CONTACT: Tom Plante, 908-527-4746
Jim Iozzi, 908-486-5164


Three Union County Student Athletes to Be Honored
at 71st Annual Hot Stove Awards Dinner, Feb. 11


The Union County Baseball Association will honor three student athletes from Union County during award ceremonies on Sunday afternoon, February 11. The three students will be honored for their outstanding contributions to scholastic sports during 2006.

Capri Catalano of Berkeley Heights, Manny Collins of Plainfield, and Michael Murray of Westfield will be honored at the 71st Annual Hot Stove League Baseball Dinner which begins at 1:00 p.m. at the L’Affaire Banquet Center, 1099 Route 22 East, Mountainside. The dinner is sponsored by the Union County Baseball Association, in cooperation with the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Union County Department of Parks, Recreation and Facilities.

Capri Catalano will receive the Banyasz Brothers Memorial Award for Most Valuable Scholastic Softball Player. Catalano struck out 934 batters in her first three varsity seasons at Gov. Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, including a Union County-leading 389 strikeouts in 2006. She allowed just 26 walks and 47 hits last spring while building a 19-7 record for Gov. Livingston (22-7). The hard-throwing right-hander was responsible for just 10 earned runs in 183 innings last spring. She pitched three no-hitters in 2006, including a perfect game.

Manny Collins will receive the Chris Zusi Memorial Award for Outstanding Athlete in Union County. Collins was a standout at both wide receiver and defensive back for the Plainfield High School Cardinals and earned All-County, All-Conference and All-Area honors. A versatile athlete at Plainfield, he also excelled on the wrestling mat, played three years of baseball, and ran track in his senior year, specializing in the 100-meter, 200-meter, long jump and the javelin.

Manny’s football career at Rutgers University was interrupted in 2004 when he suffered serious injuries in a car accident. But Collins recovered and returned to strengthen the defense in the 2005 and 2006 seasons for the Scarlet Knights. Among the highlights of ’06: Manny’s two interceptions at North Carolina; his blocked punts against Illinois and Navy; and a recovered UConn fumble that Manny returned for a touchdown, the first of his career.

Mike Murray will receive the Edward Cooper Memorial Award for Most Valuable Scholastic Baseball Player. Murray set four single-season Westfield records in 2006 – batting average (.560), hits (51), home runs (8), and RBI (44). The two-time All-State catcher led the Blue Devils to a 20-7 record and the school’s 12th Union County Tournament championship. In four seasons, Mike set 11 school records, including career average (.518), hits (155), extra-base hits (59), doubles (33), homers (19) and RBI (145). He now attends Wake Forest University.

Also being honored at the awards dinner are Al Ashmont of Clark, Chuck Fernicola of Mountainside, and Rich Pender of Elizabeth, who will be inducted into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame.

“The Hot Stove League Awards Dinner is a wonderful opportunity each winter to recognize the physical skills and hard work of Union County athletes,” said Freeholder Al Mirabella. “We hope that family members and friends of all the award recipients will enjoy the Sunday afternoon ceremonies and support youth baseball and the new inductees into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame.”

The special guest speaker at the awards dinner will be Johnny Blanchard, the former New York Yankees catcher and outfielder who was an important member of the 1961 World Series championship team.

In addition to the new Hall of Fame inductees and the scholastic sports honorees, the Hot Stove League Dinner also will honor youth league athletes and local baseball teams for their achievements in 2006.

Tickets for the dinner are $35.00, with proceeds going to help fund the Union County Summer Youth Baseball League for youngsters 8 to 15 years, and the Fall Teen League.

Since 1937, the annual Hot Stove League Dinner has been the primary fund-raising effort for the Union County Baseball Association’s summer and fall programs. Over the years, the awards dinner has honored many local and national baseball luminaries – including Joe Collins of Union, Phil Rizzuto of Hillside, Don Newcombe of Elizabeth, Jeff Torborg of Mountainside, Willie Wilson of Summit, Jake Wood of Elizabeth, and Elliott Maddox of Union.

Tickets for the 71st Annual Union County Baseball Association Hot Stove League Dinner on Feb. 11th are available for $35 and may be obtained by calling
(908) 527-4910.