During a 13-year Major League Baseball career, Ron Darling was an all-star, a Gold Glove winner and World Series champion. Currently a baseball analyst for SportsNet New York (SNY) and Turner Sports’ coverage of Major League Baseball, Mr. Darling will be presented the 2010 William A. “Bill” Shea Distinguished Little League Graduate Award on Saturday, Aug. 28, prior to the United States Championship Game of the 64th Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
“Little League is such a great experience because it teaches you that you have a gift,” Mr. Darling, who was coached by his father, Ron, Sr., and coached his own sons in Little League, said. “Playing is the gift and Little League does a great job with showing children how to honor the gift and hone it.
“I learned about teamwork, working hard with others, the ability to concentrate, learning how to lose and how to win gracefully,” Mr. Darling said. “Little League has always prided itself on simple things, like competing, growing as a player and a person, and having fun.”
The Bill Shea Award was established in 1987 to serve a two-fold purpose. First, and most importantly, the award is presented to a former Little Leaguer in Major League Baseball who best exemplifies the spirit of Little League. Consideration for selection includes both the individual’s ability and accomplishments and that person’s status as a positive role model.
“Ron Darling excelled as an athlete throughout his childhood, and as a professional, he reached the pinnacle in 1986 with the World Champion New York Mets,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “Throughout his time in the Major Leagues he never lost sight of the importance of being an ambassador for the game. Now, as a member of sports television community, his continued willingness to provide time, attention and assistance to several social causes makes him a worthy recipient of the Bill Shea Award.”
Lending his time and name to many worthwhile organizations that aid and benefit women and children, Mr. Darling has been active with the Cobble Hill Health Center, Juvenile Diabetes Research Center, The Danbury Women’s Center, Diabetes Research Institute Foundation and Urban Dove.
Juvenile Diabetes is especially poignant to Mr. Darling as his youngest son, Jordan, 17, has been diagnosed as a type-one diabetic since the age of 10.
Mr. Darling along with SNY broadcast partners Gary Cohen, and fellow Little League graduate and former Mets teammate, Keith Hernandez, created the website: www.pitchinforagoodcause.org in support of these charitable endeavors.
“I enjoyed a blue-collar upbringing and when I have a chance to help others, I do,” Mr. Darling said, “My parents are my heroes and they shaped my life the most. My Dad was a foreman at a machine shop, but every day, no matter how tired he was, he’d give us 100 ground balls and 100 pitched balls, as long as we had our chores done.”
Mikina, Mr. Darling’s mother, was a superb athlete and an accomplished softball player. “My mom would play catch with us and I mean we’d really have a catch … no lobbing,” Mr. Darling said.
Mr. Darling is in his fifth season as a game and studio analyst for Sports New York (SNY), where he is scheduled to cover more than 100 spring training and regular season games throughout the 2010 season. In 2006, Mr. Darling won an Emmy Award as best Sports Analyst in New York. He contributes to SNY’s sports and entertainment shows and also is a contributor to the network’s website: www.sny.tv.
“Baseball has been a life-long ambition from Mr. Darling,” Mr. Keener said. “He played the game for its enjoyment and had the talent to make baseball his career. Now as a baseball commentator and advocate for many service organizations, Mr. Darling has come full circle. His personal and professional experiences and enthusiasm for Little League mesh with the role that Little League plays in communities throughout the world, which makes us proud to honor him with this award.”
Prior to joining SNY, Mr. Darling served as the color commentator for the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, where he called 150 games. Prior to his time with the Nationals, he served as an on-air analyst for Fox Sports Net, and appeared on programs including the National Sports Report, Baseball Today, and provided analysis for Cable Sports Television (CSTV).
Mr. Darling is in his third year as a Turner Sports/Major League Baseball game analyst and is a member of the sport channel’s “Sunday MLB on TBS” game coverage. He has been a game analyst for Turner Broadcasting’s (WTBS) coverage of the MLB Postseason since 2007.
Playing in Millbury (Mass.) Little League, Mr. Darling, now 50, participated in the Little League program for four years, playing shortstop. Mr. Darling participated in the Little League International Tournament as an 11- and 12-year-old. During his 11-year-old year, his Millbury Little League team lost in the Massachusetts state championship game.
“I was very small at 11 years old, under five feet tall and less than 100 pounds,” Mr. Darling said. “Even though there were a lot of kids bigger than me, I remember during all-stars I hit a three-run homer and made a catch over my shoulder in short left field to save the game.
“Little League was a tremendous for me,” Mr. Darling said. “Even though we lost in the state championship game that year, when we got home, the whole team all climbed onto a fire truck, there was a parade, and everyone was cheering for us. Being from a small town, that experience was second to none.”
Less than a decade later, on May 21, 1981, Mr. Darling, now a highly-regarded pitching prospect, faced future Mets teammate Frank Viola, then of St. John’s University, and had a no-hitter through 11 innings. In the 12th inning, St. John’s broke up the no-hitter and then scored on a double-steal to beat Mr. Darling and the Bulldogs, 1–0. Darling’s performance remains the longest no-hitter in NCAA history and the game is considered among the best in college baseball history. Darling, a two-time All-American, was a member of two Ivy League Championship teams while at Yale.
Mr. Darling is a native Hawaiian who was born in Honolulu. He was on track to graduate from Yale prior to his first-round selection by the Texas Rangers (9th overall) in 1991. Less than a year after signing with Texas, the Rangers traded him to the Mets.
Mr. Darling, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander, debuted with the Mets in Sept. 1983, and finished with a 1-3 record in 35 innings. In 1984, having earned a spot in New York’s starting rotation, Mr. Darling compiled a 12-9 record, a 3.81 earned run average and finished fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
During the 1985 season, he was selected to the Major League Baseball All-Star game, but did not make an appearance in the game. One year later, the 1986 Mets won the National League pennant and went on to defeat the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 to capture the franchise’s first World Series since 1969.
Posting double-digit wins in the next three seasons, Mr. Darling enjoyed one more postseason appearance in 1988, as the Mets again won the National League Eastern Division. The Mets were defeated by the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
Mr. Darling’s 1991 season saw him leave the Mets via trade to the Montreal Expos. Two weeks later, Mr. Darling was traded to the American League’s Oakland Athletics. He spent the final four seasons of his playing career in Oakland, retiring after the 1995 season with a 136-116 career record.
During his Major League career (1983-1995), Mr. Darling appeared in 384 games, starting 362. His pitching totals include 2,360 innings, a 3.87 career earned run average, 1,590 strikeouts and 37 complete games. Mr. Darling was fifth in the 1986 National League Cy Young Award voting and in 1989 won a Gold Glove.
Mr. Darling and his wife Joanna, live in Brooklyn, N.Y. Mr. Darling has two sons, Tyler, 23, and Jordan.
The Distinguished Little League Graduate Award was established in honor of the many contributions made to Little League Baseball by Bill Shea, former President of the Little League Foundation. Mr. Shea is credited with bringing National League Baseball back to New York in the early 1960s, while also working diligently for the advancement of Little League Baseball.