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Hilbert’s Pernick gets early Hall of Fame call

HALL OF FAMER —Tonawanda native Jim Pernick, who now coaches at Hilbert College, will be inducted into the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s the call every athlete dreams of getting, but few think will ever really come.

Jim Pernick admitted that it took a second or two to sink in, but once it did, word that he was going to be welcomed into the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame made his day in a way that he could not even begin to describe.

“I was actually shocked,” Pernick said, with a smile. “There’s players and coaches out there that are a lot better. So I was actually pretty humbled that I got in.”

Pernick, 45, is part of the 13-person class of 2013 that will officially be inducted into the hall at a dinner scheduled for Sept. 18 at the Lake Erie Italian Club.

The town of Tonawanda native was a highly-ranked player at St. Joe’s, as a member of the class of 1986, before going to Niagara University as part of the class of 1990.

Playing catcher, third base and pitcher, Pernick won several team awards, during his career as captain of both the Marauders and Purple Eagles in his senior seasons. After college, Pernick played 10 seasons of AAA MUNY baseball.

After receiving a letter and phone call notifying him about this accomplishment, Pernick said that, for a split second, he wondered if it was a practical joke.

“I was shocked, just because of my age,” he said. “Getting in this early – it was super flattering.”

As a person who spent virtually all of his life on ball fields, Pernick said that once the news sank in, he took time to reflect on all of the people who touched his life, and crafted his path, along the way.

“I thought a lot about the different coaches I had over the years,” Pernick said. “From St. Joe’s, Niagara, the MUNY AAA league, I was fortunate to have a lot of good coaches. I think they made me a better player and a better coach.”

Pernick said that one of the people in the sport that stood out to him was Rick Ruggierio. A few years older than Pernick and a fellow Niagara and St. Joe’s alumni, Ruggierio got into the hall of fame a few years ago.

“As a player, he made me better and we coached together, so I think we learned a lot from each other as coaches,” Pernick noted.

Now in his second year at the helm of the Hilbert College baseball program, Pernick also gives private lessons in baseball and softball at the Sports Performance Park, located at the Eastern Hills Mall. He said that being able to pass his knowledge and love of the game onto a younger generation has been a very rewarding part of his life.

The Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2013 also includes John Spadafora, Peter Rizzo, Jerry Slawek, Scott Yudess, Chester Figiel, Bob Hoepfinger, Rick Mariano, Larry Pignataro, Charley Barone, Kevin Burdick, John Cross and Gary Neonder.

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