Former Harbor great Chris Fitting headed to ACBF HOF Sunday
By KARL PEARSON
This winter has tested all the disciplines Chris Fitting learned on the basketball court for the Harbor Mariners girls basketball team.
"We worked a lot of 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week," Fitting said of her work out of the Ohio Department of Transportation facilities on West Avenue, which she has done for the past 11 years. "It was a long, rough, busy winter. It was a lot busier than last winter.
"We'd go in at 1 in the morning and get done at 1:30 in the afternoon. At least I got to stay in the parts room most of the time and I was able to stay warm, but every now and then I had to go out and plow snow."
Such long hours can be difficult to handle.
"I work with five mechanics and a supervisor," Fitting noted. "We all have to get along. The stress level can get pretty high. You have to learn to be patient.
"You have to realize that everybody has a bad day now and then or that somebody may not be feeling the best. It's all about working together and teamwork."
When she roamed the courts for Frank Roskovics' Harbor basketball and volleyball teams from 1981-84, Fitting was all about teamwork and making sure other people shared in the glory. She played in an era when Harbor basketball was at its best, compiling a 56-13 record, three sectional championships and finished as district runners-up her junior year.
Playing point guard for the Mariners, Fitting was named the 1983-84 Regional Press Ashtabula County and Coaches' Northeastern Conference Player of the Year after leading Harbor to an NEC co-championship with Conneaut. As a senior that year, Fitting averaged 16.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 steals a game.
Her ability to get other people involved in the game, dishing out 472 career assists and stealing the ball 278, is one of the reasons Fitting is joining Roskovics in the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 10 at the Conneaut Human Resources Center. It's also what helped the Mariners' center of that era, Roberta Cevera, enter the hall with her this year.
"Chris was one of our better all-around athletes," Roskovics said. "She had a lot of ability and wasn't afraid to go inside. Chris took charge on the floor.
"We were fortunate to have two super athletes come along at the same time. And they had a strong supporting cast."
Jodi Brockway, Jo Wisuri and Tina Palm were among the other big contributors for Harbor during those years.
"That was too many years ago," Fitting said. "I remember we had a good time. We played well together, and we were pretty competitive the year we were co-champions with Conneaut. That was really fun."
So she is a bit stunned by her induction into the hall of fame.
"It's hard to believe," Fitting said. "I still haven't quite got used to that idea.
"It's hard to think of myself that way. I'm just glad to be inducted."
Fitting was more concerned with creating opportunities for others than with padding her own statistics.
"In our system, my job was to get assists and feed our center and forwards," she said.
But Fitting knew she had to take her shot, too, and she wasn't shy about it it. During her four-year career, she amassed 1,218 points, which ranked fourth in career scoring among Ashtabula County girls when she graduated. Today, Fitting still ranks 13th of the 21 girls who are Grand Players in the county.
When Fitting was in school, girls sports in the area were just starting to come of age and interest in the girls events was limited.
"The game sure has progressed. (Girls basketball) seems to be getting bigger," Fitting said. "When we played, it was basically the parents and the boyfriends who came to the games. But the place was always packed for the boys games.
"They didn't have the three-point basket when we played," Fitting said. "I miss basketball. I like seeing the women's game grow. There was no WNBA back then."
She had to learn to hold her own in a competitive family in which she is still the "baby" despite her 39 years.
"I grew up being picked on by my brother, Gary," she said.
Her brother, the second child, now lives in Tennessee. Her sister, Kim Larko, is the oldest of the four Fitting children and lives in Kingsville. The third child, Karen Seier, lives in Boardman.
Basketball remains her favorite sport even though she has pretty much retired from athletic endeavors.
"I had to stop pretty much after I had back surgery a while ago," Fitting said. "I just enjoyed playing the game, and I stuck with it. Individual sports are good for building yourself up. But there seems to be more competitiveness when you're on a team."
She is equally sure the chance to participate in sports was a good thing for her and for other students.
"It helped keep me in shape and out of trouble," Fitting said. "It's good for kids, and keeps them out of trouble."
Fitting's interest in sports didn't end with graduation. A fixture on the local diamonds for many years, Fitting didn't give up softball until the season ended last year. Working construction and playing ball finally got to be too much.
She still very much enjoys the outdoors. Now, she gets her time outside helping her father, Fred, with work at the family's trailer park in Saybrook Township, which is owned by her grandmother. Her mother, Marge, died in 1990.
"My dad helps take care of things at the trailer park," Fitting said. "I've been helping him out lately."
She knows the disciplines she learned at Harbor will come into play again this summer. She knows there will be plenty of work ahead. She hopes people will exercise some of the patience she has to as ODOT crews work on repairing potholes and the like.
"People don't like us," Fitting said. "They need to realize we're trying to do a job. They need to give us a minute, and we'll get them on their way."