When the names of Matt Cameron, Rex Ferguson, Craig Knechtel and Nick Alexander are mentioned, the first thing that might come to mind is how each was a master of his craft in his respective sport.
All four of them were stars in the Alpena area, whether it was on a baseball diamond, a basketball court or a soccer field and they were recognized for their athletic greatness on Saturday at the APlex as the 29th class to be inducted into the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame.
Angela Skiba and Mike Seguin were honored as Boosters of the Year and the 1980-81 Alpena High hockey team was recognized as Team of the Year.
News Photo by James Andersen
The 29th class of the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame was honored Saturday at the induction ceremony at the APlex. Pictured from left to right are, Angela Skiba, Mike Seguin, Craig Knechtel, Matt Cameron, Rex Ferguson and Nick Alexander.
Cameron, who was an Alpena basketball star before going on to play at Michigan Tech, where he was a two-time All-American, was inducted by Tech coach Kevin Luke, who surprised Cameron with a visit only hours before the ceremony.
In addition to thanking Luke, Cameron thanked his parents, who he said learned all they could about basketball when he began playing and would rebound for him as he took 300 shots every day.
"At every stage I've had people who shaped me and pushed me to the next level from where I was at," Cameron said. "(Under Coach Luke) I truly learned how to play the game with passion, guts and the willingness to get it done no matter what."
As a pitcher for Hubbard Lake in the Alpena County Baseball League, Ferguson was easily one of the area's best pitchers when he began playing at age 15. He once threw a no-hitter lost and even struck out 32 batters in a 17-inning game.
Ferguson drew several laughs as he recalled stories from his playing days and received a standing ovation when he was done.
"It was a privilege to strike out anyone who came up to bat," Ferguson said.
Alexander was a master on the mound for Alpena before going on to play at the University of Michigan where he was honored with the Geoff Zahn Award his junior year as the team's most valuable pitcher. He was also a team captain as a senior.
Alexander thanked his mother and also praised several Alpena administrators for their efforts in helping him get to Michigan: one of the only school's that didn't seem to be recruiting the lefthander out of high school.
"If it wasn't for Michigan, I wouldn't be the person I am today," Alexander said.
At the end of his speech, Alexander also stressed the importance of youth sports and mentioned his charity, Swing 4 Fences, which helps promote youth baseball in Northeast Lower Michigan.
Knechtel was a cross country and track star for the Wildcats before going on to become a star soccer player and runner at Capital University in Ohio, where he is still in the school record books.
"(I learned) if you run long enough, people are going to get tired of chasing you," Knechtel said.
In addition to thanking his family, Knechtel thanked his teammates that he's played with over the years for making him better and said it's important for players to pass lessons on.
"The upperclassmen took me under their wing," Knechtel said. "Teach your youngsters because they're going to be the future of your team."
Seguin has served in several positions for Multi Purpose Arena Coalition (MPAC) and was one of the key figures responsible for securing loans and managing the budget for the building of Northern Lights Arena. Seguin also serves as the commissioner of the Alpena Hospital Hockey League.
During his speech, Seguin stressed that he wasn't the only one who saw the arena come to be and that it was a total community effort.
"I'd like to thank the Hall of Fame for what I consider to be a tremendous honor," Seguin said.
Skiba grew up watching and playing sports and went on to coach cheerleading for more than 20 years after volunteering to become the Alpena coach when the program was on the verge of being discontinued.
"It was my privilege to coach awesome cheerleaders and work with those athletes for so many years," Skiba said.
The 1980-81 Alpena High School hockey team put Alpena on the map as a premier hockey program when the Wildcats captured the 1981 Class A state title, finishing with a 23-5 record. The title was the first of two Alpena would win in the 1980s and nine players from that team returned with Alpena to the 1982 state title game.
Several players from that team were in attendance and several of them thanked the fans of Alpena for coming to watch the Wildcats play at Mich-e-ke-wis Sports Park.
"Without the fans, I don't think we would have accomplished what we accomplished," former Alpena goaltender Tom Heise said.