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BASEBALL: Panthers, Spartans honor, and perpetuate, the legacy of Mr. Katz

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MERIDEN — Monday night’s Platt-Maloney baseball game was all about out-going Platt Athletic Director Rich Katz.

Katz, a star athlete, coach and teacher before becoming athletic director at Platt, is retiring at the end of the current school year after spending the bulk of his adult life at the school.

On Monday night, Katz threw out the first pitch before the rivalry game at Ceppa Field to his brother Dave.

Katz’s No. 25 jersey was also retired. It was placed in a frame and presented to Katz, who walked out to the mound with his wife Laurie by his side.

Also before the game, it was announced that Platt’s home baseball game against Maloney each year will be the “Rich Katz Baseball Classic.”

Newly minted city-wide AD Bob McKee of Maloney presented Katz with the trophy that will be passed to the winning school of the Rich Katz Baseball Classic each year, similar to what is done with the Stoddard Bowl trophy for football.

“It’s just a great honor,” Katz said. “I knew I was going to throw out the first pitch, but (the Rich Katz Baseball Classic) was a surprise. It was great to throw it to my brother. The two of us have been together our whole lives.”

Platt assistant AD Trish Wodatch said she has known Katz said she was 5-years old. 

“I think this is awesome,” Wodatch said. “He’s had a huge impact on Platt and baseball in Meriden and around the state. It’s bittersweet to see him go.”

Wodatch added that Katz has been a mentor and a role model.

“He will be embarrassed by all of the attention, but he deserves it,” Wodatch said. “It’s the least we can do for him. Baseball means so much to him and I'm so glad his brother is here.

“He doesn’t like the limelight, but we want to give him the proper send-off,” she added. “I was shocked when he said he would throw out the first pitch. It’s so fitting he threw the pitch to his brother.”

The Rich Katz Baseball Classic was initially the idea of McKee.

“Rich has been an icon in Meriden as a teacher, AD and coach,” McKee said. “Baseball is his love and he eats and sleeps the sport. This is one way to honor him. The trophy will stay at Platt this year and next year will go to the winning school.

“We kept it a surprise before Friday and that was the best part of it,” McKee added. “This has been a collaborative effort by many people to have this happen tonight.”

Katz graduated from Platt in 1970 and was an All-American third baseman with the Panthers.

Katz was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 1970 as a high school senior, but didn't sign. Instead, he went to Jacksonville University and hit .375 in his college career.

As an All-American senior at JU in 1973, Katz hit .396 and was the national RBI champion for all levels of college baseball with 67.

He led the Dolphins in every major offensive category that season and was offered a free agent contract from the Kansas City Royals in 1973 before being drafted by by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1974 MLB Draft.

As a coach, Katz led Platt baseball from 1976 to 2000 and totaled 282 wins. He oversaw league championships in 1985, ’86, ’91 and ’92.

The Panthers were the state runners-up in 1984 and won it all in 1986. The 1986 team still holds the program record for wins in a season with 22.

Katz was Teacher of the Year at Platt in 2020. He earned the New Haven Basketball Officials Association Babe Amendola Award for courtesies extended above the norm in 2018.

He was a Meriden Sportsman Of Distinction in 2011 and co-founded the Platt High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. Katz was inducted into the Jacksonville University Hall of Fame in 1995.

He's been recognized nationally. Katz received the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Outstanding Service Award in 2012, 2017 and 2022.

Katz signs off as the last athletic director in Platt history. McKee will take over as the Meriden AD for both schools on July 1.


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