New York State USSSA Hall of Fame celebrated its 7th annual induction cere¬mony on March 20th at the Burgundy Basin Inn in the Town of Pittsford, which is just outside of Rochester, New York. The evening was a great success for the New York USSSA with over 350 attending the dinner. One of the great parts of the event was the fact that there were over 35 past inductees that attended the evening festivities and eleven that are in the USSSA National Hall of Fame. Seeing the faces of attendees as they walked around the banquet hall renewing old acquaintances made the night magical as New York State‘s USSSA past was brought back to life.
The evenings started with Mr. Rick Robertson, National Slow Pitch Umpire- In-Chief, saying grace, followed by a very nice dinner. Dinner was followed by Mr. Robert Holland, USSSA Vice President of the Atlantic Division, who was the guest speaker. Mr. Holland expressed his congratulation to all the inductees from the National Office and his sincere thanks to New York State, especially Bob Reed and Gary Godden for all the help that they have provided not only to their state, but to anyone within USSSA that needed help.
In addition to Rick and Robert, the event was also attended by other honored guests; Mr. John Pond, Division Vice President of the Northeast, and a contingent of directors and umpires from New England.
The actual Hall of Fame inductions cere¬monies were filled with a lot of memo¬ries. There were eleven new individual inductees and two award winners that were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Additionally there was one team that was recognized as the Team of Distinction. The 2010 inductions started with the induction of Vivian Case, who thanked her family, friends and team¬mates. Vivian stated that she enjoyed the great friendships that she has made over her years of playing softball and was truly thrilled with her induction.
The second induction was that of Gary Godden, who asked his fellow umpire and friend Charles “Skip” Waterstreet to speak on his behave. Skip talked about why Gary was being inducted into the hall of fame. Skip then went on to explain when you call a company and get the auto attendant you get different options. One of the options is to use the corporate directory and in Gary’s case, you would hit the #4 key to get the “G”, the #6 key to get the “O” and the #3 key to get the “D”. He then proceeded to show the letters, which read “DOG”, which brought a big laugh from everyone, he then switched the letters to “ODG” which again created laughter, after which he put the letter together to read “GOD”. Gary thanked Skip for being a great friend and doing such a good job with his introduction. Gary went on to thank his wife first, as he did not do so at the USSSA National meeting when he received the Slow Pitch Director of the Year award, he also thank the members of the Sports Officials of the Rochester Area, all the New York State Umpires and the Rochester Senior Softball members that have helped him to get to this position.
The evening also had many fun moments as presenters remembered not only the great accomplishment but also the stories and experiences that they shared with the inductees. Two of the inductees, Earl Blackmon and Rich Klometz played with each other over the years. During Earl’s introduction Gene Williams explained that it was because of Earl’s great talent and speed that the Pace team was the first to use the five man infield as Earl was able to cover so much ground as the center fielder. Many in attendance stated that Earl was one of the best athletes that they had ever seen. As part of Earl’s acceptance speech, Earl was explaining that he was a pretty quiet person most of the time, but did get boisterous once in a while. He stated that the only thing with having three outfielders was when the ball got by the infielders he had to do a lot of running, so when the infielders just booted a play, he had a way of letting them know about it. When Rich was inducted, he confirmed Earl’s ability to let everyone including Rich who was the pitcher know about things.
Rich also talked about the new game of USSSA which allowed pitchers to do different things on the mound. He recounted a time when he was pitching against Rich’s Superior at the World Series and he thought made a good pitch. After the ball was hit he turned around to see his outfielders just standing and not moving at all as the ball cleared the centerfield wall and scoreboard. He said you learned quickly to change things up if you wanted to survive. Pat Kehoe was the sponsor of the Pace teams and commented that he has had many great players on his teams over the years and it would be hard to pick the best players with a few exceptions and one of these exceptions would be that of pitcher; as Rich was the perfect fit for the USSSA slow pitch game.
Two other umpires were inducted from Upstate New York, Bob Reed and Mike Fonak Jr. both of which 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 fami¬lies and fellow umpires. Bob was also extremely happy to see the brother of his best friend when he grew up. Paul Conley had not seen Bob in almost 30 years, and came to the dinner when he saw that Bob was being inducted.
Robert Fortier an inductee in the Male Player category accepted his induc¬tion into the Hall of Fame and thanked everyone that had traveled from Long Island to be at the induction ceremony. He stated that he would not forget this evening as he considered it a great honor to be inducted to a Hall of Fame with so many great players.
Jenny Bellavia was represented by her former coach, Duane McCoy, and her teammates. Duane commented on Jenny’s accomplishments as a player and also thanked both Rochester Softball and the USSSA New York State for righting a wrong and having the forti¬tude to include Jenny in their Hall of Fames.
The Sponsorship inductee was James Ferra, owner of Ferra Furniture Repair. Jim and his family have sponsored teams for many years. He commented on the great times that he has had playing, coaching and traveling with all the players that have played under his sponsorship. He considers these players and their families as friends that have made the time and money that he has spent worth every dime. He like all the inductees also wanted to thank the Hall of Fame Committee for the unbeliev¬able job that was done on the dinner. “It is not until you are at the event that you truly know what it means to everyone.”
Gerry Waldon and Henry “Hank” Mandara were inducted into the Executive category. Hank was repre¬sented by his sons that expressed their gratitude to everyone for remembering their father who just loved the game of slow pitch. Hank was instrumental in organizing the Industrial State tour¬naments all over the Northeast and his sons remember all the time and energy that he put into making these events top notch.
Sid Lovell was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Frank and Al Ciaccia Lifetime Achievement inductee. This award was very special to Sid as he started out with the USSSA with the Ciaccia’s over 30 years ago. He was very pleased that Frank Ciaccia Jr. was there to present him with his ring and certificate.
Charles “Bo” Bertino was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Joe Nucci Dedication to Excellence inductee. Bo was very proud that he was being inducted with his name associated with Joe Nucci. Joe was his coach when he hurt his leg pretty badly. He was out of work and had a long recovery that put a strain on his family. When Bo was final able to get out and around, he went to see Joe and the team at Tut’s bar and restaurant where they all got together. When Bo walked in; Joe gave him money that the players that donated to help him pay bills. That was the start of what is now a common practice that players help other players when they are ill or down on their luck. Bo has been the person that over the years has taken the role of making sure people are aware that others need help and puts things together to make sure others received what he did in his time of need.
The evening ended with the recogni¬tion of the Pace Electronics/ TPS Black American Men’s teams players receiving certificates acknowledging their accom¬plishments. The pride and happiness that was expressed in the faces of each player as they were called to the podium was one of the highlights of the night. Gene Williams and Pat Kehoe, both members of the New York State and National USSSA Hall of Fames were in high spirits as they were able to honor players that have represented Pace over the years. Pat also wanted to thank all the players that have played under his sponsorship, including the Women’s and Senior teams that were in attendance.
“The event continues to be a great success” stated John Pond, Division Vice President of the Northeast. “I am always amazed at the unbelievable job that everyone continues to do to make these events one of the best that I have yet to attend. The Hall of Fame is blessed with a great committee that has put in a tremendous amount of time. Congratulations on another triumphant event.”
The 2011 Hall of Fame will be held in Syracuse. At the 2010 event, the following individuals, teams and spon¬sors 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!