My Favorite “Once in a Lifetime” Annual Event

Written by: Kerry DeMarco

When the Hall of Fame first launched Hall of Fame Classic Weekend nine years ago, I thought to myself: “What could be better than spending another weekend in America’s Most Perfect Village?” The schedule has evolved over the years to include a legends game with former MLB players on Saturday afternoon at Doubleday Field, meeting the players at the Museum that evening and the opportunity to play golf with a Hall of Famer on Sunday.

As an active Museum Member since 2000, I did not need much convincing to add another weekend in Cooperstown to my calendar. I love Cooperstown and the Museum. I enjoy the local restaurants – I have a particular fondness for the artichoke hearts at Nicoletta’s on Main Street – and the shops.

This year, the weekend began Friday night, with a welcome dinner in the Plaque Gallery for those participating in the Cooperstown Golf Classic and Hall of Fame Champion Donors. Even though I have participated in the Golf Classic every year, I still get nervous and excited about meeting the Hall of Famers. I was thrilled to once again see Ozzie Smith and Phil Niekro, who serve as the managers for the game on Saturday. They were joined this year by Wade Boggs, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, and Juan Marichal.

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I am always blown away that Ozzie and Phil go out of their way to say hello to me during this event and thank ME for coming. Are you kidding? I am honored to be here in YOUR Hall of Fame! The big news on Friday is the announcement of the golf pairings for the tournament on Sunday, and I love the anticipation of hearing the Hall of Famers called up one by one to read the names of their teammates for golf. This year was paired with some long-time friends to play on Team Gossage. Even with Goose smiling and high-fiving his newly announced team, it is not hard to imagine how intimidating he must have been on the mound.

After the Welcome Dinner wrapped up, I headed over to the Otesaga for a night-cap with my fellow golfers. But this night was just getting started as we were joined by Phil Niekro. I believe that if Phil had not been successful as a pitcher, he could have made a great living as a comedian! I laughed so hard at his stories and jokes my sides hurt. This year, Friday night turned out to be a “once in a lifetime” experience that happens every year during Hall of Fame Classic Weekend.

Kerry DeMarco and his girlfriend Colleen Kerr chat with Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar following the 2014 Cooperstown Golf Classic. (Milo Stewart Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Saturday’s Hall of Fame Classic Game was a treat, what could be better than watching a baseball game featuring six Hall of Famers and 30 former MLB players on a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon at Doubleday Field? I am looking forward to being honored during the game in the year when I reach my 30th Anniversary as member – that group is recognized each year on the field in between innings for their long-standing support of the Museum. For those participating in the golf tournament, we followed the game with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Hall of Fame archive. Each year we see different items from the Museum’s massive collection. The highlight this year was a catcher’s mask worn by Moe Berg, a back-up catcher who served as spy for the US during World War II, just another amazing story from our National Pastime.

Saturday evening brings Night at the Museum, a special event where all of the players who participated in the game along with the Hall of Famers are stationed throughout the Museum. It is an opportunity to talk with them, shake hands and get a photo. It is a family friendly event and I think the players enjoy the event as much as those in attendance. Night at the Museum is the perfect ending to a perfect day!

Pictured from left to right at the 2016 Cooperstown Golf Classic are Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, Vice President Sponsorship & Development Ken Meifert, Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, Hall of Fame Member Russ Daniels, Hall of Famer Jim Rice, Hall of Fame Member Keith Conforti, Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, Hall of Fame Member Kerry DeMarco, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and former MLB player Jeff Suppan. (Milo Stewart Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

The golf tournament begins on Sunday morning. I am always a little nervous for the first few holes, hoping that I am going to hit the ball well that day. Goose had me and the rest of the team feeling at ease within a hole or two, and we all felt good that he can just flat out crush the ball, winning the long drive contest for the tournament! Our team finished third, but really everyone participating is a winner. Golfing on the beautiful Leatherstocking Golf Course with a Hall of Famer is an experience that you can only have in Cooperstown.

So if you are planning your first trip to Cooperstown or if you come every year, Hall of Fame Classic Weekend is truly a “once in a lifetime” experience that you should add to your calendar!

Kerry DeMarco has been a Museum Member since 2000. He lives in Erie, Pa. where he recently retired after serving 30 years as a special education teacher and administrator for the Erie School District.

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