Higashioka, Showalter honored at Munson Awards

February 8th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Yankees legend Thurman Munson passed away almost 44 years ago, but his presence was felt on Tuesday night at Chelsea Pier.

Yankees catcher , Mets manager Buck Showalter, Mets center fielder  and World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sörenstam were honored at the 43rd annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner.

The Thurman Munson Awards are given to professional and Olympic athletes in recognition of their athletic achievements and contributions to the community. The event raised money to benefit the AHRC New York City Foundation and to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The AHRC NYC has raised more than $19 million in those 43 years.

“It just shows the impact that Thurman had on the New York community,” said Munson’s widow, Diana Munson. “The fans got him, and I’m just so proud that we’ve raised all these funds. I’ve seen the work it has done. I’ve seen the group homes, camps and the schools. It’s just thrilling.”

The most touching moment of the night was an appearance from young Jadori Mattison.

Jadori was diagnosed with autism when she was around 2 years old after she showed signs of being non-verbal. Her mother, Amaris Sandy-Mattison, took Jadori to the teachers at AHRC, and the instructors worked miracles. Jadori, now 4, is talking up a storm. She proved it when she went on stage at the Munson dinner and sang a song with her mother.

“AHRC hires the best teachers and the best people to help my daughter,” Amaris told the audience. “They are seriously the real deal. Because of these teachers, I don’t have to worry like I use to. I thought someone would hurt Jadori because she could not talk. Today, she is very independent and confident. [Her favorite words are], ‘Mommy, I can do it myself.’”

After Jadori and Amaris left the stage, Higashioka, Showalter, Nimmo and Sörenstam received their awards.

Higashioka volunteered for the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. He spent numerous offseasons volunteering his time to support the social reach of the program. The academy focuses on inner-city youth and offers after-school programs.

Higashioka has embraced the causes of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which ensures complete post-secondary educational support and additional educational opportunities for eligible surviving children of fallen Special Operations personnel and children of Medal of Honor recipients and provides financial assistance to severely wounded, ill and injured Special Operations personnel.

“This is more of an award for my parents,” Higashioka said. “They always told me to give back when you are in the position of success.”

Showalter, who was named Manager of the Year four times during his Major League career, participated in the Amazin’ Mets Foundation’s second annual Homeruns & Highballs fundraiser last July, the team’s largest fundraising event of the season. AMF is committed to providing needed services and opportunities to children, families and underserved groups in neighborhoods and communities to inspire change and make a lasting impact on and off the field.

While managing the Orioles, Showalter supported the LUNGevity Foundation, a charity inspired by the Orioles' late public relations director, Monica Pence Barlow.

“I don’t mind getting up [on the podium] … to take a moment to reflect on the impact [AHRC New York City Foundation] has had, will continue to have,” Showalter said. “You also know you can play a small part in it.”

Nimmo was unable to attend the dinner, but former Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda picked up the award on Nimmo’s behalf. Last season, Nimmo had his best year in the big leagues, scoring 102 runs and leading the Major Leagues in triples (7). He also held a special sandlot baseball game for local Little Leaguers at Flushing’s Hinton Park on July 8.

Following a pregame pep talk, Nimmo spent much of the game pitching to the kids, playing the outfield and giving players fist bumps when they made a good play.

Nimmo was named the Mets' recipient of the 2022 Heart and Hustle Award, given by the MLB Players Alumni Association to players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.

Sörenstam created the ANNIKA Foundation to provide opportunities in women’s golf at the junior, collegiate and professional levels while teaching young people the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle through fitness and nutrition.

“We share the passion of giving back and feeling very fortunate where we are today. We are able to impact people who might not be so fortunate,” Sörenstam said.