Roberto Clemente Jr. spoke on Saturday night about baseball, his father’s legacy as a Hall of Fame player and a humanitarian and how each person in a crowd of 542 at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center will leave a figurative fingerprint through their actions during their lifetime.
As the featured speaker at the AAABA Hall of Fame banquet, Clemente stressed togetherness is better than divisiveness. Most important, he pointed to the example his father provided during a lifetime cut short by a tragic airplane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972.
“Baseball is life,” Clemente Jr. said. “Period.”
Clemente’s talk followed the inductions of a high-profile class that included four former major leaguers and one of the region’s top AAABA managers.
The 75th annual AAABA Tournament will begin on Monday at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point and outlying fields throughout the region.
“I’m honored to be a part of this evening of 75 strong years of this tournament,” Clemente said.
The Class of 2019 included:
• Buck Showalter, a former manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees, who played for the runner-up Birmingham, Alabama, franchise in the 1975 AAABA Tournament.
• Roger McDowell, who pitched in the majors from 1985 to 1996 with the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, and was a major league pitching coach. He played for the former Cincinnati franchise in the 1980 tournament.
• Kurt Ainsworth, a first-round draft pick and former major league pitcher who is a founder of Marucci Sports, a baseball bat manufacturer. He played for the New Orleans Boosters in the 1998 AAABA Tournament.
• Nelson Figueroa, who pitched in the majors for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Houston Astros. He struck out 22 batters in 18 innings during the Brooklyn Youth Service League team’s run to the 1994 AAABA Tournament championship.
• Ron Fiochetta (posthumous), who built the Altoona L.S. Fiore franchise into a national contender and managed from 1984 through 1997. He led the Blair County team to the national runner-up finish in 1994.
“There is no difference of where we come from. This is the game of baseball, isn’t it?” Clemente Jr. said. “At the end of the day, I would like to make sure we understand one thing.
“We are all in one group, in one party, and that is the human race. The human race for me is epitomized in the game of baseball. The game of baseball will always be on the top of the list. We have kids from all over on the stage here.”
Clemente Jr. asked members in the large crowd to hold up their index fingers.
“What do you see?,” he said.
“We see a fingerprint. That fingerprint makes you, every single one of you, very unique because no one in this whole wide world can match that fingerprint. You own that fingerprint. Everything you touch, that is you that touched it. No one else.
“You’re leaving your fingerprint, your name on anything and everything you touch.”