Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

The Chesapeake Sports Club 10th Annual Jamboree Story


Major League Legend Johnny Bench to be keynote speaker at the Chesapeake Conference Center March 9th event

by Rob Lauer

Major League Legend Johnny Bench

Major League Legend Johnny Bench

For the past 11 years, the annual Chesapeake Sports Club Jamboree has given Hampton Roads sports fans the opportunity to hear and meet some of professional sports' greatest athletes. Major League Pitcher Goose Gossage and  NBA star Alonzo Mourning are but a few of the greats who have been keynote speakers at the event, held each year at the Chesapeake Conference Center. This year's Jamboree, to be held on March 9th, will be no exception: baseball great Johnny Bench will be the evening's keynote speaker, and a special pre-dinner mixer offers attendees the opportunity to meet him personally.

"The Jamboree is one of Chesapeake's signature annual events, and I think this year's Jamboree has the potential to be our best yet," Steve Johnson, Sports Club Board Member and Past President, says. "Johnny Bench isn't just a sports legend but a great speaker, and he's also had a side career as a Country Western singer. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989, and many still consider him the best catcher the game has ever had."

But there's more to the Chesapeake Sports Club Jamboree than a great dinner and an opportunity to hear and meet a legendary athlete.

"At each Jamboree, we recognize Chesapeake's male and female high school athletes of the year as well as the Chesapeake sports coach of the year," Steve notes. "In choosing the students, we look at their athletic and academic achievements. In choosing the coach, we look at his team's successes and his local community service."

Proceeds from the ticketed event support scholarships that the Sports Club gives each year to talented and deserving high school athletes throughout Chesapeake. "The primary purpose of the club is to provide scholarships for Chesapeake's student-athletes," Steve points out. "Since 2011, we have already given out $125,000 in scholarships."

Keith and Jen Tolarchyk are the parents of triplets who excelled in high school athletics. It was through the sports club's generous scholarship program and its honoring of young athletes that they first encountered the organization.

"Our daughter Jodi was honored as the Best Female High School Athlete in Cross Country for three consecutive years," Jen says. "Later, she and our son, Nick-who was also an accomplished cross country runner-split one of the club's annual scholarships. The support that the club gives to young local athletes is great, especially considering how many successful athletes come from Chesapeake-people like Olympic Silver Medalist Grant Holloway, DeAngelo Hall, David Wright, and Alonzo Mourning. The Sports Club supports athletes when they're starting out, and when they're successful, many of them give back to the community."

"The Jamboree is one of Chesapeake's signature annual events,
 ...this year's Jamboree has the potential to be our best yet."
                                              -Steve Johnson

Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds

Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds

Steve Johnson is very proud of all that the Chesapeake Sports Club has accomplished in its relatively brief history.

"The sports club was started 11 years ago," he explains. "Rick West, then serving on the Chesapeake City Council, began asking why Chesapeake didn't have a sports club, like those in Norfolk and Portsmouth, to recognize, honor, and promote the sports accomplishments of Chesapeake's citizens and organizations. He took the idea to Chesapeake's retired Parks and Recreation Director, Robert Clifton, who recruited friends Robert Bagley and Linwood Nelms. They started the wheels turning, and right out of the gate, the effort was an immediate success."

Phone calls and informal meetings, beginning in October 2010, led to the first official meeting of the Chesapeake Sports Club general membership in January 2011. Forty-two members attended that first luncheon to hear keynote speaker Bobby Allen. When the second luncheon meeting, featuring keynote speaker Coach Wayne Martin, was held on February 21, 2011, attendance swelled to 140 people. As monthly luncheons continued throughout 2011, guest speakers included NFL stars Ed Beard, Charlie Stukes, and Mike Voight, former MLB Pitcher Gary Lavelle, and Ken Young, owner of the Norfolk Tides and Admirals. Local sports broadcasters and coaches also addressed the ever-growing crowds.

"Our luncheon meetings continue to be held at the Chesapeake Conference Center on the second Monday of each month," Steve says, "and they feature notable speakers, like former NFL player Don Carey. Also, at each meeting, a person in the community who has brought attention to themselves and our area through their athletic achievements is recognized as a Legend of Honor. In addition to our monthly luncheons, we also sponsor an annual golf tournament and, of course, the Jamboree."

The Chesapeake Sports Club's first Jamboree was held on January 12, 2012, and its featured keynote speaker was former Major League All-Star Steve Garvey. In the years that followed, Jamboree keynote speakers included Jim Palmer, Joe Theismann, Jack Ham, John Riggins, Kenny Easley, and Michael Cuddyer.

"Whoever is serving as club president in any given year also serves as that year's Jamboree chairman," Steve points out. "Our president for 2023 is Martin Oliver-a sports club legend. Martin has been a major force in Chesapeake sports for nearly 50 years, serving both Great Bridge and Hickory High Schools as a teacher, coach, and athletic director. He has been recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia for his accomplishments in coaching both baseball and basketball, with combined wins of 723 games-most of them in baseball. As Jamboree chairman, Martin has done an outstanding job. He has been instrumental in recruiting Johnny Bench to be our keynote speaker, so he deserves a lot of the credit for all the excitement about this year's Jamboree.

Steve hopes sports fans across Hampton Roads will share that excitement and attend the March 9th event. Information on Jamboree tickets can be found on the Chesapeake Sports Club website.

"It's going to be a great night," he concludes, "a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet this Major League great, honor Chesapeake's coaches and young athletes, and enjoy fellowship over a fantastic dinner. And if that isn't enough, there's the satisfaction of knowing that you're supporting our scholarship program and helping deserving, athletically-gifted kids right here in our community."

The Chesapeake Sports Club
10th Annual Jamboree
6:00 pm, March 9, 2023
at the Chesapeake Conference Center
For tickets visit

Chesapeake Sports Club