by Dave Warner
The Travelodge was packed Friday night with baseball fans of all ages. The evening’s plan was to induct three new individuals into the Mohawk Valley Baseball Hall of Fame. John W. “Bud” Fowler, Joe Milazzo and Jim LaFountain. Then, everyone would get a chance to hear George Foster speak.
However, as soon as all three were introduced to the crowd and allowed to speak, it was time for a surprise. Emcee for the evening Lou Parrotta, the voice of the DiamondDawgs had a revelation for team owner Travis Heiser when he announced that Heiser himself was also being inducted.
Parrotta said “It is my honor to finally induct you into today’s Hall of Fame. Travis Heiser is entering into his 12th season of owning the DiamondDawgs. In 2015 he led the Dawgs to their first-ever championship. They finished last season the number one collegiate baseball team in New York State and also ranked the number 16th best team in the nation in the last national collegiate poll. In 2017, he led us to our second championship within three years.”
“I hope you were surprised because we tried to keep it a secret,” said Parrotta.
Heiser took to the microphone and stated “I’m very humbled and I didn’t expect this. I don’t do this for the recognition, but it’s definitely special. I divide my life into childhood, young adult and to where I am today.”
Heiser went on to tell a quick story about being eight years old at Shea Stadium. “The Mets were playing the St. Louis Cardinals and there was a fly ball hit to I believe left field and a guy by the name of George Foster caught that ball. I’m lucky enough to be sitting behind the dugout and this guy comes running in, rolls the ball over the top of the dugout and that was the first major league baseball that I ever received.”
Heiser finished and everyone had dinner before former National League MVP and “Big Red Machine” slugger George Foster, a 2003 Inductee of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, spoke.
Foster was a key cog in the Reds’ 1975 and 1976 World Championships and in 1977, he was named the top player in the National League when he batted .320 with a league-leading 52 home runs, 149 runs batted in and 124 runs scored.
Parrotta introduced Foster as “One of the funniest guys I’ve ever met.”
Foster mixed his talk with impersonations and jokes and showed an amazing memory of plays and moments in his career as he answered questions from the audience. “I want to thank Travis and Lou for inviting me here because they did a lot of research and checking of my background to make sure I didn’t have any DUI’s or anything like that,” he joked.
Parrotta had picked up Foster at the airport in Syracuse and Foster said “That was a great trip back here because it really brought my career back again because Mike (another passenger with Parrotta in the car) is a true George Foster fan. A lot of people say I’m a George Foster fan and then they say ‘what team did you play for?'” said Foster.
“But with Mike, I was afraid to say anything because he’d probably correct me about my own career, so I just let him talk,” he said.
Foster continued with stories and jokes but got serious when talking about being a rookie in his first year. “Some players wouldn’t talk to the rookie players and you didn’t feel like part of the team. If you saw a guy, you just wished you could disappear. And so, when I went to the Reds, I didn’t know that Willie Mays had called Pete Rose and said’ take care of this kid’. So Pete said hi to me and I felt like part of the family.”
“That fear of rejection goes deep and it’s deep with kids today. Fathers, mothers, grandmothers…make sure that your kids know that you love them. Give them a hug, let them know. You never know what’s happening with the kids. They may want to be part of a certain group and they’re being rejected. You’ve got to be strong and have that confidence and believe in yourself. Don’t let what they say define you,” stated Foster.
In 18 years, Foster played in 1,977 games, had a lifetime average of .274, belted 348 home runs and drove in 1,239 runs.
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