Little League has been an ever-present element in the life of John Berardi, technology director of applications services at Boston College. He’s been a Little League baseball player, an umpire, a coach and, for the last six years, has served as Massachusetts Little League District 13 Administrator, overseeing Little League operations for 13 cities and towns, encompassing 550 teams and more than 6,500 players. He also volunteers on the Little League International Advisory Board.
Four years ago, Berardi and Mike Egan of the Red Sox Foundation co-established a formal partnership between Mass. Little League and the Red Sox Foundation that provides financial support and other assistance to the nearly 200 leagues in the state. In addition to offering a $500 sponsorship for each league, the Red Sox Foundation also sponsors the state finals for 12-year-olds and underwrites leadership and instructional skills training for coaches. The initiative has proven so successful it is expanding to Rhode Island and Maine.
In recognition of his dedication to the 55,000 girls and boys across Massachusetts who play in Little League – and the 5,000 coaches, Berardi was named 2017 Red Sox Foundation Volunteer of the Year.
“It was quite an honor. I was surprised, but really honored,” said Berardi, who received his award at a Red Sox game in August.
“John volunteers many thousands of hours of his time to make Little League a great experience for all involved,” said Information Technology Services Vice President Michael Bourque, who has worked with Berardi at BC for 15 years and knows of Berardi’s commitment to Little League through his own involvement with the program in his hometown of Wakefield. “For John, it is truly all about the kids.”
“Winning is nice, but it’s not what really matters,” said Berardi. “Learning to support your teammates, whether they had a great game or a bad game is what it’s all about. Little League isn’t about building better athletes, it’s about developing better citizens.”
In 2009, Berardi established “Little League Days” at Boston College. Each spring, Little League baseball and softball players are invited to attend a BC baseball and softball game. Not only do the youngsters get to see the sports played at the collegiate level, there is a meet-and-greet with the players on the field after the games.
To understand Berardi’s passion and commitment to Little League, one has to go back a generation to Berardi’s father, George. The elder Berardi, who passed away in 2011, was an amateur baseball player who first became involved in Little League as an umpire in 1952. He was even tapped to be an umpire at the Little League World Series. George Berardi became a Little League official, serving as Mass. District 13 Administrator for 50 years and state director of Massachusetts Little League for more than 40 years.
So it’s not surprising that John Berardi grew up playing Little League baseball— pitching and playing first base and the outfield. As a teen, he umpired games. He volunteered as an assistant coach on each of his three children’s teams. In the 1990s, he started assisting his father in Little League official business, using his computer skills to help advance the work his father was doing as District Administrator.
“It was a good partnership. He had all the experience and I had the technology skills,” recalled Berardi. It was easy for the two to work together, not only did they both love baseball, they were next-door neighbors.
Baseball provides lasting life lessons, such the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, and perseverance. For Berardi, Little League means community.
“We had a lot of different elementary schools in my town. Going to middle school, all of sudden you were with all these new kids. But I had connections to a lot of them because I played Little League with them. You were teammates and that meant something. To this day, I still see two or three of them around town and we refer back to the 1971 minor league team. Being teammates is timeless.”
Winning is nice, but it’s not what really matters, added Berardi. “Learning to support your teammates, whether they had a great game or a bad game is what it’s all about. Little League isn’t about building better athletes, it’s about developing better citizens.”
Berardi and his six siblings grew up in Woburn, learning not only everything about baseball, but also another family tradition: volunteerism. In addition to the 60 years of volunteer service his father devoted to Little League, Berardi’s mother, Ann, volunteered as a religious education instructor in their parish for 45 years.
A particular passion for Berardi has been the Jimmy Fund Little League, a program founded by the elder Berardi and Red Sox players Rico Petrocelli and Mike Andrews which gives children the opportunity to play ball over the summer after the end of the regular season while also raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund.
Berardi is the program coordinator for the Jimmy Fund Little League, which involves some 5,000 Little League baseball and softball players in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. He works with the Jimmy Fund and the teams on incentives and fundraising strategies, which range from can collections, car washes, bake sales to home run derbies and business sponsorships. Last summer, the Little Leaguers raised some $250,000 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. Since the program’s inception in 1987, more than $5 million has been raised.
Berardi said the program is special because the players are helping other kids and it shows the patients and their families that they are not alone. Their efforts were highlighted earlier this year during a segment on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”
“A large part of this program’s success is due to John's personal dedication. As he does in his work here at BC, John keeps the program goals in the forefront while attending to the details,” said Bourque. “It’s a great tribute to his father’s legacy.”
--Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications