By Jeff “Laca” Conway
The J Laca Museum has acquired a few mementos from the Rastock Collection, giving the museum a drastic change in appearance from just a year ago. About a year ago, several new walls were installed as most of Mark K’s artifacts were acquired. With the exception of a visit by Jesus and his wife, the museum has been closed to the public because of COVID-19. Now room is being made for some incredible Rastock mementos.
Rastock, whose real name is Steve Rastocky, has been playing jai-alai a long time. At the age of 16, he watched his first jai-alai game at Bridgeport Jai-alai and became hooked immediately. He was signed a contract by players manager Churruca to a contract in 1987 and played for 6 seasons at Bridgport and Milford – playing six months at each of the frontons yearly. In 1992 he was forced to retire due to a bulging disc, a common injury for jai-alai players from constantly falling to the ground catching and throwing.
Rastock, the Jim Thome of jai-alai (good guy award) had moved to Orlando from Norwalk Connecticut 16 years later and was practicing at Orlando Jai-alai when he was offered a contract to resume playing. He played from 2008-2012 and retired again before returning in 2014 for a two month season. He thought his jai-alai days were over after that season when Ft. Pierce called and he played in the one month season. Since them he’s been playing at Calder and Miami jai-alai and is getting ready for the Calder season on May 1st. He’s almost 60 now and still going strong.
Among the mementos are several jerseys including the one used by Joey as seen in the photo (yes Joey – I need you to sign it!), an autographed pelota and jersey from Lopez, several rare photos, and Bolivar’s autograph. But the prize possession are two huge scrapbooks that were kept by the Bridgeport Jai-alai public relations department during the years the fronton was open. Weighing nearly 80 pounds, and 30” x 24” each in size, there are nearly a thousand articles on Bridgeport Jai-alai in them. Right now, we are working on how to restore them to be viewed easily, but I can tell you the stories in here are amazing. It literally will take hundreds of hours to read them all. In a follow-up article, we will show you some of the most interesting articles.
The museum will open as soon as the scrapbooks are completed and the rest of the Rastock jai-alai collection is in place, along with several new mementos from the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Stanley Cup winners Tampa Bay Lightning. The 2,000 square foot museum is already packed, and its not going to be easy.