable and has been a true friend and supporter of the commission.
So Mike Riccio Sports is back, not that it ever went away. All I can say is, I want to see more pictures of Carl Yastrzemski. Go Yaz. See you at the games.