Since its inception 1961, the Greater New York Sandlot Athletic Alliance (GNYSAA) has supported the growth of youth baseball, showing kids how to play the game the right way. The GNYSAA.org website states their mission, “to serve the children of New York City and the Greater Metropolitan Area through baseball while promoting an attitude of professionalism and fair play.”
John W. “Jack” Kaiser, Joseph Russo, and Dominic Scala headlined the honorees for this year’s awards ceremony. These three men were all alumni from St. John’s University, what one of the speakers referred to as the mecca of college baseball in the northeast. Tom Sylvester organized the dinner and Victor Feld orchestrated a fantastic evening where high school players, former ballplayers, and current college coaches came together to commend each other’s achievements. Here’s some background information on this year’s honorees.
Jack Kaiser is one of the most decorated figures in the history of baseball in New York. His incredible baseball journey took off at St. Johns University where he became a student-athlete in 1944. His baseball talents were recognized by Varsity Magazine in 1949 when they named him as the College Player of the Year. He went on to play professionally with the Boston Red Sox organization.
Once Kaiser’s playing days were cut short from a leg injury, he began a legendary 18-year coaching tenure (1956-1973) with his alma mater at St. John’s. He led them to the College World Series three times and in 1960, he became the first person to make it to the CWS as a player (1949) and a coach. His accomplishments as a player and coach made him a staple in college baseball, leading him to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame and the NYS Baseball Hall of Fame.
Joseph Russo followed a similar path as Kaiser, establishing himself as a star baseball player with the Red Storm at St. John’s. A passing of the torch, Russo took over the head coaching position for the Red Storm following Kaiser from 1973-1996. St. John’s won over 1,000 games during his tenure, a remarkable feat in college sports. He is also a member of the ABCA Hall of Fame. He has given so much to the game of baseball, penning numerous magazine articles and publishing two books.
Dominic Scala, similar to the other honorees, has a decorated baseball resume. He is one of the great ballplayers in the history of college baseball. Scala’s career offensive numbers are among the top in several categories. Scala, was a two-time Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) All-Star and he batted .420 as a senior for the St. John’s Red Storm in 1976, ranking him 15th in the nation at the time.
Scala’s wits in baseball allowed him to become a bullpen coach at the MLB level for the New York Yankees from 1978-1986. Scala got to coach alongside Yankees legends like Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, and Gene Michael.
Now, Scala is the head coach for Adelphi University’s Division II baseball program in Garden City, NY. He has held this position for 13 years, leading Adelphi to over 300 wins. He closed out the awards dinner with some memorable quotes from his perspective as a coach.
“Some like to be feared. However, I choose to be respected,” said Scala. “If you and your team have a mutual respect, I guarantee the team will be successful on and off the field.”
The atmosphere was something that I will never forget. There was a sense of enjoyment, admiration, and appreciation by everyone that was in attendance. 2016 looks to be a promising year for New York’s players and coaches now that another successful GNYSAA dinner is in the books.