The first time I met Mike Traficante, he was sitting alone in the dark Cranston Stadium press box, watching what had to be his seventh or eighth consecutive hour of soccer. It was the Tony Tribelli Soccer Festival, a great – but very long – event. At the time, it had middle-school games, JV games, an alumni game and varsity matches between East and West.
Those varsity match-ups were the first games I ever covered for the Herald. I was exhausted after just those two. I could only imagine how Traf felt, but there he was, running the scoreboard and announcing all the goals, right until the bitter end.
I thought of that image this week, when we got official word that Traficante will leave his position as Cranston Public Schools Athletic Director after the school year to become the A.D. at the Prout School. I had heard the rumor, and I hoped it wasn’t true. For 11 years, Traficante has run the tightest ship around.
It won’t be the same around here without him.
Over the years, he did everything he could to give Cranston’s programs the opportunity to succeed. He made sure they had what they needed, he made changes when necessary and he always found a way to attract top coaches to Cranston’s teams.
Traf also helped steer the athletic program through the school department’s economic troubles in recent years, finding ways to minimize the impact of some pretty serious cuts.
But for me, that image of him in the press box does more to sum up his impact than facts and figures.
If Cranston kids were playing sports these last 11 years – even for eight hours, on a cold Sunday – Mike Traf was probably there.
That kind of support is what defined him as an athletic director, and in turn, it’s what defines the athletic program in the city. He was always around, whether it was the big draws like football or the smaller sports like field hockey. He was always wearing his West gear or his East gear. If they were playing each other, he’d bust out the Cranston Athletics windbreaker.
He always rooted harder than anybody. He wanted the kids to do well.
But he was also there for that support. To me, his presence at games has always seemed like a message to players and coaches. He’s saying “Cranston’s behind you.”
That’s important, and it’s often overlooked in high-school sports. We cover games all over the place, and I’m always disappointed when officials or coaches miss a chance to give something a bigger feel. A big basketball game loses some of its luster when there’s no announcement of starting lineups, when the teams just take the court and play. In those situations, it’s the kids who miss out. They feel like they’re just playing for themselves.
That never happens in Cranston. It’s a sports-crazy city, and the support given to high-school athletes sets the stage for their games to be as big as you’d expect. It just adds to an overall feeling that sports matter in Cranston, and that trickles down to every level. Ultimately, it comes back up in the form of athletes who have been given great opportunities by their city.
There are a lot of people responsible for that, at every level, people working hard behind the scenes, volunteering their time.
I think a lot of them take their cue from Traf. He’s everything an athletic director should be.
Initially, I was surprised when I heard he might be leaving. He’s a Cranston guy through and through, but I can understand it. The opportunity at Prout was too good to pass up.
He said this week that he’ll miss Cranston more than Cranston will miss him, and I can see what he’s saying. He’ll miss it. And as a humble guy who won’t complain about eight hours of soccer on a cold Sunday, it’s not in his nature to pat himself on the back as he heads out.
So I’ll do it for him.
We’ll miss you, Traf.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Cranston Herald. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.