After playing for rival teams and getting involved in a “hitting” incident, Chris Nelson and Jerry Ayuyu found themselves sharing the same stage last Wednesday night, as they were inducted into the CNMI Sports Hall of Fame.
Nelson and Ayuyu led the Class of 2020 inductees that also included athletics official Louie Wabol and basketball coach Rufino Aguon and they were honored during the Northern Marianas Sports Association Annual Banquet held at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.
Ayuyu was recognized for being a multi-sports athlete, as he won individual and team awards in baseball, softball, basketball, and volleyball. Nelson, on the other hand, was enshrined into the CNMI Sports Hall of Fame, for his impressive performance in baseball although he also played for the CNMI national teams in volleyball and soccer.
Nelson played pitcher for the UMDA Aces and once faced Ayuyu’s Seabees in a championship game in the 1990s. In that finals match, Ayuyu was hit by Nelson’s pitch and though that incident created some tension in the title duel, the two athletes considered the situation as part of a game.
“We were both competitive players so you just move on after that. I have so much respect for Chris and he really elevated the pitching level in the CNMI when he came,” said Ayuyu, who thanked his family, friends, teammates, and coaches for giving him the opportunity to play many sports.
For his part, Nelson said he was honored to play against Ayuyu and other notable baseball players in the Commonwealth. He also cherished the time he represented the CNMI in regional and international competitions and met a lot of good friends in sports and in the community after moving from Florida.
Nelson also looked back at the hit-by-pitch incident with Ayuyu.
“It was never done on purpose. I hit a lot of batters back in the days, but not incidentally. I just like to establish the inside part of the plate as some kind of my territory,” Nelson said.
KSPN news and sports director Bob Coldeen, who has been covering sports in the Commonwealth for decades, presented a collection of photos of Ayuyu and Nelson and interviewed some of their coaches, proving the two athletes truly deserved to be in the elite group of CNMI athletes and officials.
Meanwhile, Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president Lawrence Camacho and Northern Marianas Athletics secretary general Robin Sapong received the Hall of Fame awards on behalf of Aguon and Wabol, who are off-island.
Wabol used to coach the track and field team of Hopwood Middle School and helped run athletics events in the CNMI. Aguon coached the CNMI Men’s Basketball Team on several occasions with the last time at the 2010 Micronesian Games in Palau.