By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communication
Vic Puglisi is that guy who is flying around the Tempe Diablo Stadium concourse while keeping the annual MSBL Trade Show and Barbecue on schedule while simultaneously keeping the MSBL Novelty and Souvenir Store stocked and humming. Vic, who owns a screen printing and embroidery business in California, is technically titled the ‘Head of Merchandising’ for the annual World Series while wearing as many hats as he sells. He has been doing this in Tempe Diablo Stadium since 1989 and in honor of his long-standing commitment to MSBL and dedication to making sure everyone’s experience is one to remember, MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler has named Vic the recipient of the 2018 MSBL Lifetime Achievement Award.
“In 1988 at the World Series I was playing in a game at Tempe Diablo and looked around and saw a lot of people watching and thought ‘wow, we might do well selling some merchandise here,” explained Puglisi. “After the game I went up to Steve Sigler and said I could go back home and whip up some shirts and come back and see how we do.” Steve agreed so Vic made the five hour drive back home to Lake Arrowhead, California, assembled and printed up some product, and returned and sold out of t-shirts. That was the beginning of the current MSBL Souvenir Shop, as it started full tilt the following year in 1989.
Vic began his MSBL association as a player/manager in 1988 and was able to combine playing and working in the shop at the World Series for about 19 years. He sponsored teams and has brought them to Arizona through 2007. “We made it to the final four once and in 2002 we made it to the finals. Brian Sigler was a part of that team but we came up a little short. The souvenir management and Trade Show coordination simply became too much so I had to discontinue playing and managing. I do miss being on the field but I love still being associated with the baseball industry.”
Vic knows sports and remains his passion. He retired in 2013 from a long career as an NCAA women’s fast pitch coach, and umpire, and has taken many teams to ASA championships. He was also a high school baseball player and played independent baseball while continuing to play fast pitch softball. As he got a little older the fast pitch involvement gave way to MSBL. “I was playing on an 18-over baseball team when I was 40. I was primarily a catcher but played a little first and third, too,” said Puglisi.
Vic’s talents also takes him to the annual MSBL Fall Classic in Florida in November where he sets up shop, something he has done since 1998, and also includes the food concession. He has additionally been seen doing his thing at the Kickoff Classic in March and the Las Vegas Open in May on occasion.
Vic’s roots include being a Navy veteran serving as a Warfare Technician First Class and has received multiple awards for his service, including the Navy Achievement Medal which he was honored with in 1984. On a more local level he is proud to be the 2002 recipient of the San Bernadino County Juvenile Youth Justice Award for recognition of outstanding service to the youth of his community.
I asked Vic about his most cherished memory from all of the World Series. He was quick to answer. “That’s easy. It was the first World Series we attended in 1988. We were the West Coast Walloping Weasels. We won our division going 5-1 but in that first year the format was different. The overall division winner went 6-0 so they won the trophy. There were no playoffs then so that was it. But it didn’t matter. We were hooked and couldn’t wait to come back.”
To go with the warm, fuzzy memories there must have been some crazy things that happened along this journey. “In the early 90’s a man and his kid climbed up to the crest of the Butte Mountain, the big hill outside the left field fence of Tempe Diablo,” elaborated Puglisi. “Once they got up there they froze and couldn’t get down and so the fire department came. They couldn’t get them down so they had to bring in a helicopter. Fortunately it was in between games so it didn’t disrupt anything but everyone milling around had to stop and watch the drama. It was quite a thing to witness.”
Coordinating the Trade Show and Barbecue is a monumental ‘boots on the ground’ three-week effort that includes many months of planning and of course assembling all of the product you see in the Souvenir Shop located on the Tempe Diablo concourse. It is a labor of love, but to Vic it is also special to be recognized.
“This award is a blessing that I never imagined would occur in my life. My wife, Sandy, is the rock that stands beside me and showers me with her endless support and tolerance of my passion. Without those things in place you can’t achieve a thing.” Puglisi continued, “I have been able to establish so many long term relationships because of my MSBL association and I have been a part of the most awesome baseball journey ever created. I want to thank Steve Sigler and the entire member base for their support and faith in me throughout these years.”