Financial gift kickstarts town's Sports Hall of Fame

Sports By David L. Snelling Friday, August 2, 2013

Miami Lakes’ plans to honor former professional coaches and athletes who played sports or participated at the Miami Lakes Optimist Club got a big financial boost from a local business man who donated money to jump start the initiative.

Rudy Hernandez, CEO of Nu World Title Company, presented the town with a $2,500 check to help offset expenses for the Miami Lakes Sports Hall of Fame to be housed at the new Miami Lakes Optimist Clubhouse at Miami Lakes Optimist Park.

Construction for the new Clubhouse is expected to start this year.

“The Town of Miami Lakes has been great to our family and business,” said Hernandez. “This is a small token of our appreciation for the community.”

Councilmember Manny Cid, the brainchild of the Sports Hall of Fame, said the project will serve as a motivational piece for the town’s young athletes at Optimist Park.

“We’ll honor our local sports heroes, and for our young athletes, with hard work and dedication the skies the limit,” said Cid.

Some eminent names suggested for enshrinement include former Miami Dolphins coach and the winningest coach in NFL history Don Shula; former Dolphins tight end the late Jim Mandich; former Dolphins running back Tony Nathan; Miami Heat assistant coach Keith Askins; Miami Heat point guard James Jones; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Blake; former Miami Hurricane Joel Rodriguez; former NBA player Chris Corchiani; former FIU player Mike Alvarez; Chicago Cubs Adrian Cardenas; and New York Mets Alex Ochoa.

Don Shula led the Miami Dolphins to the only undefeated season (17-0) in NFL history following the 1972 season. He led the Miami Dolphins to five Super Bowls, including back-to-back wins, and in 1993, Shula reached another milestone when he passed George “Papa Bear” Halas to become the winningest coach in NFL history. During his coaching years for the Miami Dolphins, Shula lived in Miami Lakes and made great contributions to the Optimist Club and community.

Inducting Mandich posthumously would be a great honor for his family, who has lived in Miami Lakes for more than 30 years until his death in 2011 from cancer. After he retired from football, Mandich was the Miami Dolphins radio play-by-play announcer with the famous catch phrase, “All right, Miami” each time the team scored a touchdown.

Blake was a former standout player at Miami High and the University of Maryland, where he won the national championship. In 2002, he was drafted by the Washington Wizards and later played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers. The past three seasons, Blake was the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jones is a shooting guard for the Miami Heat and helped his team win back-to-back NBA World Championships in 2012 and 2013. He played at the Miami Lakes Optimist Club, American High School and the University of Miami before he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2003. He also played for the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trailblazers.

Corchiani was a standout basketball player at Hialeah Miami Lakes High School and North Carolina State University. He was drafted by the Orlando Magic in 1991 and later played for the Boston Celtics and the Washington Bullets, who are now the Washington Wizards.

Ochoa, a Miami Lakes native, played eight seasons for the New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies and Anaheim Angels.   Ochoa won a World Series ring with the Angels in the 2002.

Cardenas was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft. Cardenas won the 2006 Baseball America High School Player of the Year Award and played in the 2007 All-Star Futures Game. The Miami Lakes native now pays for the Chicago Cubs.