Little League gives Mussina HOF send off

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Artist Fred Gilmour, left, poses for a photo with baseball Hall of Fame inductee Mike Mussina after unveiling the painting which Gilmour painted duirng a Mike Mussina Baseball Hall of Fame Send-off Celebration at Penn College on Tuesday.

Mike Mussina could’ve kept playing professional baseball. The then-Yankees starting pitcher was coming off his first 20-win season as a 39-year-old and his 3.37 ERA was the seventh-lowest of his storied career. The Montoursville native even finished sixth in Cy Young voting in his final season in 2008. The Yankees indicated that they were interested in bringing the 18-year veteran back, but he decided to step away for good.

Instead, Mussina returned to Montoursville and did what he wanted to do all along: coach his sons in Little League. Mussina played Little League from age 8 until he was 15 and he wanted to give back and volunteer in an organization that gave so much to him.

Last night, Little League had an opportunity to return the favor when it gave Mussina a private Hall of Fame send off at Penn College with over a hundred friends, family and Little League administrators in attendance.

“He retired. He didn’t have to after his only 20-win season. He could’ve hung around for another couple years probably and picked up a few more wins, but he said it was more important for him to get home,” Little League president Steve Keener said. “He wanted to coach his sons in Little League and be part of that. He said, ‘I’m going to miss all that if I don’t do it.’ He said, ‘If I’m not a Hall of Famer at 270 wins, what’s the difference if I get 285 or 290?'”

“The people at Little League have been really good to me,” Mussina said. “I’ve been involved for quite a few years and I appreciate the fact that they want to bring people together and have a good night and just talk about life and how things are going and a little bit about the Hall of Fame.”

Mussina will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 21, but Little League wanted to give him a proper send off now before his schedule becomes too hectic. A number of people wanted to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony, but couldn’t make the trip. Last night gave them an opportunity to say congratulations, get a few photos and give the local legend a proper send off.

“Mike is really one of the best representatives our program can have. Mostly because of his status and now as a Hall of Famer, people listen to him,” Keener said. “The real value of Mike is that Mike understands the Little League program at the grass roots level and what it’s meant to be. That’s how he serves on our board of directors in terms of making the program the best it can be for all the kids in the community and that’s really what his interest is.”

Mussina has served on the Little League International Board of Directors since 2001 and was enshrined in the organization’s Hall of Excellence in 2014. The five-time all-star is known for not seeking the spotlight, but he enjoyed being honored by the League that helped him start a Hall of Fame career.

“Little League’s just about relationships that you make with teammates and adults that you meet at a young age. Being able to enjoy a time and do something that’s fun to do in playing baseball in a sometimes exciting atmosphere,” Mussina said. “You get to go have ice cream and pizza with your buddies after it’s over and that’s what we talk about most when we get to talking about our Little League days. But being able to go back and do it as an adult, to get involved and try to guide kids through those years of life for just a couple hours a couple days a week and getting to enjoy just being out there with a team and working together and being responsible and all those things is all we’re really trying to do.”