PAINTED POST - Longtime village resident Chris Ruocco was honored with the village’s 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award by the Painted Post Area Board of Trade during a celebration at the Watson Homestead Saturday evening.
The board of trade presents the award to residents who selflessly volunteer to make a "significant, sustained" contribution to the Painted Post area.
Ruocco is a member of the Corning-Painted Post Sports Hall of Fame in part for his 30-plus years coaching youth sports in the region, including Corning Babe Ruth Baseball, Painted Post Little League, and Corning West Lacrosse, among others. The other part of his induction is Ruocco's Colonial Days Wiffle Ball Tournament held in his backyard every year, for which he is best known.
Since 2011, Ruocco's tournament has raised $66,000 for local charities and has attracted national attention.
“It’s not about me, it’s just about my backyard,” Ruocco said.
The tournament began as a casual contest with friends in the 1980s and has picked up steam ever since.
Ruocco was humbled to receive the honor of Distinguished Citizen Saturday evening, and stressed that his famous tournament wouldn’t have been possible without some help along the way.
“You do things never expecting to get such a great award. I’m super excited about it,” he said. “And it’s a group effort. This isn’t just me; it’s my family, it’s my extended family and friends.”
He also reflected on how far the tournament’s come since he and his high school buddies started it during a senior skip day in 1983. He hopes to keep the momentum rolling.
“It’s just amazing,” he said. “What do you know that lasts 35 years?”
The 35th annual tournament will take place in June where it has every year: in Ruocco’s backyard on Steuben Street in Painted Post.