Ever since 2007, Eric Conrad has been a big part of the horseshoes community in Groton. That year, he joined the Tri-County Horseshoe Club in Groton and soon became the club’s tournament director, a position he has held for over a decade. Throughout that time, Conrad has competed at an elite level, winning a pair of state championships in 2016 and 2017 and also scoring a top-three finish at the World Tournament in 2014.
With all of those accolades to his name, Conrad was recently inducted into the New York State Horseshoe Pitching Association (NYSHPA) Hall of Fame. It’s a worthy honor for someone who has dedicated so much to the game. He discussed the moment he found out he had been inducted after patiently waiting for several years.
“One of the members of the Hall of Fame committee called me and told me that I got it,” Conrad said. “I’ve been trying to get in - I guess they sent [the application] in two or three years ago. I finally got in. So, I was surprised. I knew it was coming sometime, though.”
Not many people get to call themselves Hall of Famers in their activity of choice, and that was one of the last accomplishments left for Conrad to achieve. He still has more in mind, though.
“I guess that was one of the last things that I needed to do except for maybe get put in the Hall of Fame of the world,” Conrad said. “It’s nice. I like it. I appreciate that everybody thinks of me that way. Let’s put it that way.”
Conrad has been described as very humble by his peers, and his laid-back spirit is a good match for Groton’s Tri-County Horseshoe Club.
“We like to play the game,” Conrad said of the club. “We’re not so hyped up on winning all the time. Although it’s nice to win, don’t get me wrong, I’m very competitive. But the people are great. You hardly ever meet a bad horseshoe pitcher. Once in a while, but very, very seldom do you meet a horseshoe pitcher who gets on your bad side. Everybody in Groton is very nice, kind and considerate. They just like to play the game.”
Rarely meeting a bad horseshoe pitcher in Groton has led to many great friendships for Conrad, who truly enjoys the camaraderie of the sport.
“My horseshoe family, I call it,” Conrad said. “They’re pretty much the closest people - besides my daughter - I have.”
Being that many of the best relationships in his life came from horseshoes, he looked back on when he first joined the club a bit north of his home in Berkshire.
“A friend of mine was pitching there in a Tuesday winter league,” Conrad said. “He asked me if I wanted to try it, and so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come up and try it.’ I was hooked. Ever since then, I’ve been a part of it every year.”
As mentioned earlier, he’s been more than just a part of the club. Conrad has been consistently ranked in the top 10 of the NYSHPA and is a two-time state champion. He looked back on his career and singled out a favorite memory (after taking some time to mull it over).
“It would be the first state championship that I won,” Conrad said. “I didn’t really realize that I won until they tallied up all the points and I had more wins than everybody else. I thought there was going to be a playoff and there wasn’t. That was pretty special.”
Conrad’s love for horseshoes began nearly three decades ago and grew into one of the three pillars of his life, the others being hunting and competitive bowling.
“In 1992, that was when I began, there was a barn league around where I’m from,” Conrad said. “A friend asked me if I wanted to pitch in the barn league with him, and I said, ‘Well, I’ve never pitched.’ My family has always pitched, but I really never did. But I said, ‘Sure, why not? I’ll try it.’ I just found it to be something that I was good at in the beginning. I just kept doing it.”
From that barn league to the state’s Hall of Fame, Conrad sees his journey as somewhat of a natural progression.
“If you get involved in sanctioned tournaments and meet the top pitchers in the state and around the world, you can really get that sense of camaraderie and you want to be the best,” Conrad said. “I’m a very humble guy, but I still want to win.”
Conrad will continue being a significant part of the horseshoe community in Groton, where he has played a great role in recruiting new players to the Tri-County Horseshoe Club. His advice to those who want to take up competitive horseshoes is to simply keep at it no matter what.