The 41st annual Thurman Munson Awards, honoring both past and present New York City sports figures, were held in a virtual format this year. Presented by two-decade public relations host John Cirillo, the awards recognize exemplary Mets and Yankees players along with past sports figures who have been involved with local chartable causes similar to Munson’s charity work with AHRC.
Diana Munson started the annual fundraising ceremony in 1980, a year after her beloved husband died in plane crash during the middle of the Yankees’ 1979 season. Continuing the annual event for children and adults with developmental disabilities, the Munson Awards have raised $18 million over the past 41 years. Under the guidance of NYC AHRC Chief Executive Officer Marco Damiani, this year’s ceremony raised $450K.
New York Mets star Michael Conforto, one of this year’s winners, started his professional baseball career in Brooklyn when he debuted for the Cyclones in July 2014. The much-heralded Oregon State outfielder was a first-round draft pick and immediately lived up to his billing, hitting.331, with 54 hits and 10 doubles, three home runs, 19 RBIs and 30 runs scored over 42 games. The following year, after a mid-season call-up to Citi Field from Double-A Binghamton, the 2015 Mets’ Minor League Player of the Year bolstered the team during its run to the World Series.
As the Mets’ starting right fielder, Conforto has anchored the lineup and was an All Star in 2017. Now as a 27-year-old veteran, he has become a leader in the clubhouse and one of the team’s union reps. Besides contributing on the field, the Oregon native has contributed to the community through “Conforto Cares.” This outreach program involves hospital visits to pediatric cancer patients and hosts Citi Field visits for children from NYU Winthrop Hospital and Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
Accepting the award, Conforto said, “I’m extremely humbled to be an inspiration on and off the field, and I couldn’t be more excited to accept this award and to be named with all these incredible other award winners in this class.”
Other winners were Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriquez, New York Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela and Yankees first baseman Luke Voit. Completing the Class of 2021 was Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson of the New York Giants, who received the Captain’s Award.
When asked about the Mets’ chances of going to the World Series this year after the acquisition of promising free agents, Conforto said, “Talk is cheap. We need to go out there and to put the work in; and we need to win a lot of games.”