Rawitch Humbled To Be Hall’s New President
Josh Rawitch has plenty to be excited about.
Less than two weeks back, on September 8, Rawitch would experience his first Induction Ceremony day on the job in Cooperstown as the incoming eighth president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. This wasn't any ordinary welcoming of meeting department heads and swapping stories around a collection of sliced cake and a well filled punch bowl.
Day one, for Rawitch is one he could have only imaged as a child growing up in California's San Fernando Valley. On this Wednesday in Otsego County's most famous village, Induction Ceremony time was scheduled on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center.
Greeting baseball legends on a sprawling stage, one by one being introduced, Jackson, Cepeda, Carew, and Eckersly leading the way, Rawitch was in awe of his company.
"It was like my baseball card collection came to life," Rawitch said earlier this week during a late day telephone conversation." There I was with so many guys I grew up admiring. It was beyond my wildest imagination."
Being the final selection to one of baseball's most respected position's, Rawitch joins the Cooperstown community with a resume that few could have come close to matching.
In baseball since as a 17-year-old when landing an internship with the Los Angeles Dodgers, it has been onward and upward, career-wise, for Rawitch. A fan of the game (Rawitch attended the Joe Torre Baseball Camp as a youngster), Rawitch views his new position as one accepted with incredible honor. This is what drove him to the "Home of Baseball." He is humbled and excited to be leading sport's most famous museum.
When asked for a favorite memory growing up loving baseball, Rawitch doesn't stumble. The 1988 World Series takes the top spot for the then 12-year-old Dodgers' fan. Los Angels and Oakland A's took center stage for that season's Fall Classic.
"Seeing Kirk Gibson hit that home run ( Gibson hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run in Game 1 to win it for Los Angeles), watching the game in our house's living room, that was a seminal moment where I realized how much of a fan I was," according to Rawitch, who prior to joining the Hall of Fame family spent a decade as an executive with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
His love of baseball history and the ability to rattle off statistics of some of his favorite players from the past, Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, and Orel Hershiser topping the list, make him a natural to be the top caretaker of baseball history.
While manning his welcoming position on the stage to the 31 returning hall of famers, along with interim president Jeff Idelson, Rawitch looked out into the estimated crowd of 20,000, and found his family seated behind NBA Legends Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing.
With inductees Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons, and Larry Walker seated front row as the newest members of the Hall's 333 membership, Rawitch had plenty of time to soak up with will likely be routine for many summers to come.
Being formally announced as the incoming Hall's leader on June 28, nothing could have totally prepared Rawitch for what would be his ultimate on-the-job experience, once the induction ceremony concluded.
"It was my pinch me moment of the weekend," Rawitch explains.
Tradition dictates that after each induction ceremony is concluded, returning hall of famers, the MLB commissioner, and the Hall's president convene for a private dinner. Stories are swapped and friendships are solidified. What is said behind private doors at The Otesaga Resort Hotel stays there.
"Jeff (Idelson) told me how special it is. There I was, sitting between Cal Ripken,Jr. and Trevor Hoffman. When I was sitting there, I realized how fortunate I am to have the role I do. I addressed the room by saying that never had I felt like I belong in a room less than I do today but never had I been more honored," Rawitch reveals.
Idelson accompanied Rawitch to the hall of famers-only private affair.
Moving to Cooperstown from Scottsdale (AZ), Rawitch has been receiving multiple tips on dealing with the winter weather, and all that comes with it. Even MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, born and raised in Rome (NY), has offered well-meaning advice. The cold and snow of Central New York shouldn't be too much of a shock for Rawitch and his family.
Attending Indiana University in Bloomington (IN), where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Sports Marketing and Management, Rawitch is eager to experience Central New York weather. While at IU, Rawitch enrolled in a class taught by legendary Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight. The underlining message being sent by Knight and other coaches came through clearly to Rawitch.
"From the very first day, (Knight) message was more on motivation than anything else. We were learning to get more out of you. We learned leadership."
Sunday, July 24, is when the Class of 2022 are scheduled for enshrinement in Cooperstown. From now until then, Rawitch will no doubt be influencing and guiding the next chapter of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's mark on the game's history.
From baseball fans everywhere, thank you.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.