By Ryan Touhey
For the past 16 years, the Joe DiMaggio Award has recognized community leaders who have helped other people who are less fortunate. This year’s recipient was Sacred Heart University’s Executive Athletic Director, Bobby Valentine.
Valentine was honored with the award at its annual dinner event on April 5 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The purpose of the event was to raise scholarship dollars for underprivileged boys and girls of New York.
“It was one of the great honors of my life,” said Valentine.
The event was cosponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation and its affiliate, the Futures in Education.
According to its website, the Foundation is a non-profit New York City organization which works to assist Italian-American students through scholarships and grant programs. The foundation presents over $2 million in scholarships for students to go to high school each year. It also works events such as New York City’s Columbus Day Parade.
According to the Futures in Education website, the Joe DiMaggio Award was created in 1999. It was named in the ballplayer’s memory because of his support in the education for students with learning disabilities.
Being a former Major Leaguer and having Italian heritage like DiMaggio, Valentine feels that he can relate to the award.
“I knew Joe DiMaggio and he played during the same time as my father-in-law Ralph Branca,” said Valentine.
Branca was a Major League pitcher who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees. In the 1947 World Series, while he was with the Dodgers, he faced the Yankees and DiMaggio.
“Joe D. was 0 for 2 and that was always the start of the conversation when we were all together,” said Valentine.
According to the Futures in Education, broadcaster Bob Costas and former Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera are other sports personalities who have received the award. Like Valentine, they were recognized for their community involvement.
According to the Sacred Heart website, Valentine’s worked as a philanthropist including serving as Student Council President of Rippowam High School in Stamford, Conn. He has also created scholarship funds of his own such as the Mickey Lione, Jr. Scholarship Fund.
According to the Fund’s website, the scholarship is given to student-athletes who give back to the community off of the field.
Valentine’s coworkers believe that his ability and determination to connect with others is what propelled him to winning the award.
“He continues to say, ‘What can I do for you?’” said Nicholas Wormley, Executive Director for University Advancement. “I think Bobby has people around him that are so engaged in different areas.”
Valentine has explored different areas outside of the United States. After his first year as Executive Athletic Director, Valentine and baseball head coach Nick Giaquinto traveled to Japan in August of 2014. The two of them went there as a part of a cultural community service project.
Giaquinto said that they were accompanied by a U14 All-Star baseball team from
Connecticut. The team participated in a baseball tournament against Japanese teams
and also participated in volunteer work. The work involved cleaning up debris on beaches that still remained from the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami.
“He [Valentine] gives so much of his time and he knows so much about so many things,” said Brad Hurlbut, Deputy Athletic Director. “There aren’t a lot of athletic directors out there who are as prominent as Bobby Valentine.”