By Jim Buckley
A legendary coach, a Foresters player pioneer, and a homegrown Major League success story—those were the stories told by the new Foresters Hall of Fame members on January 26. A packed house was on hand to toast the new inductees—Pat Burns, Aaron Gordnier, and Jeff McNeil. Congratulations to all three! Special thanks to American Riviera Bank for its sponsorship, and to the many local restaurants and wineries who donated to make the evening a huge success. Attendees also enjoyed live music from Out of the Blue, which provided the perfect soundtrack to the evening at the Carriage Museum.
Speaking of success, the attendees were treated to spectacular news from Hugs for Cubs kid and Foresters batboy Sam Helfand. “My doctors just told me that I’m officially a cancer survivor!” Welcome news indeed for the Foresters family who have supported Sam and all the Helfands as he battled cancer for several years.
Sam’s news came at the end of manager Bill Pintard talk recounting the successful 2018 season. He highlighted the team’s 15-0 season capped off by some nail-biting wins in Wichita that led to the Foresters’ all-time record-setting seventh national championship.
Bill also took time to remember Hall of Famer and longtime Foresters volunteer Mike Pearl, who passed away January 21.
Longtime Major League pitcher and coach—and Santa Paula native—Jim Colborn added some great—and hilarious—words, along with praise for the entire Foresters organization and its contributions to baseball in America.
Pintard then inducted Burns, who treated guests to a walk down his personal Foresters memory lane, complete with uniform props that documented all the steps. Starting with his and Bill’s early years, through a big defeat of Team USA through trips to Cuba and the long road to the first championship, it was a great trip to take again with Pat!
Hall of Famer Chris Koeper inducted his former teammate Gordnier, whose fiery play helped set the tone for future Foresters teams, and whose continued support shows the continuity of the Foresters family. “The Foresters taught me things I didn’t even know I had to learn,” Aaron said. He also thanked his wife and kids, parents, and in-laws, all of whom came to the event.
Bill then brought up former Foresters infielder Jeff McNeil, who made a memorable Major League debut with the Mets in 2018. Bill praised Jeff for his hard work, his persistence, and his all-around skills. Jeff recounted his long history with the ’Sters, starting with catching foul balls in the parking lot at UCSB, playing games on the field between innings, and attending Foresters camps. He pointed to his success—and his national title in 2011—with having spurred him to greater glory in his baseball career. He thanked his family, too, along with all the Foresters fans and host families.