It was a historic night at the Sheraton in Eatontown on Feb. 6, as the Brookdale Athletics Hall of Fame welcomed its first class of inductees in more than 35 years. From the college’s first athletic director to the 2002 national champion softball team, the event brought together some of the most iconic figures in Brookdale sports history.
“Tonight we honor some of the finest athletes, coaches, administrators and teams that have ever passed through Brookdale,” said Brookdale Athletic Director Shawn Noel. “Have fun, and share some stories from the past. Congratulations to the Class of 2015.”
Stories abounded throughout the evening, as seven athletes, one team, one coach and one athletic director were officially inducted into the Hall of Fame. The night began with a speech by the event’s emcee, Baltimore Orioles play-by-play man Jim Hunter.
Since graduating from Brookdale in 1979, Hunter has amassed a 36-year broadcasting career that has included coverage of the National League Championship Series, the Superbowl and the Olympic Games.
“I can honestly say that it all began at Brookdale Community College and WBJB public radio,” said Hunter, who explained that he got his first experience in sports broadcasting covering the Brookdale Jersey Blues and working for Brookdale’s 90.5 the Night. “It is an absolute thrill to be back here at Brookdale with so many friends. Once you are part of a community like this, it never really leaves you.”
Throughout the evening, legendary Brookdale athletes like Bill Hill, Ron and Abel Lampa, Jen Rosant and Maryann Soares Ribeiro were inducted in the Hall of Fame by their former coaches, including Paul MacLaughlin, Rich Karpinski and Thomas “Bo” Scannapieco.
Lisa Fiorillo Lanza, Brookdale’s first ever two-time All American in women’s soccer, was inducted by her father. All-American soccer star Mike Grimsley, unable to attend, was inducted by Hunter.
Scannapieco was a busy man throughout the evening, also serving to induct his entire 2002 softball team and MacLaughlin, the NJCAA Hall of Fame coach who started Brookdale’s baseball program in 1971 and won 24 GSAC championships and seven Region XIX Championships over his 28-year career. Bios for each inductee are available here.
The final induction of the evening belonged to Bob Walsack, the college’s first athletic director and coach who was charged with creating Brookdale sports back in 1971. Walsack harkened back to the athletic program’s meager beginnings, when teams practiced in little league fields, parking lots and local high school gyms.
He described his early petitions for funding, negotiations over everything from equipment to uniforms, and the thrill of managing to win despite those challenges.
“There’s an old saying, that if you find someting that you really enjoy, you won’t have to work a day in your life,” said Walsack. ” I really enjoyed my work at Brookdale. This, for me, is just the icing on the cake for me. So thank you very much.”
Others in attendance included Brookdale President Dr. Maureen Murphy, Assistant Athletic Director Shannon Ventre, and members of the Brookdale Foundation and Brookdale Alumni Association, which helped support the event. The ceremony was followed by a President’s Brunch during the Jersey Blues men’s basketball game in the Collins Arena the following day.
“We have a strong Jersey Blues legacy and I am so proud of that,” Murphy said. “It continues today, and it will continue for years into the future. So let’s not wait 36 years to do this again.”
Check out more photos of the induction ceremony here.