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Chamber Awards Gala 2011: Chamber honors volunteer baseball, softball coaches

by jmaloni
Tue, May 31st 2011 12:55 pm

Prepared by the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce

A group from the Town of Lewiston volunteer baseball and softball coaches has been chosen by Town of Lewiston Supervisor Steven Reiter as the 2011 Town of Lewiston Citizen of the Year. This dedicated coaching staff of volunteers assists in promoting good sportsmanship, teamwork and guidance to the youth in the community.

In choosing a traditional "Citizen of the Year," Reiter wanted to honor someone who went above and beyond in service to the community. After years of seeing the large scale baseball and softball program, he set out to honor a deserving person of the highest caliber who dedicates countless hours to the success of Lewiston Recreation's largest program.

"What I found is a cohesive network of coaches and volunteers that work together to create the program we have", Reiter said. "And in that group, there are men and women who form a base of volunteers that come-back every year. Without that base, and the leadership they provide, this league could not function. That's why I chose to honor them, and they deserve it."

All of the coaches to be honored have coached in baseball and softball for multiple years. And every year, even after multiple children have passed through the program, these same coaches are counted on each and every year.

Jim Mehzir, who currently is a head coach of the Hawkeyes in the Girls Ponytails Division, started his coaching career about 20 years ago, when his older son, Daniel, was tearing up the diamond. His service has continued almost uninterrupted, as he now guides his youngest daughter, Brittany's team. His commitment to the sport and to the community brings him back every year.

Larry Lindsay has coached his daughter, Jordan, since T-ball in 2003, and began double duty in 2004 when his younger daughter, Madison, began playing T-ball. As the head coach of the Ponytails Cardinals with Jordan and an assistant coach with the Girls Minors Grasshoppers with Madison, Larry is a fixture on the diamonds on any given day of the week.

Jim Ullery began coaching in 2004 with his son, Kyle. In 2011, Jim will commit even more time as a head coach in the Boys Seniors, and also within the travel baseball program as the head coach of the Lewiston Lancers 13U travel team. Pulling double duty takes a commitment to the game, and doing so with a travel team requires a level of commitment that can only be described, affectionately, as a "lifer." When Jim isn't coaching multiple baseball teams, he continues as the president of Lewiston Youth Football.

Coaches Mark Gabriele, Joe Rizzo, Bob Kowalski and Jim Mauro form the backbone of the travel baseball program. Dubbed the "Junior Purple Eagles," each of these four outstanding coaches has played and/or coached at Niagara University, providing the travel baseball program with a link to the Division I baseball team at Niagara University. While each one is a head coach at the 13U, 14U, 11U and 9U level, respectively, their impact on the program as a whole has been felt by every travel baseball team. Each coach can be seen strolling through the parks, discussing practice strategies with other coaches, providing specialized instruction to players in need, and offering his services to anyone he can help. Instruction from former professional baseball players and Division I coaches, when not done for free by volunteers that have such a commitment to this community, is a commodity that other communities pay a high price for when taking specialized baseball "lessons" from similar instructors.

This group of coaches just scratches the surface of the depth of commitment and quality of citizens that devote their entire spring and summer to Lewiston and Porter Youth Baseball and Softball. Their hard work and dedication has for too long gone unnoticed. They work long hours to provide a great life experience for the children of the community and each contribute greatly to provide a foundation for the future of Lewiston. It is an honor and a privilege for the office of the supervisor of the Town of Lewiston to recognize these great volunteers.

The Town of Lewiston and the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce are proud to honor this great group of volunteer coaches as the 2011 Lewiston Citizens of the Year.

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