NEW YORK — Tom Vicini, a longtime Harlan County Little League coach and coalition coordinator for Operation UNITE, was honored by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and Major League Baseball Charities with their third annual Commissioner’s Play Healthy Award.
The award was presented by Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher C.J. Wilson during The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s annual gala at Gotham Hall on Dec. 4.
“Tom Vicini, he’s my new hero,” Wilson stated after reading the list of accomplishments during the award presentation.
Judged by a panel of parents and coaches, the award recognizes one coach and one teen athlete from across the nation for their dedication to fair, drug-free play and an overall healthy lifestyle. Winners were chosen based on their commitment to leadership, sportsmanship and encouragement of others on and off the playing field.
Abby Martinen of Dover, N.H., received the teen athlete award.
“Major League Baseball is proud to recognize the extraordinary efforts of Coach Tom Vicini and Abby Martinen, outstanding role models who have raised awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol among our youth,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig.
“Standing alongside The Partnership at Drugfree.org, Major League Baseball is committed to emphasizing the inherent value of teamwork, healthy living and fair play,” Selig said. “I congratulate Tom and Abby and I thank them for setting positive examples in their communities.”
Vicini has been a volunteer coach and manager with the Harlan County Little League and other teams for more than 34 years and strives to teach his young athletes how to play fairly, make good decisions and to have healthy fun in the process.
“Wins and loses aren’t as important to Tom as most coaches — although his teams have enjoyed tremendous success,” Dan Smoot, UNITE vice president, wrote in his nomination letter. “Teaching sportsmanship, helping his players make good life decisions, and having fun in a drug-free environment were the reasons he continues to coach.”
“Most adults coach or volunteer because they have children involved in Little League. Tom does so because of his passion for the game and love of children,” Smoot said. “He tells his players that baseball is just a small part of their life, and that God and Family come first.”
Vicini joined UNITE’s education team in June 2006 and currently serves as coalition coordinator for 10 counties in southern and eastern Kentucky. In this role, Vicini works with volunteer citizen groups and assists with anti-drug youth programs such as Camp UNITE, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs and Hooked On Fishing-Not On Drugs.
Prior to joining UNITE, Vicini served 13 years as mayor of Lynch (where he took no salary), was manager of Human Resources and Quality Control for Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries in Cumberland, and worked in various capacities in the coal industry.
“In this life there are individuals who give of themselves, their time and their talent to make other lives better. Yet these extraordinary persons often don’t receive recognition for their selfless contributions,” said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
“The annual Play Healthy Award is further proof that our partners at Major League Baseball are steadfast advocates for our work on behalf of children,” Pasierb added. “Together, The Partnership and Major League Baseball are proud to commend two people who embody leadership in encouraging both healthy sport and success in life.”
Vicini and Martinen received a trip to New York City for themselves and a guest, two tickets to the gala, a $1,000 sporting goods store gift card, and a commemorative plaque. Both will be featured prominently on The Partnership’s website: www.drugfree.org.
The Commissioner’s Play Healthy Awards are a culmination of both organizations’ comprehensive efforts, including the Play Healthy website, to educate families on the risks of steroids and performance-enhancing substances and to recognize youth coaches and student athletes who embody the spirit of teamwork and healthy, drug-free competition.
Major League Baseball has supported The Partnership’s message over the last several years with more than $42 million in media exposure and grassroots initiatives to build awareness for the perils of performance-enhancing drugs and steroid use.
For more information about Operation UNITE, visit www.operationunite.org.