While the Brookdale Athletics Hall of Fame was created to honor and remember the greatest players, coaches and administrators in Jersey Blues history, this year’s induction ceremony – held Feb. 12 at the Sheraton in Eatontown – created some memorable moments of its own.
There was former Jersey Blues basketball star Miguel Rodriguez, who refused to begin his acceptance speech until all six of his former coaches, athletic directors and advisors joined him on stage. There was the reunion of Brookdale’s 1986 district champion baseball team, who were ushered into the hall and later signed commemorative baseballs alongside former coaches John “The Count” Montefusco, Mark Lockenmeyer and George Hart.
There was Brookdale President Dr. Maureen Murphy’s presentation of a “lucky Kit-Kat bar” to Thomas “Bo” Scannapieco, who was later “roasted” by former player and 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Jen Rosant. There was women’s soccer inductee Katie Motondo McDonald, who gave a moving, emotional testament to former athletic director Frank Lawrence in her acceptance speech.
And there was baseball inductee Dennis McCaffrey, a former regional Player of the Year who went on to graduate from Villanova University, earn a master’s degree and become principal of the Lincoln School in Cranford, where he now coaches and earned state Coach of the Year honors in 2014. All of his success, he said, is due to Brookdale, and to people like the Count, counselor Howard Finkelstein and former coach Paul MacLaughlin.
“The bottom line is that Brookdale changed my life,” said McCaffrey, who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1990. “I was a frustrated kid. Then I came to Brookdale, and I found out really quickly the care, the love and the respect that Brookdale gives their students…. To all the employees, keep doing what you’re doing. Because you got some kid who didn’t really have a path, you got some kid who didn’t really know what he was going to do, to be able to go to Villanova and have a great life now. And it’s because of Brookdale. So I want to say thank you.”
McCaffrey’s sentiments were echoed by many of the inductees, which included six former Jersey Blues players, the 1986 baseball team, Scannapieco and former athletic director John “Jack” Ryan.
Lou Giglio, the first all-American in Jersey Blues men’s soccer history, and Lori Kirschbaum McDermott, the first 1,000-point scorer in Brookdale women’s basketball history, both referred to Brookdale as “the best decision I ever made,” in large part because of the coaches, faculty and staff they formed bonds with along the way.
“Playing for Bo and Jen Rosant here at Brookdale taught me so much more than how to be a good ballplayer,” said inductee and two-time all-American softball pitcher Marissa Sottile. “Now, as a proud wife and mother to two beautiful little boys, I incorporate those lessons on a daily basis. And while I am proud of my accomplishments in my years playing softball here at Brookdale, the greatest of them all is the honor of being inducted tonight next to you, Bo.”
Scannapieco, who has won nearly 1,000 games in his 30-plus year career as Brookdale’s head softball coach, received a well-deserved standing ovation from the nearly 200 athletes, coaches and community members in attendance at the ceremony.
Looking back on his career, which includes three national titles, 18 regional championships and inductions into the National Junior College Softball Hall of Fame and the Jersey Shore Sports Hall of Fame, Scannapieco said he is most proud of watching his former players go on to successes of their own.
“Sometimes coaches are just judged on win-loss records, championships or rings. I have always felt that there is a greater purpose to coaching,” said Scannapieco, who first came to Brookdale as a student in 1972. “That was to mold young people, mentor young people, teach them personal responsibility. And I always tried to wrap it into a bow of fun.
“If you care about students athletes and you are willing to work with them, you have a lot to offer them in life,” he added. “And I think we did it right. Just seeing those athletes come up to me tonight, showing me pictures of their kids and telling me what they are doing now, those are the things that fulfill me. Those are the things that keep me coaching after 40 years… So I want to recognize my players. I want to thank them for putting me up on this podium tonight. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
The ceremony concluded with the induction of Ryan, Brookdale’s second director of athletics and a former Brookdale athletic trainer of nearly 25 years. Inducted by his wife Linda, Ryan was also honored for his role in supporting and expanding women’s athletics, for which he was named Person of the Year by National Girls and Women’s in Sports Day. To this day, he is the only man to ever receive the award.
In typically selfless fashion, Ryan spent the majority of his acceptance speech talking about his fellow nominees and their contributions to the impressive legacy of the Jersey Blues athletic program, as well as their influence on him as a person and a professional. He also remarked on the capacity crowd of Brookdale employees, graduates, former athletes and community members who had returned in droves to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony.
“That is the kind of place that we have at Brookdale,” said Ryan, who currently serves as a Brookdale English professor. “I want to say thank you to all of my friends and my family – which I consider to be everyone in this room, even if we’ve never met before, because you are here to help support someone who has touched my life in a great and significant way.”
The 2016 Hall of Fame class is only the third group to be inducted since the Hall was founded in 1979. Full bios for each of the honorees are available here. The ceremony was hosted by Brookdale alumnus and current Baltimore Orioles play-by-play man Jim Hunter, a 37-year broadcasting veteran who has covered the National League Championship Series, the Olympic Games and multiple Superbowls since first reporting on the Jersey Blues for Brookdale Public Radio.
Others in attendance included Brookdale Athletics Director Shawn Noel 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.
Learn more about the Brookdale Athletics program here.
Check out more photos from the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony here.