"Practice, practice, practice, practice, and more practice! Don’t ever quit!” former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Bill Mazeroski chuckled as he told me what it took for him to be a Hall of Fame baseball player. Already a diehard baseball fan, my experience as a member of the media during the Hall of Fame weekend helped me appreciate our national pastime even more.
The day before the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, many Hall of Famers played golf at the Leatherstocking Golf Course in Cooperstown, New York.
At the golf course, I met and talked with several of these baseball legends, including Holland-born Bert Blyleven, who, after 14 years of being eligible, was finally being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Being born in Holland and just learning the game at nine, you never imagine this. I feel very fortunate,” he told me.
Soon after, Sandy Alomar, the father of new inductee Roberto Alomar, gave the reason for his son’s successes: “Whatever achievement that Roberto got is because of his hard work and the respect and discipline that he had for the game.”
Next, I met Jeff Idelson, the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. To a baseball fanatic like me, that’s the greatest job in the world!
I grew more impressed as Jeff described his “dream job” to me.
“I do a lot of fundraising for the museum, I build partnerships with companies and individuals, I spend a lot of time visiting our Hall of Famers, and I stage a lot of special events both here and around the United States,” he shared.
Jeff also suggested a way for Major League Baseball (MLB) to attract more young fans.
“What MLB can do is to have a much stronger presence in social media,” he said. “I’d like to see players more accessible on Facebook and Twitter, and I think that MLB can encourage contacts through social networking.”
The next day, my dad and I were two of the 17,500 people in attendance for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. But before we took our seats, I stumbled upon the greatest baseball fan alive: the affable Homer Osterhoudt.
Now in his 90s, Homer has attended EVERY induction ceremony since the inaugural celebration in 1939, only missing the four years in which he proudly served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
Homer, a longtime resident of Cooperstown, is happy with his town’s evolution over the years.
“Being from a small town and meeting all those dignitaries, I mean wow! In ’39, it was quite a thing for a small town like this one to get so many people,” Homer told me.
During the ceremony, I was awed by the overwhelming number of Alomar’s Puerto Rican and Canadian followers and by the joyous, baseball-crazy atmosphere.
While this was my first Hall of Fame experience, I hope to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Homer Osterhoudt and not make it my last!
—Kid Reporter Kevin Agostinelli
Photo: Kid Reporter Kevin Agostinelli interviews baseball superfan Homer Osterhoudt at the 2011 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. (Credit: Courtesy Kevin Agostinelli)