Today, the International League announced that the 2016 recipient of the Spirit of the International League Award is former President and long-time advocate of the Syracuse Chiefs, Don Waful. The award, created in 2010, is designed to recognize the essential role filled by individuals who are dedicated to helping make sure fans have the most enjoyable experience possible when visiting League ballparks.
99-year-old Don Waful has been associated with Syracuse Chiefs baseball for well over half a century. He was an original shareholder when the Chiefs became one of baseball's first community owned franchises in 1961. Don was the team's President from 1971 to 2006, during which time the Chiefs enjoyed many of their most profitable years. He was instrumental in gaining governmental support for the "New Stadium Project" in the early 1990's, leading to the opening of the facility now known as NBT Bank Stadium.
Don's contributions to the Chiefs continue to this day. For the last 35 years he's spearheaded the club's annual off-season coupon book sales drive. He personally visits Chiefs fans throughout the community, helping sell season ticket flex-plans and distributing pocket schedules. In 1978 he was the recipient of the Tom Higgins Bull Pen Chief Award, given annually to a community leader who has provided exemplary support for professional baseball in Syracuse. He received an even-higher honor in 2010 when he was inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame.
Don's long-time support of the Chiefs is only part of an amazing life story. The Syracuse University alum is a former P.O.W. during World War II. In 1942 he was among the first American soldiers to set foot on African soil in "Operation Torch". He married his wife of 53-years in France just two days after being reunited with her, a story later made into a successful musical "I'll Be Seeing You." The Spirit of the International League Award will be presented to Don on April 8 as part of a celebration the Chiefs are hosting for Don's 100th birthday.
The Spirit of the International League Award was created to help recognize individuals who work tirelessly to enhance the fan experience and significantly contribute to the overall success of the production that is today's Minor League Baseball game. International League ballparks are an integral part of their team's communities, and each season thousands of individuals dedicate themselves on a nightly basis to helping fans have the most enjoyable experience possible. While some are in more visible roles than others, each and every one of them is vital to the success of the operation of their team and the League.
Previous Recipients - Spirit of the International League Award
2010: Frank Gilhooley, Toledo (Broadcasting Icon)
2011: Fred Costello, Rochester (Team Organist)
2012: Frank Mooney, Buffalo (Account Executive)
2013: Bill Law, Durham (Team Ambassador)
2014: Lois Estridge, Louisville (Customer Service Representative)
2015: Rick Medeiros, Pawtucket (Director of Security)