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There was never a dull moment during the 51st National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame Annual Banquet, which took place on Thursday, June 20 at the APCC in Troy.

Even if some speeches ran long, they all sparkled with jokes, clever anecdotes and pearls of wisdom.

The bar was set high by Father Andrew Kowalczyk, who started his invocation with a series of jokes “It was so hot that …” (In one of the jokes, it was so hot that Jesus decided to turn WINE into water!)

The National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame (NPASHF) was founded in 1973 in Troy, Michigan with the mission “to honor and recognize outstanding American athletes, both amateur and professional, of Polish descent.” (

Since the very beginning the NPASHF has been inducting athletes and its work has been very important to the Polish American community. It goes without saying that successful Polish American athletes give visibility to our ethnic group and help to create and maintain a positive image of being Polish American.

The 2024 NPASHF inductees were Ron Yary (football), Troy Tulowitzki (baseball), Jenn Suhr (pole vaulting) and Greg Meyer (distance running).

Two of these four amazing athletes, Greg Mayer and Ron Yary, were present at the event while Jenn Suhr who could not attend due to previous commitments sent a video with her acceptance speech.

There were many former inductees in the audience, including a baseball player and a Detroit West Sider, Frank Tanana.

In addition, during the banquet the 2024 Matt Dobek Special Recognition was presented to Heather Nabozny, Major League Baseball’s first female head groundskeeper, while Ken Kal, a Red Wings announcer, was honored with the 2024 Tony Kubek Media Award.

The NPASHF also has a scholarship program named after another sports legend, the baseball player, Stan Musial. The 2024 Stan Musial Scholarships were presented to four students, two of whom, Jack Bartus of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep School and Brady Courtney of Troy High School were there to accept the awards.

The Master of Ceremonies was Jim Costa of WXYT-FM.

Throughout the evening the very attentive audience listened to engaging stories about spectacular success, hard work and dedication, but also of humility, as there was a healthy dose of self-deprecating jokes which contributed to the overall fun atmosphere of the event.

But this was an evening where not only sports achievements were celebrated, but also Polishness, as the inductees one by one gave a lot of credit to the Polish values they learned at home, such as hard work, perseverance, a strong work ethic and friendliness, among others, and to their families and friends who helped them to become who they are.

All of the awardees and inductees seemed to genuinely appreciate being recognized by the NPASHF.

The last speaker of the night, the former football player Ron Yary, spoke very compellingly about the value of team sports and of what they teach – which is collaboration skills and true appreciation of the teammates – being so important in today’s America.  While reminiscing on his career and the teams he played for in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies, he stressed that his success, like everybody’s else for that matter, was only possible with the help of others. While joking that if not for football, he would have probably ended up in Vietnam and got killed, as “he was such a small target”, he also included a very somber and strong anti-war message.

And on this note, the banquet, which was uplifting, filled with levity, camaraderie, as well as hearty jokes and food, came to the end.

Photos by Alina Klin and Alicja Karlic

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