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Italian Americans honored at baseball heritage nights

The Italian American Baseball Federation honors Italians on heritage nights around the MLB.  

Honoring Yogi Berra on any Italian American Heritage Night just seems right. The baseball icon from St. Louis was proud of his Italian heritage, and to underscore his impact on the game, the Somerset Patriots honored Yogi and his family at this year’s Italian American celebration at the ballpark.

While countless proud Italian American organizations across the country fight for the preservation of Italian American heritage and culture, the Italian American Baseball Foundation (IABF) has carved a niche in baseball. We believe in growing the game in Italy and America through youth development, scholarships for college baseball and softball players, and events like Italian American heritage nights at stadiums across the country. 

Chris Vaccaro hosts a discussion with The Italian American Baseball Federation about the Heritage nights in Somerset, Nj, home of the New York Yankees affiliate (Photo Credit: IABF)

With at least a dozen games planned for 2022, this is our most successful campaign yet. June featured games with the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Marines. July picked up with the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins, and San Diego Padres. August features games across Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, and the Atlantic League, including the Colorado Rockies (August 10), Staten Island FerryHawks (August 12), Reading Fightin’ Phils (August 16), Pittsburgh Pirates (August 23), and Boston Red Sox (August 25). Los Angeles (September 3) and Washington (September 27) will close the year.

Every game is different. Some organizations allow for presentations on the field, others provide a revenue share on ticket sales, and some simply call it a “theme night,” but don’t do anything special at all. 

The Patriots rolled out the red carpet and had IABF join Yogi’s family as part of the festivities. I addressed the crowd for the purpose of remembering where we came from, honoring the past, and building for the future. It helps when you have players like Anthony Volpe starring for the Patriots. He and manager Danny Fiorito joined me on the field during the pre-game oration where we made reference to their heritage.

The Marlins have been particularly friendly and open arms as they played IABF videos, invited board members and guests on the field for a video salute, and allowed for a plaque presentation with players and coaches who have Italian heritage.

Chris Vaccaro talking with Minnesota Twins manager, Rocco Baldelli. (Photo Credit: IABF)

The Padres handed out commemorative Italian Heritage Night hats with the Italian logo and featured a huge Padres logo designed in Italian flag colors at PetcoPark. Prior to the game, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli spent time with IABF talking about his shared appreciation of growing up Italian. 

Why do these games matter? Aside from raising awareness for the IABF, it’s a matter of pride to celebrate Italian heritage in a ballpark. It’s for Yogi and DiMaggio, Piazza and Lasorda, Lazerri and Larussa. The more we cultivate a mindset of respect and appreciation for the past, the more we can grow and build the next generation of great players, managers, and fans.

2022 Italian American Heritage Nights

Chris Vaccaro

Chris R. Vaccaro is a media executive, author, and professor from Long Island. He is Vice President of Digital at Altice USA News and Professor and Director of Graduate Journalism at Hofstra University. He is also President of the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame, Northeast Coordinator of the Society of Professional Journalists, and a board trustee of the Italian American Baseball Foundation. His work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Daily News, Rolling Stone, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Athletic, and much more.