NUTLEY, NJ--Phil Cuzzi's 21 years as a Major League Baseball umpire now includes 11 seasons working in the playoffs.
Cuzzi has been named to umpire in the 2019 National League Championship Series (NLCS) which begins on Oct. 11, in either Los Angeles, St. Louis or Atlanta. He'll be part of a 6-man crew.
Cuzzi will be working in the MLB playoffs for the 11th time in his career and for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. He umpired the divisional rounds in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2005 and 2014, Cuzzi was an umpire in the NLCS, and in 2013, was part of a crew for the American League Wildcard game between Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
In 2017, he also umpired in his first World Series, including the home plate assignment, in Game #1, at Dodger Stadium, which is a tremendous honor.
When contacted at his home, Cuzzi was very pleased to have been selected to his third NLCS.
"This time of the year, you always hope for an opportunity to work in the playoffs," said Cuzzi. "It's a tremendous to be selected. You always hope, but you can't take anything for granted. When that call comes, it's really special."
Two years ago, Cuzzi had umpired in the Divisional round and when the World Series assignments were given out, Phil's phone rang, with Joe Torre on the line.
"We all knew that the (umpiring) assignments (for the 2017 World Series) would probably be coming out on Oct. 14," Cuzzi recalled, in 2017. "Joe Torre makes those phone calls. And when my phone rang, and Joe's name popped up, it looked pretty good."
"He kind of said 'how would you like to work home plate for Game #1,'" Cuzzi said, paraphrasing. "Obviously, it was an incredible moment for me."
Cuzzi became a full time Major League umpire during the 1999 season, after over a decade of working in the minor leagues.
Cuzzi has remained very close to his Belleville High School friends. A 1973 graduate, Phil refers to his classmates as the 'Fightin' 73's.'
"We've remained very good friends over the years," said Cuzzi. "It's what makes moments like this so special, sharing with family and friends."
Since 2005, Cuzzi has run a very successful dinner in memory of his friend and high school classmate, Robert Luongo, who died of Lou Gehrig's Disease, in 2004. The dinner, which includes auctions for wonderful sports memorabilia, raises money for ALS research and has been attended by many celebrities, both in sports and entertainment.
Each year, the sold out event is held at Nanina's in the Park, in Belleville, and draws over 600 people.