It was another festive evening at this year’s annual Greater New York Sandlot Athletic Alliance (GNYSAA) Service to Youth Baseball Awards Dinner. Coaches, scouts, current and former ballplayers gathered once more on Jan. 19 at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach, N.Y. to celebrate their achievements and contributions to New York’s youth baseball community. GNYSAA members Victor Feld and Tom Sylvester hosted the evening and honored Joseph P. Ferrugio, Norris P. Gordon Jr., and Billy Blitzer for their accomplishments.
Blitzer was awarded the Lifetime Humanitarian Award for his 40 plus years as a scout and coach. Throughout Blitzer’s years as a pro scout, he has kept a close relationship with his roots in New York. He has invested his time to the GNYSAA, the New York Professional Hot Stove League, and Youth Service League. Blitzer has worked as a scout for the Chicago Cubs organization since 1982 and he won his first ring with the team in 2016. He has signed several MLB All-Stars and pro players such as Shawon Dunston, Jamie Moyer, Doug Glanville, and Gary Scott to name a few.
“I’ve always considered myself a sandlot person,” Blitzer said. “I always say that you should never forget where you came from. I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve had many players who made it to the major leagues.”
Ferrugio has been an active resident of his hometown community in Brooklyn for the past 48 years. He was a member of numerous youth organizations such as Our Lady of Grace/Gravesend Athletic Association and Gil Hodges Little League. He currently works as the Director of Operations for the Gravesend Athletic Association as well as the Vice President of the New York Metro/New York City Baseball Federation League and the Marine Park Baseball League. Ferrugio thanked his family for allowing him to pursue his volunteer service.
“The award belongs to more than just myself,” Ferrugio said. “This belongs as much to me as it does to my family. Over the many, many years that I have dedicated my time to volunteering, they have permitted it and pushed me towards doing this because they knew that I loved it so much.”
Gordon met Bonnie Youth Club president, Jerry Katzke in 1980 and he got to manage one of their youth teams and he has played a major role in the organization ever since. He became a board member for the Bonnies in 1982 and he also held stints as their treasurer and president. His volunteer efforts were recognized in 2016 when he was elected to the Bonnie Youth Club Hall of Fame. Gordon stated that serving the youth is something that has shaped him throughout his life.
“It’s a large part of why I am who I am,” Gordon said. “It seemed like at the age of 12, I decided that I wanted to do something for kids and especially children of color. Coaching, teaching, and working with kids has been my life. Basically, I have always been committed to serving our youth.”
Other notable attendees included Jerry Katzke, Frank LoPiccolo, Joseph Russo, Gary Perone, and C.B. Bucknor. At every dinner, the GNYSAA takes a moment to dedicate the late Raymond F. Church, former youth baseball coach and president of the GNYSAA. He spent over 50 years as a coach, president, mentor, and friend and he served over 250,000 children during his career. The Sandlot Athletic Alliance hopes to continue his legacy through their unwavering support for the children of New York.