CHICAGO – NFCA Vice President for Awards and Hall of Fame chair Pat Conlan announced the 2019 NFCA Hall of Fame induction class at the conclusion of this year’s Hall of Fame Banquet on Dec. 7 during the NFCA National Convention held at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.
Dee Abrahamson, former head coach and senior woman administrator at Northern Illinois, late Immaculate Heart Academy (Washington Township, N.J.) head coach Anthony LaRezza and Cypress College head coach Brad Pickler make up the Association’s 29th Hall of Fame Class. The banquet and induction ceremony will be held, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019 in Atlantic City, N.J.
Abrahamson, who is being inducted in the Pioneer category, currently serves as an equipment consultant for the NCAA. Along with her time at Northern Illinois, Abrahamson was a member on the NCAA Softball Rules Committee and spent time as the NCAA Secretary-Rules Editor.
Abrahamson began her career at NIU in 1979 serving as the Huskies' head softball coach from 1979 to 1994, including a College World Series berth in 1988, and totaled an NIU career-record of 416-286-5. Following her coaching career NIU, Abrahamson moved into Athletic administration where she oversaw internal affairs units of athletic department including personnel, facilities, events, camps, clinics, in addition to oversight of several sport teams.
Abrahamson, a 2002 Northern Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, served as the NCAA Softball Secretary Rules editor from 1996 to 201. She is nationally recognized as an expert in softball and bat technology, and is also the liaison to the National Federation of High Schools and Amateur Softball Association, which is the National Governing Board for the sport.
LaRezza's Immaculate Heart squad was among the most successful high school programs in the nation under his leadership, with a New Jersey-record 10 state championships, numerous county titles and 18 tournament appearances at the time of his death in February 2016 due to complications from cancer treatment. It was LaRezza’s second battle with the disease. Three of those state titles came under LaRezza, including the 2015 squad, which went 31-3 to finish ranked 15th nationally in the USA Today Sports/ NFCA High School Super 25 and garner him and assistant coaches Diana Fasano and Ali Bryan recognition as the NFCA East Region High School Coaching Staff of the Year. His 2012 team went 32-0 en route to the state championship and the Blue Eagles also won the state crown under his direction in 2009. Fasano won Immaculate Heart’s 11th state crown in 2016, her first season succeeding LaRezza, and another in 2017.
After one season as coach at nearby Montclair Kimberly Academy, LaRezza returned to Immaculate Heart in 2005, where he had served since 1998 as an assistant to Jeff Horohonich, the winningest coach in Bergen County history, who had led the Blue Eagles to their first seven state titles. LaRezza himself ranks 20th on the North Jersey coaching wins list with 338 and guided Immaculate Heart to four Bergen County crowns, including three straight from 2011-13.
In addition to being an active member of the NFCA since 2003, LaRezza, a longtime Newark firefighter, was also a seasoned coach and administrator with local travel ball teams, including many years with the NJ Pride. Most recently, LaRezza was the president of the Akadema Elite Fastpitch program. Just nine days before his death, LaRezza announced on his Twitter account that Immaculate Heart would be playing in a Coaches vs. Cancer event on April 30, with a pledge that the program would donate one dollar to pediatric cancer research for each retweet.
Pickler just completed his 32nd season at the helm of the Chargers’ softball program. He has compiled over 1,300 career wins and has led Cypress to a record nine CCCAA State Championships.
Pickler has also led the Chargers to 26 state finals appearances and helped Cypress earn 22 Orange Empire Conference titles. His legacy includes directing the Chargers to a record three consecutive state crowns from 1997-1999 with a combined 177-17 mark. In 2017, Pickler’s squad completed the first ever undefeated State Championship run in CCCAA softball history, finishing the season 48-0.
Pickler arrived at Cypress in 1987 and has turned the Chargers into one of the most successful junior college programs in the United States. He took over a once depleted program and managed to turn it around overnight, earning himself 16 Conference Coach of the Year awards in his 32 seasons as head coach. Coach Pickler has been featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd section after guiding the Chargers to a once 66-5 record during the 1997 State Championship run.
In addition to his nine state championships, the Chargers have placed second (1993 and 2004), third (1992, 1995, 2007, 2018), and fourth (1989, 1994, 2002, and 2008) during his tenure.
Information courtesy of Northern Illinois University and Cypress College Athletics