Local stars honored
Four with Newark ties inducted into hall of fame
A record-setting high school coach, the state’s first female 2,000-point scorer, a professional baseball player and an Olympian were among the Class of 2017 inductees enshrined in the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame on May 16 during a ceremony held at the Chase Center on the Wilmington Riverfront.
The four athletes with ties to Newark were part of an induction class of 10.
Butch Simpson won a record nine Delaware Division I state football championships at Newark High School, including five in a row from 1997-2001. His teams also had five runnerup finishes and were Blue Hen Conference champions or co-champions 15 times. In 39 seasons as Newark’s coach, Simpson won 283 games, which included a 26game winning streak during the 1999-2002 seasons.
“To have the opportunity to do something you love for your entire life is rewarding,” said Simpson, who was chosen as the state’s Coach of the Year in 1984, 1996 and 2011, and served as a head coach in the BlueGold All-Star Football Game three times. “To have people recognize and honor your efforts is beyond expectations. As a coach, I am uncomfortable with individual honors. I’m not successful if not surrounded by exceptional coaches and players. Team success is the effort of the group.”
Simpson, who resides in Florida with his wife Charlotte, retired from coaching following the 2015 season ranked second on Delaware’s all-time wins list.
“Representing Newark football in the Hall of Fame is an honor,” he said. Kristin Mills Caldwell is best known for her basketball prowess after scoring 2,131 points during a basketball career at Caravel Academy that included being named a first-team All-State selection for three straight years. She was the first female Delaware basketball player to score more than 2,000 points in a career.
“Caravel Academy gave me the opportunity to be whatever I wanted to be,” said Caldwell, who teaches at her alma mater and has coached the girls basketball team to three state title games. “Caravel is family to me and is a part of my heart and soul. Coaches like Laurie Lorah, Joe Pennell and Paul Niggebrugge left a lasting impact on me as a person and an athlete. The school will always have my loyalty.”
Caldwell went on to earn three letters at the University of Delaware from 2001-03.
“UD gave me the opportunity to get a degree in teaching so that one day I could give back to Caravel as an employee,” Caldwell said. “Playing for coach [Tina] Martin taught me a great deal about the game of basketball, and I know I am a better coach because I played there.”
Caldwell was a secondteam All-State volleyball selection as a junior and senior and was also a pitcher on Caravel’s 1998 state championship baseball team. As a member of the first-ever USA Baseball women’s national team, Caldwell was the winning gold medal pitcher in the inaugural Women’s World Cup.
“Playing baseball for USA Baseball was the greatest sports experience of my life,” Caldwell said. “It allowed me to travel the world — and in 2004 travel with my sister Bonnie — and play baseball. I got to represent my country in the World Cup three times — twice in Canada and once in Japan. My son Will even got a chance to watch me pitch for the USA. USA Baseball allowed me to continue to be an athlete after college and play baseball at the highest level possible for women.”
Caldwell has been part of the Caravel coaching staff for two state baseball championships, adding to her already impressive resume leading up to her induction.
“Since finding out I am going to be inducted, my thoughts have really traveled to my family, teammates, and coaches. I am truly thankful for them,” she said. “It makes me feel fortunate for the support and opportunities that I have received in my life. It also makes me feel proud as a Delawarean.” Kevin Mench starred on the baseball diamond at St. Mark’s before moving on to become one of the all-time greats at the University of Delaware. In 1998, he was named the America East Player of the Year, Division I player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Magazine, and was a consensus AllAmerican after belting an NCAA-high 33 home runs. Mench was named confer- ence player of the year again in 1999 and is a member of the University of Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame and the Delaware Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mench hit 98 home runs during an eight-year Major League baseball career. In his breakout season in 2004, Mench hit 26 home runs for the Texas Rangers with a slugging percentage of .539. In 2006, he became the first major league right-handed batter to homer in seven consecutive games, a record that still stands and one he calls the highlight of his professional career.
“This honor is more for my family,” Mench said of his induction. “They helped me get to this point. My parents getting me involved in sports as a kid and watching my older brothers play and following in their footsteps.”
Mench was happy to be returning to the First State for the ceremony.
“I always take great pride being from Delaware,” said Mench, who lives in Texas with his wife and three kids and does community work for the Rangers. “I try to stay true to where I’m from, but it’s still a humbling experience just to be a part of the hall of fame.”
Scott Gregory is a national champion ice skater who trained in Delaware in preparation for competing in two Winter Olympics.
“I am very honored to be inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame,” Gregory said. “I feel very privileged and I’m humbled to be recognized for my participation in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics while living, training and representing the wonderful state of Delaware.”
Gregory moved to Delaware in 1980 and trained for six years at the Skating Club of Wilmington and then at the University of Delaware’s High Performance Figure Skating Center. Gregory and skating partner Lisa Spitz placed second in the ice dancing event at the 1983 nationals and 10th in the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Gregory then partnered with Suzy Semanick and placed second in the 1986 nationals and sixth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
“Walking into the Olympic opening ceremonies stadium in Sarajevo and feeling and hearing the loud roar of the crowd cheering on the Americans gave me goose bumps,” Gregory recalled of his fondest memories as a competitor.
Gregory also had the opportunity to participate in the torch ceremony at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
“[I remember] waiting and watching the torch get closer and closer and then finally there it was,” he recalled. “When the Olympic flame was transferred to my torch, it was a feeling I’ll never forget. It was so powerful. I was overcoming a feeling of unbelief with tears of joy.”
Since retiring as a skater in 1988, Gregory has been a coach with the University of Delaware’s High Performance Figure Skating Cen- ter and worked with several Olympians, including 1998 gold medalist Tara Lipinski.
“The most satisfying part of coaching for me is seeing my students’ development both physically into great athletes and mentally into strong confident people,” he said.
Four people with ties to Newark were inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame on Tuesday. From left to right: football coach Butch Simpson, skater Scott Gregory, basketball player Kristin Mills Caldwell and baseball player Kevin Mench.