State College Spikes honorary bench coach Josiah Viera, whose impact as an inspirational example of determination and perserverance was felt across the baseball world, will be part of the New York-Penn League Hall of Fame's Class of 2019, as announced by the league on Thursday. Viera joins Gene Baker, Jane Rogers and Bernie Williams in this year's Hall of Fame class.
The purpose of the New York‐Penn League Hall of Fame is to recognize individuals for their overall accomplishments and contributions to the league, on the field of play or in an administrative role, in addition to their overall career in baseball.
"As the oldest, continuously‐operated Class-A league in professional baseball, the list of players, coaches, field managers, general managers, and owners reads like a Who's Who of Baseball," said Ben Hayes, President of the New York‐Penn League. "We are proud to induct another class of extraordinary nominees."
Viera captured the hearts of baseball fans around the country during his life, but it was in the New York-Penn League, with the Spikes, that his impact was most directly felt.
Josiah was born with Hutchinson-Guilford progeria, a rapid aging condition. His joyous spirit and enthusiasm was a source of inspiration for players, coaches, staff and fans. During his time as the Spikes' honorary bench coach, Josiah helped propel the club to three Pinckney Division titles and New York-Penn League championships in 2014 and 2016.
Just like all of the other coaches, Josiah gave instructions, encouraged players and exhorted them with his life's motto, "Never Give Up."
His presence created an unforgettable moment at the 2018 NYPL All-Star Game, held at his home field, in State College. As he made the final pitching change of the game, he left the field to a standing ovation from both teams and every fan in attendance.
Josiah passed away at the age of 14 on Christmas Eve 2018. While he is greatly missed by every member of the Spikes and the New York-Penn League family, Josiah's spirit remains as a shining example of determination and perseverance in the game of baseball and the game of life.
In addition to Josiah Viera, the following individuals comprise the New York‐Penn League's 2019 Hall of Fame Class:
Gene Baker - A man of firsts, Baker played a significant role in the history of the New York-Penn League and baseball in general when he broke the managerial color barrier by becoming the first African-American manager in organized baseball, when the Pittsburgh Pirates named him skipper of the Batavia club in 1961.
In 1963, he became the second black coach in the major leagues, following Buck O'Neill by a half-season. He can also be credited with being the first black manager in Major League Baseball when he took over for ejected Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh on September 21, 1963.
After his coaching days, Baker spent many years as a scout for the Pirates organization. He spent 8 seasons in the majors with the Cubs and Pirates and was the first African-American player to ever make the Chicago Cubs roster in 1953.
Jane Rogers - As the first person hired by the Staten Island Yankees in 1999, Jane Rogers has been with the club for the entirety of its twenty-year history in New York City.
Originally hired as the organization's office manager, Jane has progressed through various roles, including that of General Manager, and her current position as Senior Vice-President, Baseball Operations.
Her tireless efforts leading the organization, and in particular the club's relationship with the New York Yankees, have led to strong relationships with players and front office administrators alike. Jane's personality, generosity and kindness have led to her holding a special place in the hearts of many present Major League superstars.
During the three months that followed the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Rogers was responsible for managing Richmond County Bank Ballpark's operations which included a 24 hour/7 day a week distribution center for NYFD, NYPD and other city agencies that used the ballpark for a staging area.
Over the past two decades, she has mentored and led countless former SI Yankees employees who have gone on to become executives throughout organized baseball. In addition, Rogers has been an important contributor to the Staten Island community and the New York-Penn League as a whole.
Bernie Williams ‐ Williams hit .344 as a member of the 1987 Oneonta Yankees, playing in 25 games before a promotion to Ft. Lauderdale. He made his major league debut with the New York Yankees on July 7, 1991 and would go on to play his entire 16-year MLB career in pinstripes. In his 16 seasons he collected 2,336 hits, 449 doubles, 287 HR and 1,257 RBI to go along with a lifetime batting average of .297. He is a four-time World Series champion and the all-time leader in postseason RBI with 80. He also ranks second all-time in postseason home runs (22), hits (128), doubles (29), total bases (223), and runs (83).
A five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Williams won the 1996 ALCS MVP, 2002 Silver Slugger and 1998 AL batting title. He joined Yankee immortals by having his number 51 retired in 2015.
The New York‐Penn League Hall of Fame was established in 2012. Inductees are nominated and voted on by New York-Penn League club officials.
Inductions are scheduled to take place on August 21, during pre-game ceremonies at the 2019 New York‐Penn League All‐Star Game at Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees.
Tickets for every remaining game on the 2019 Spikes home schedule are currently on sale through the Spikes Ticket Office. Tickets can be purchased by calling (814) 272-1711 or by visiting the Ticket Office in person from 9 a.m. to the end of the game on gamedays Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to the end of the game on gamedays Saturday and Sunday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on non-gamedays Monday through Friday. Fans can also buy and download tickets 24/7 here at StateCollegeSpikes.com.
Flex Books, Value Plans and an array of group and hospitality options for the 2019 season are currently on sale by calling the Spikes at (814) 272-1711. Click here for additional information on all club ticketing options.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.