Pittsfield varsity basketball player receives statewide sportsmanship award

  • Skyler Bedell, 7, has always known that her big brother, Devin, has been a good sport as she brings him a bat at Drake Field in Pittsfield. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Skler Bedell, 7, has always known that her big brother Devin has been a good sport as she brings him a bat at Drake Field in Pittsfield on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Devin Bedell, a two-sport star at Pittsfield High School, accepts the John E. Burke Sportsmanship Award last month. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 7/30/2019 5:02:36 PM

Devin Bedell had no idea basketball referees were watching him closely last season.

But they were. They saw a kid who played hard, not adverse to contact. After the final buzzer, however, they saw another side to Bedell – the mature side, full of perspective on what’s important in life – and that’s why they gave him something last month called the John E. Burke Sportsmanship Award.

Bedell, who’s entering his senior year at Pittsfield Middle High School, was known to say two magic words to opponents that high school varsity athletes rarely say.

He’d say he was sorry.

“I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I get a little chippy out there, but I make sure to apologize afterward,” Bedell told me during a backyard meeting at his grandmother’s home in Pittsfield. ​​​​​​“I’m a friendly person. I don’t like to be mean.”

That’s why he won an award given annually to just one boy and one girl statewide who are entering their senior year.

The winners are chosen by the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials. Referees take mental notes during and immediately after games. Then they make nominations and call school officials – the coach and athletic director – to verify they picked a deserving winner. An executive committee of 19 makes the final choice.

“We need to qualify them,” said Dennis Ordway of Bow, the secretary for the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials. “Perhaps the player has come off a previous game where he was reprimanded and now he’s an angel. So we pose that to the athletic director because we want to select the right people.”

Mission accomplished in this case. Bedell sat with his mother, Magen Bedell, his grandmother, Linda Bedell, one of two younger brothers, Ethan, 11, and his sister, Skyler, 6.

Ethan and Skyler are part of this formula, Bedell said. He knows they’re watching his games.

“I kind of try to set the example for my younger siblings,” Bedell told me. “I want them to grow up friendly and play the sport the right way.”

It’s a tradition passed down, from grandfather to father to son. The Bedells have long been part of Pittsfield’s past, and in fact Devin’s father, Gary Bedell Jr., played basketball and baseball at the high school.

Devin credited his father for his classy behavior, telling me, “My dad used to coach me when I was a little kid, teach me all the fundamentals and how to be a good sport and to play the game right. He told me he was raised that way by his dad.”

We wrote about Bedell two years ago, documenting his battle with cerebral cavernous malformation, or bleeding of the brain, after he’d suffered a seizure while taking a nap. He awoke and couldn’t remember his birthday.

He needed surgery to remove a cluster of blood cells, Magen said. He missed his entire sophomore season of basketball. He was told exercise was out of the question. He gained 40 pounds, ballooning up to 220.

Perhaps, I wondered, that experience gave Bedell the perspective needed to leave the game behind, on the court, after the final buzzer, and realize this was high school sports, nothing more.


“I never really thought about it like that,” Bedell said. “I was gone for a while and I just wanted to get back, and I didn’t really think of it as being more friendly when I got back, because I was already friendly.”

To Bedell, playing sports – he was named baseball’s Division IV Player of the Year last season – includes elements that go beyond scoring points and getting base hits. He’s got that perspective thing neatly tucked away. It tells him the game is not life or death. It tells him there are other things more important.

“I’d see him on the court talking to players on the other teams, shaking hands, and in baseball, too,” said Magen Bedell.

Still, the family had no idea that Devin’s on-court behavior had been noticed in an official capacity. They sat at last month’s baseball banquet, unaware of the award that lay ahead.

After all, this was a night to honor the school’s baseball players. Basketball was long in the rearview mirror, yet that’s when the announcement was made.

“I couldn’t get the camera out quick enough,” Magen said. “Luckily I had other people taking the pictures.”

Pittsfield boys’ basketball coach Jay Darrah, contacted ahead of time as a reference to confirm Bedell’s integrity, knew his star guard had won something that had nothing to do with rebounds or points.

“People were not surprised he won it because it was a sportsmanship award,” Darrah said. “We play hard for 32 minutes and we play to the end, but we respect our opponents, and he does a good job representing that.”

While recovering from surgery as a sophomore, Bedell sat on the bench and joined in team huddles during timeouts. Other schools apparently had already noticed that the kid cared about those on other teams, even at an age when selfishness was usually the norm during this stage of life.

At Portsmouth Christian High School, an announcement was made before the game that Bedell had undergone surgery. All proceeds from game tickets and concessions that night would be used to defray costs associated with overnight trips to Boston for medical care.

Also that season, Sunapee High School presented Bedell with a get-well card, with notes that read, “Great to hear you are doing better, man, see you out there, signed number 17,” and “Glad you are okay, Darren,” and “Hope all is well, bud, Mac.”

Those two caring episodes surprised Bedell. His positive attitude in the face of looming surgery surprised no one, however, prompting his grandmother, Linda Bedell, to tell me, “He’s a kid you never see without a smile. Always a smile on his face, no matter what.”

He’s smiling a lot these days. He’s made a full recovery, he’s got one more season of high school basketball and baseball left, he’d like to play baseball in college and officials within the state’s basketball community have noticed something you can’t find in any scorebook.

They noticed the kids class.

“Don’t get me wrong, winning the MVP in baseball is high praise,” Bedell said. “But I’d rather be a good sport, play the game I love, instead of being a ‘me’ guy who only cares about himself.”

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