Team New Jersey Special Olympics Baseball Trip to Hall of Fame

Team New Jersey Special Olympics Baseball Trip to the HOF

When Tony Vlahovic was playing pro ball for the Boston Red Sox, he had dreams of making the Hall of Fame. In January his wish came true; but it was not in the way he had imagined. The two-sport athlete at Wilkes University was honored at the Hall of Fame as a coach. He’s not the coach of any ordinary baseball team; he’s the coach of the 2014 Special Olympics U.S.A games Gold medal winning baseball team.

The Special Olympics never had baseball as a sport until 2013, Vlahovic and others formed the inaugural team. Alabama, Rhode Island, and Delaware then followed and competed in the U.S.A games along with New Jersey. After bringing home the Gold medal, the current high school baseball coach at New Hope- Solebury was nominated as the Special Olympics North American Coach of the Year. In September he told his team they made it into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and the Hall would be displaying a  gold medal, game jersey, hat, 15 photos of the team, and the Gold medal game line-up card.

On Jan. 15, 2016 the winners of the 2014 Special Olympics USA games Gold medal baseball game, Team New Jersey was honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.  Erik Strohl, the vice president of exhibitions and collections was the team’s personal guide for the day’s activities.

Mr. Strohl surprised the team by giving them a private viewing of bats from Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Derek Jeter. Other special items included a ball from Steve Carlton and hats from Mariano Rivera and John Franco. The team concluded the trip by visiting Double Day field.  Their next goal is to play a Special Olympics baseball game on that historical field.

After the trip, a few players were interviewed to see what they thought of the trip. First baseman Hunter Norman was still in awe saying, “I still can’t believe I had a chance to hold the Babe!” Another vital piece of the gold medal team was Jeremiah Ferriero, who was also still in shock, “This is a moment in life that I will never forget. Holding Derek Jeter’s bat was a dream that became a reality.”  After Jeremiah, we spoke with third baseman Phil Luchs. The avid baseball fan kept it short and sweet, “I spent 24 hours in baseball heaven!  Life is great! “  Last but not least we talked to Michael Conte, who couldn’t contain himself when saying, “This is the greatest time of my life at the MLB Hall of fame! Seeing the old and new professional players.” 

As for Vlahovic, he will be displayed with the rest of baseballs greats with his Team New Jersey hat instead of the Boston B and he wouldn’t have it any other way.