In 2010 the International League established a new award 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.
The first Spirit of the International League Award was presented to Toledo Mud Hens broadcaster and local media icon, Frank Gilhooley, last May, just months before his passing at the age of 86.
Today, the IL announced that the 2011 recipient of the Spirit of the International League Award is Fred Costello. A national performer and local legend in Rochester, N.Y., Costello has served as the team's organist for 35 seasons. This May, he played at his 2,500th game for the Red Wings. Costello was elected to the Frontier Field Walk of Fame in 1999.
A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Costello spent part of his youth working on the grounds crew at MacArthur Stadium. There he met Chiefs' front office employee, Don Labbruzzo, who would later become general manager of the Red Wings, and hire Costello as the team's organist in 1977.
Costello has found a unique way to merge his two loves, baseball and music. He is an accomplished jazz musician, whose career has included engagements in Las Vegas, Hollywood, Tijuana, Atlantic City and points in between. At the ballpark, Fred has created a personal style, stemming from his background in rock, rhythm and blues, and Latin music.
Hearing Fred play is a staple of the experience of attending a Red Wings game, although it's just one of the ways that he and his family have contributed to the team and the Rochester community. Fred's wife Cathie has been a game night secretary at the ballpark for more than 25 years, while his son Terry has worked for the club in a variety of capacities (most recently as clubhouse manager). Fred ran youth baseball clinics for more than two decades, featuring Red Wings players and helping to cultivate new generations of Red Wings fans.
"At one point in time, the stadium organist was as common at the ballpark as peanuts and Cracker Jack, but now in all league cities except for Rochester, it's pre-recorded music and audio effects," said IL president, Randy Mobley. "Fred Costello is, and for many years has been, the only active organist in the International League. Fred is as much a part of Red Wings baseball as Zweigle's White Hots! The show doesn't go on without either one. I look forward to presenting Fred with the Spirit of the International League Award in a special ceremony at Frontier Field on Aug. 19, prior to the 7:05 p.m. game against Lehigh Valley."
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 team 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 person is vital to the success of the operation of their team and the league. The Spirit of the International League Award will annually recognize an individual who has continually demonstrated a fan-centered dedication.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.