WESTFIELD, NJ — In Union County, a Blue Devil stands above the rest.
At the 81st annual Hot Stove League awards, the Union County Baseball Association will honor Westfield High School’s Chris Rinaldi, class of 2016, as the Most Outstanding High School Baseball Player.
“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,” Rinaldi said. “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.
“The thing I love most about baseball is that you can't do it by yourself, and that in order to be successful you really have to play as one collective unit,” Rinaldi said. “I think we showed that last year especially when we went on our 18-game win streak, because we finally figured out how to play together.”
Rinaldi added that as he begins his college career this year with Division 1 Holy Cross, he will miss his time playing for Westfield High School.
“The thing I loved most about playing as a Blue Devil was the amount of fun we had as a team,” Rinaldi said. “If you were at one of our games you could probably tell how much fun we were having just by listening to our bench. I'm going to miss being a Blue Devil but I’m looking forward to my years to come as a Crusader.”
Rinaldi had many people to thank for helping him win this distinction and become the ballplayer he is today.
“I don't know if there is one single person that I can credit with my success in baseball, but I'd have to say that the two most influential people in my life thus far have been my dad and Mike Murray, Jr.,” Rinaldi said. “My dad has showed me what it means to work hard every day through his incredible work ethic while Mike Murray, Jr. has and still does help me in every aspect of my game. Both are great role models for me and set great examples for everyone to follow. Finally, even though he isn't still with us today, Mike Murray, Sr. helped me immensely to become both the baseball player and person that I am today.”
Rinaldi looks to carry his success with him to Holy Cross, and said that so far his fall season with the Crusaders has gone well.
“We have a lot of talented returning upperclassmen who are all ready to get our first Patriot League championship in school history,” Rinaldi said. “In talking with coach DiCenzo it seems as if I'll be alternating starts with a sophomore at Shortstop in our spring trips to Auburn, UC Riverside and USC until one of us prove that we have earned the starting spot.”
Before that, Rinaldi will be presented the Union County Baseball Association’s Most Outstanding High School Baseball Player award on Feb. 12 beginning at 1 p.m. at The Gran Centurians, 440 Madison Hill Road in Clark.
During the afternoon award ceremonies, the UCBA will induct three new members into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame: Mark Teutsch of Elizabeth, who pitched for St. Patrick's High School and went on to play in the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers organizations; Greg Randazza of Clark, who pitched for Roselle Catholic, Elizabeth High School and Seton Hall University; and Ed Grzybowski of Linden, who won back-to-back state finals on the mound for Linden and later played for Kean University.
In addition to Rinaldi, local student athletes also to be honored include Sydney McLaughlin of Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, who competed at the Rio Olympics last summer, and her brother, Taylor McLaughlin, a two-time All American at the University of Michigan. Gianna Randazza of Clark will be honored as Outstanding High School Softball Player.