New York State USSSA Hall of Fame celebrated its 6th annual induction ceremony on March 28th on Long Island, New York. This evening was a great event for the New York USSSA and our Long Island hosts as we witnessed not only an induction ceremony but also unforgettable reunions of players and friends that will be treasured for years to come. To see the faces of attendees as they walked around the banquet hall renewing old acquaintances made the night magical, and the evenings activities had not yet begun.
The evenings started with Mr. John Hart, Assistant National Slow Pitch Umpire-In-Chief, saying grace, followed by a very nice dinner. Dinner was followed by Mr. Mark Linnemann, USSSA Executive Vice President, who was the guest speaker. With Mark’s close relationship with Al and Frank Ciaccia, he was well aware of the role that New York State played in the development of the USSSA. Mark expressed his gratitude to Al and Frank for the guidance they gave him when he started out as a State Director in Ohio, and how the new generation of New York State Directors is continuing to build on the foundation that these early leaders created in New York.
In addition to Mark and John, the event was also attended by other honored guests; Mr. John Pond, Division Vice President of the Northeast, Mr. Jon Brant, State Director of Connecticut, Mr. Dale McGregor, National Slow Pitch Umpire-In-Chief from the State of Washington, Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick and former New York Mets Player, Buddy Harrelson.
The actual the Hall of Fame inductions ceremonies were filling with a lot of emotions. There were twelve new members inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 and two teams were recognized as “Teams of Distinction.” The 2009 inductions started with the induction of Deborah Ann Brajevich, who thanked her family, friends and teammates. Deborah stated that she did not know how much being inducted in the Hall of Fame meant until she was actually at the event with all the people that were being honored.
The second induction was one of the most emotional of the evening as Rick Marz, the Downstate New York Director spoke on behave of Richard “Dick” Germain. Dick was Rick’s mentor and one of his best friends. Dick passed away in 1989, but was remembered as the person who led the way for the USSSA on Long Island. As the night went on all the inductees and presenters mentioned that if it had not been for Dick, they would never have been able to experience the great game of USSSA slow pitch. Dick was represented by one of his sons and wife, who expressed how much the entire family appreciated that the USSSA would remember father and husband.
The evening also had many fun moments as presenters remembered not only the great accomplishments but also the stories and experiences that they shared with the inductees. One such presenter was Sandy Brown who spoke for both Jim Kennedy and Tony Musso. When he was introduced as the presenter for Tony, his second trip to the podium, he got a big laugh with his comment about both Jim and Tony being great players, but not having many friends which is why he was presenting both.
Another special moment came when Peter Eaton was introduced. Peter is very much appreciated – much like Dick Germain before him – for his commitment to USSSA and the teams and players on Long Island. Peter is the Director of Adult Softball for the Town of Brookhaven, and the main reason that Long Island has been able the host, local, national and world tournaments. As Peter walked to the podium, he received a tremendous amount of applause as the attendees expressed their appreciation. Peter expressed his appreciation to his staff by stating that he was just the captain and he was being rewarded because of his great team that he worked with at the Town of Brookhaven. One of this crew, Al Gordon, was honored with the “Joe Nucci Dedication to Excellence Award.” Al has been a scorekeeper for the town and would help Peter in any way possible to make the Town of Brookhaven softball program a success.
Two umpires were inducted from Upstate New York, Tom DeLitta and Paul “Skip” Grieco both of whom expressed thanks to the people that helped them reach this pinnacle in their umpiring career, foremost for both was the thanks for the support from their families. Tom surprised his wife with a dozen roses, which he had his grand children present, while at the same time his family returned the surprise by having the grand children present Tom with an engraved bat with his name and the date of his induction.
Don Brown, an inductee in the Male Player category, the story about his trip to the Hall of Fame banquet during his acceptance remarks. Don had traveled to the event by car with members of the Hall of Fame Committee from Rochester to Long Island. Being a player and coach, he never really understood the time and dedication that directors put into getting leagues, tournaments and an event such as the Hall of Fame set so that players could play or be honored. When he witnessed the number of phone calls and the amount of time that was spent working on USSSA affairs during the ride, Don developed a new understanding of what it takes for an organization such as the USSSA to exist.
One inductee that will not be forgotten was also the person that we saw the least of during the event. Kim (Perkins) Wydra arrived shortly before the event started. After her introduction by her former coach and New York State and USSSA National Hall Famer Duane McCoy, Kim spent just a minute to say thanks and was gone from the podium. After her quick acceptance and thanks, she received a big round of applause. We need to note that Kim traveled all the way from Florida to be at the event.
The Sponsorship inductee was Don Spence, owner of Hawkins & Spence Asphalt and Paving. Don did not attend the diner, but was represented by his daughter Arlene. Arlene recounted stories about her father, including one about the time that she asked him to play catch with her. As the ball was thrown, she moved to her mitt and was hit in the mouth and had to have stitches. Years later, her father built a field at the site of his business and when the story got out about how nice it was that Don had a field for his daughter, her comment was “if it were only true.” The USSSA does not exist without places to play and great sponsors. Don’s commitment to the teams and players on Long Island was appreciated by many in attendance.
One of the last inductees was Rudy Massa, the manager and sponsor of the Gasoline Heaven team. Rudy thanked his players and family for everything that he was able to accomplish over the years. But the biggest thanks he gave were to the County Sports men’s team that was being honored as the male “Team of Distinction.” Rudy addressed the members of the team saying that he hoped that Gasoline Heaven teams had continued in the footsteps of the County Sports teams, which he believes was the best team he had every seen play.
The evening ended with the recognition of the County Sport Mice / Long Island Tide women’s and County Sports men’s teams, as players received certificates acknowledging their accomplishments. The pride and happiness that was expressed in the faces as each player was called to the podium was one of the highlights of the night. The last member to be called was Jim Galloway, who too most in attendance was credited with being the best softball player that they had ever seen.
“The event continues to be a great success” stated Dave Kasouf, Upstate New York Director., “We are blessed with a great committee that has put in a tremendous amount of time into everything from the awards, program booklet, tickets, dinner, etc.”
The 2010 Hall of Fame will be held in Rochester. At the 2009 event, the following individuals, teams and sponsors were elected for induction into the NYS USSSA Hall of Fame:
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), headquartered in Osceola County, Florida, USSSA is the World's Largest Multi-sport Athletic Organization. Founded in 1968, USSSA has grown to over 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports including Baseball, Fastpitch, Slow Pitch, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and more! For more information on USSSA and to register your team visit USSSA.com. Also be sure to visit USSSAToday.com for the latest USSSA News!