Steve Porcello isn’t ending his baseball career just because he was inducted into the local sports Hall of Fame.
With more than 35 years involved in the Amsterdam Little League program, from coach, to league president and umpire, the city resident is back at it now that his granddaughter is playing tee-ball. Last year Porcello began coaching her team and is president of the city’s tee-ball league.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” he said to the crowd that filled the St. Mary’s Institute gymnasium on Saturday night for the Hall of Fame inductions of the Amsterdam Mohawks and the city of Amsterdam.
The other city inductee was Dan Saullo, who was a three-year varsity starter in center field for Amsterdam High School and played four years in Division I at Siena College. Inducted from the Amsterdam Mohawks — a team of college players in a summer league — were Vince Riggi, who is from Saratoga Springs and played for the Mohawks from 2004 to 2006, and Mark Leiter Jr., who played for the Mohawks the last two years.
Headlining the night was Dwight “Doc” Gooden, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, who stormed onto the scene in the 1980s with the New York Mets and won a World Series with the Yankees in 1996.
He signed autographs for 90 minutes during a cocktail reception and silent auction. Fans lined up almost 100 deep to get a few seconds of Gooden’s attention and for a signed hat, picture or baseball.
Mike DeMagistris of Gloversville had Gooden sign a Mets hat that former Mets relieve Turk Wendell signed. He also got Gooden’s signature on a batting glove from 1986, the year the Mets miraculously defeated the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
“It was great,” DeMagistris said walking away from Gooden.
The induction ceremony began with local politicians and business owners charging out in front of the crowd wearing vibrantly colored Mohawk wigs. Gooden declined to don the same Mohawk that U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and former Republican Assemblyman George Amedore courageously wore.
Then Mohawks co-owner Brian Spagnola addressed the crowd: “We’re getting to see a lot of great faces we don’t usually see in the winter.”
First to be inducted was Porcello, who began coaching at age 15 and was the Little League’s youngest president at 20. He took this occasion to thank his wife for putting up with his hectic schedule, which makes it almost impossible to do anything non-baseball related in the summer.
Next was Dan Saullo, who gave only brief remarks, saying he knew the crowd was mostly there for Gooden.
“This means a lot to me, because baseball has meant a lot to me throughout my life,” he said.
Reflecting on the award, Saullo thanked his parents, especially his dad, saying, “his fingerprints are all over [my] awards.”
He also talked about the role of the Amsterdam Mohawks in the community, since they moved there from Schenectady in 2003. “Amsterdam is a football town,” Saullo said. “It always has been. Over the last 10 years the Mohawks have done a wonderful job making it a baseball town for a few months each summer”
The Mohawks 2013 regular season starts on June 5. The team plays at Shuttleworth Park.