Jaywalking: Bergeron headlines fundraiser for late mom

  • Peter Bergeron in his Montreal Expos uniform. contributed photo

Monday, March 20, 2017

Peter Bergeron is on the short list of Franklin County’s all-time athletes.

Joined by players like Mark Chmura (Frontier football turned Green Bay Packers tight end), Adam Harrington (Pioneer basketball player turned Dallas Mavericks guard), Kelly Doton (Greenfield field hockey player turned NCAA Player of the Year, turned Olympian) and Elena Pirozhkova (Greenfield wrestler turned Olympian) to name a few, the 1996 Greenfield graduate went on to play in Major League Baseball for the Montreal Expos. He has remained in baseball following his 2008 retirement, and is currently in his fourth year as a Los Angeles Dodgers scout.

Bergeron has always remained linked to the area. Father Bob Bergeron lives in Greenfield, while his mother Janice Bohonowicz, lived in Greenfield prior to her passing away this past Sept. 3 at the age of 57, following a battle with brain cancer.

And now he is giving back to the area by honoring his late mother. Prior to passing, Janice Bohonowicz spent a lot of time at the library. Not only did she have a love of reading herself, she also took her grandchildren to the library constantly, making sure they were signed up for the Summer Reading Program as well.

Bergeron will help honor his mother on April 2 when he serves as the guest speaker for an event put on by the Friends of the Greenfield Public Library. The event began earlier this year when a friend of Bohonowicz’s contacted the Friends of the Library and offered four tickets to the April 15 Boston Red Sox game against the Tampa Bay Rays to raffle off in order to raise money for the Janice Bohonowicz Memorial Fund, which is through the Friends of the Library.

Tickets for the raffle are $5 apiece or $10 for three and can be purchased at the circulation desk at the Greenfield Library. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the event.

The event begins at 1 p.m. on April 2 and Bergeron will be on hand to talk about his baseball career, both as a player and as a current scout. That will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the former Major Leaguer. Bergeron will then help draw the winning ticket for the raffle.

“This was a no-brainer,” Bergeron said of speaking. “People donated the tickets and their time for a great cause, and I try to give back to the community whenever I can because the community has always been really good to me.”

Bergeron’s lore began when he was still a student at GHS. He helped the football team to a WMass Super Bowl in the fall of 1995. He was so good at football that he got collegiate offers to play for Division I teams. In the spring of 1996, he was named the Massachusetts Player of the Year for baseball and signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Clemson, but opted to sign professionally right out of high school.

He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1996 amateur draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers and spent two years in the Dodgers’ farm system before being traded to the Montreal Expos in 1998. He spent the 1999 season playing in the minors, but was called up to the big leagues on Sept 7, 1999 against the Colorado Rockies. In four plate appearances, Bergeron went 1-for-2 with two walks and scored a pair of runs. He went on to play 15 games that fall, hitting .244 with 12 runs scored.

In 2000, Bergeron played a full season with the Expos, appearing in 148 games and hitting .245 with five home runs, 80 runs scored, 31 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. He played more than 100 games in 2001, before playing in 31 games in 2002, and 11 more in 2004.

He spent three more years in the minor leagues before retiring in 2008. In his five-year Major League career, Bergeron appeared in 308 games, hitting .226 with eight home runs, 56 RBIs, 171 runs scored and 31 stolen bases. After retiring, Bergeron moved to Georgia, where he attended the University of North Georgia and got a degree in business management. In 2013, he graduated college and moved back to the area with wife Jennifer and three children — daughters Amber (age 11) and Tayler (age 8), and son Connor (age 6).

Even after retiring, Bergeron never got away from the sport of baseball, spending time coaching high school and travel ball in Georgia. Even nowadays he helps out locally when he can in the Greenfield Minor League. He also coaches a local peewee basketball team in the winter.

“I’ve never really been away from the game completely,” Bergeron said. “I try not to let baseball define my life, but any day I go to work around baseball, it’s a good day.”

After graduating from North Georgia, Bergeron began reaching out to former coaches and other friends in the baseball community about potential jobs and was told to try scouting. He reached out to several teams and was hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers, coincidentally the team that also drafted him over 15 years ago. He began working in professional scouting, which means he is responsible for scouting all the players on certain teams. This season he is responsible for the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox, which means he will scout players on every level in those organizations, from the Major League teams to the Gulf Coast teams and everywhere in between. This is his first year scouting the Red Sox, having scouted the New York Yankees in prior years. If the Dodgers were to trade with the Red Sox or Toronto, Bergeron’s scouting reports would be used.

“Hopefully people don’t ask me too many questions about the Red Sox prospects, because people around here probably know their prospects better than I do,” Bergeron joked.

People will have the chance to ask Bergeron all about his current job on April 2, when he speaks to a crowd at the Greenfield Library. The Library will open the doors specially that Sunday and folks will convene in the main circulation area.

“Janice’s legacy was amazing,” vice president of the Friends of the Library Karen Larabee said. “After she passed, they did a Run/Walk in her memory because she wanted people to go out and run and walk who don’t usually do that. She said the same thing about the library. This is about trying to get people into the library who don’t usually go through the doors.”

Bergeron said his mother loved to read and it was something she passed on to her children and grandchildren.

“She loved reading and had a love for books,” Bergeron said. “The kids would joke at Halloween, because she would give them a candy and then drop a book in their bag.”

Bergeron said that his mother wanted contributions to go to the library after her passing, but at this point, following the donations from the Bartender’s Shootout at Taylor’s Tavern in February as well as the money being raised from this raffle, the contributions have far exceeded anything any of the family could have imagined.

The Friends of the Greenfield Public Library help pay for events at the library, such as story hours, book discussions, summer reading programs and writing workshops.

“We are not all about fundraising, we are about advocating for the library,” Larabee said. “We want people to know what a great place the library is. Every day, 600 people go through the doors.”

And on April 2, a crowd will make a rare stroll through the doors on a Sunday to listen to one of the finest athletes this area has ever produced. Even those who don’t want to purchase raffle tickets are invited to listen.

And just like everything else at the library, the event is free.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com. Like him on Facebook and leave your feedback at www.facebook.com/jaybutynski.