CLARK, NJ — Former Westfield High School baseball star Chris Rinaldi was awarded the Edward Cooper Memorial Award for the Most Valuable Scholastic Baseball Player Sunday afternoon by the Union County Baseball Association at the organization’s annual “Hot Stove” dinner. Rinaldi currently attends the College of the Holy Cross.
UCBA President Jim Iozzi said Rinaldi was unable to attend the dinner as he is preparing for the upcoming baseball season. Rinaldi's father, Joe Rinaldi, accepted the award on his behalf.
“It's an honor to be recognized as the best player in the county, especially because there are a lot of deserving players, both on our team and throughout the county,” Chris Rinaldi told TAPinto in January. “It's also very humbling to see all of my hard work pay off and for people to recognize all of the time I put into all of the little things.”
As the senior captain of last year’s varsity baseball team, Rinaldi hit a .357 batting average and helped the Blue Devils to a school record 18 straight wins.
Clark residents Greg and Gianna Randazza were also among the honorees.
Greg Randazza was inducted as a member of the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame for his achievements and contributions to the sport.
“This is very special,” he said at the podium. “I got the call from Tony [Picaro] and it was a very special moment for me. I was very happy for this event, my family and friends are right here, we’ve got Gianna’s coaches here. I just wanted to thank them and I had some special memories with baseball.”
His daughter, Gianna, won the Banyasz Brothers Memorial Award, for the Most Valuable Scholastic Softball Player. She is a three-time first team all-county, all-conference and all-group honoree. Gianna Randazza has 45 pitching wins, 145 hits, 136 RBI and a .497 batting average over the last three years of high school varsity play.
"I was kind of surprised [to receive the award] because there are so many talented softball players in Union County," Gianna Randazza said. "But I'm extremely grateful that people thought of me to be that good."
Also inducted into the Union County Baseball of Fame were Ed Gryzbowski, a star player for Linden High School in 1981, when the school won the Group 3 State title and ranked fifth best in the Star Ledger and Mark Teutsch, a 1974 graduate of St. Patrick’s School in Elizabeth.
The afternoon's guest speaker was Al Santorini, the winning pitcher for Union High School in the 1965 Union County Tournament against Westfield High School. Santorini pitched in the major leagues from 1968-1973 for the Atlanta Braves (then-Milwaukee), San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals.