Earlier this year, the Cheshire Lacrosse Club was happy to provide a full spring season for players, families, and coaches, but as a community, the program mourned a tough loss.
Brent Botti, a coach for more than 10 years, passed away from pancreatic cancer on July 24. Botti, who lived in Cheshire with his wife Cynthia and their three children, Rocco, Cosimo, and Quincy, was diagnosed with his illness last year.
“It was extremely tough,” said Cheshire High School boys’ lacrosse head coach Mike Devine, of Botti’s passing. “Brent was such a great person and family member. He gave a lot back to the Cheshire lacrosse family.”
After playing lacrosse in high school and college, Botti volunteered with the Cheshire club and served as a board member in the Connecticut New York Youth (CONNY) Lacrosse Association.
“My family doesn’t remember lacrosse without his family,” said Cheshire’s Landa Vernon, whose youngest son Adam grew up playing with Rocco Botti. “When we found out that Brent was sick, it was very hard.”
In sharing their stories of Botti, the Cheshire Lacrosse Club felt that it was important to recognize his impact on and off the field. On Sept. 18, the First Annual Brent Botti 3X Tournament was held on the turf field at CHS.
“It was a great day to honor Brent’s commitment to the sport,” reflected Vernon.
With proceeds from the event, the Cheshire Lacrosse Club donated a $12,000 check to the Botti Children’s Educational Trust. Rocco and Cosimo are 15 and 13 years old, respectively. At age 8, Quincy is the youngest child.
“We far exceeded our goal of raising $5,000 for the Botti family,” said Vernon.
A committee of 10 to 12 lacrosse volunteers spent eight weeks planning the tournament.
“We wanted all of Brent’s children to be able to participate,” stated Vernon.
Devine and CHS football head coach Don Drust oversaw the tournament side of the event.
“I was honored to be a part of it,” said Devine. “There were a lot of people who ran things behind the scenes. It was great to bring the lacrosse and Cheshire communities together to celebrate Brent’s life and the sport of lacrosse.”
For boys and girls, there were divisions for kindergarten to third grade, fourth to sixth grade, seventh to eighth grade, and high school to adult players. Teams played three games in round-robin fashion and then advanced to compete for championships in the playoffs.
Games were spread out on the turf at Alumni Field. Devine felt that action was similar to watching 3-on-3 basketball.
“There were no pads and limited equipment,” stated Devine. “This kind of lacrosse builds stick work and a love for the game.”
Devine feels that people of all ages can pick up lacrosse.
“It is such a simple game to play on this level,” added Devine. “For the tournament, to see the turf full of people playing lacrosse was great. We had experienced players and there were other people who just wanted to help a family having a tough time.”
CHS football players volunteered to monitor games to make sure that the scoring was correct.
“I give Coach Drust and the football guys a lot of credit for coming to help out,” stated Devine.
In the high school/adult boys’ division, Devine had the opportunity to play with and against some of his players. Teaming with CHS senior Jason Raba and 2016 graduate Sal DeLucia, Devine’s team made it to the finals, where they came up short against senior Andrew Benjamin, junior Charles Kurtz, and sophomores Matt Jeffery and Adam Vernon.
“It is nice to compete against your players,” said Devine. “There was friendly smack talk going around. Seeing all the kids play together was awesome.”
Vernon appreciated that CHS sophomore lacrosse player Emma Danaher designed hats for the championship squads. She also credited CHS Athletic Director Steve Trifone for letting the Cheshire Lacrosse Club use the concession stand at the event.
“We cooked from 9 a.m. until the tournament ended at 6:30 p.m.,” said Vernon.
Vernon feels that Botti would have loved to attend the tournament.
“It is just unfair to lose him. You can see how much he meant to the community by how many people showed up to support his fight,” explained Vernon.
“We don’t just say ‘family’ around here. We live it every day and there were a lot of people who worked to make that event be successful,” added Devine.