Union County Baseball Association Also Honors Student Athletes at 78th Annual Dinner to Benefit Youth Baseball Leagues
MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Jake Wood, the former Detroit Tigers second baseman and graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School in Elizabeth, will be the special guest speaker at the 78th Annual Hot Stove League Baseball Dinner on Sunday, Feb. 9, starting at 1:00 p.m. at the L’Affaire Banquet Center, 1099 Route 22 East, in Mountainside.
The awards dinner is sponsored by the Union County Baseball Association (UCBA), in cooperation with the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation. Since 1937, the Hot Stove League Baseball Dinner has been the primary fund-raiser for the UCBA’s summer and fall programs for young ballplayers.
During the afternoon awards ceremonies, the UCBA will induct five new members into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame: Larry Caroselli of Linden, Al Faella of Elizabeth, Leroy Horn of Summit, Jim Jeskey of Union, and Al Volpe of Linden.
“We’re delighted to welcome Jake Wood to this year’s Hot Stove League Awards Dinner,” said Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak. “We hope that family members and friends of the Hall of Fame inductees and the very deserving local student honorees will enjoy the Sunday afternoon ceremonies and support youth baseball in Union County.”
Among the students to be honored for their athletic achievements are: Elena Scarano of Westfield, Rob Smorol of Clark, Melissa Tobie of Elizabeth, and Ryan Williamson of Cranford.
The Hot Stove League Baseball Dinner also will honor local American Legion Baseball players and athletes from youth baseball leagues for their achievements in 2013.
Tickets for the dinner can be purchased online by visiting www.ucba-nj.org or by downloading and mailing the table registration form to the Union County Baseball Association, Box 176, Fanwood, New Jersey 07023.
For more information, please call Jim Iozzi at 908-917-2523.
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Union County Baseball Association78th
Hot Stove League Annual Baseball Dinner
February 9, 2014 – 1:00 p.m.
L’Affaire Banquet Center, Route 22 East
Mountainside, New Jersey 07092
Jacob “Jake” Wood Jr. played PAL and American Legion baseball in Elizabeth and was a star shortstop for Thomas Jefferson High School. With the assistance of famed Elizabeth-area baseball scout Irving “Rabbit” Jacobson, Jake Wood signed with the Detroit Tigers organization in 1957 when he was a 20-year-old at Delaware State University. Jacobson also was instrumental in signing other local ballplayers, including George Alusik, Norm McRae, Bob Molinaro, Jackson Queen, Richard Jones and William Bennett.
From his start at Erie, in the New York-Penn League, Jake went from one minor league level to another – Lakeland, Durham, Idaho Falls, Knoxville, Appleton, Denver – and hit everywhere he went. His numbers from Triple-A Denver in 1960 stand out even today: a .305 batting average, 24 doubles, 18 triples, 12 home runs and 76 runs batted in.
Jake played four years in the minor leagues before making his debut at second base with Detroit on April 11, 1961. When he took the field, he became the first African American player to advance through the Tigers minor league system and play in the Major Leagues. His first Major League hit that day was a two-run home run to deep left field at old Tiger Stadium.
Jake enjoyed a standout rookie season as an everyday player with 171 hits, 96 runs, 17 doubles, 11 home runs, 69 RBI’s and 30 stolen bases while leading the American League with 14 triples – despite a .258 batting average and a new league record of 141 strikeouts. His playing time decreased in 1962 as he platooned with hard-hitting Dick McAuliffe. Jake got off to a fast start in 1963, with 95 hits and 11 homers in 85 games, but an injury led to season-ending surgery.
After the Tigers acquired veteran second baseman Jerry Lumpe, Jake became a utility player for the rest of his career. He made a bit of a comeback in 1966, appearing in 98 games, but by 1967, at age 30, after appearing in only 14 games, Jake was sent to Triple-A Toledo. On June 23, 1967, his contract was purchased from Detroit by the Cincinnati Reds. He made a dozen pinch-hitting appearances for the Reds that summer before his Major League playing days ended.
Jake Wood and his wife live in Pensacola, Florida. Jake is a member of the Union County Baseball Association Hall of Fame and he can still be found at his local senior softball games and Detroit Tigers reunions. At Comerica Park in 2010, Jake received the Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award for his profound impact as a trailblazer and mentor for other players.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
(five honorees, listed alphabetically)
Lawrence “Larry” Caroselli was born and raised in Linden, New Jersey. His childhood years were spent in the area not far from the Linden PAL fields that were originally built near Linden Airport. He was always interested in baseball and played in the Linden Police Athletic League.
Larry was involved in the PAL as an adult as well. He coached in all levels of PAL baseball for more than 13 years and won championships with both the Clarke Engineering and the Custom Hair Design teams. However, his favorite sport became golf and he regularly played with Vito Giglio and his son Joe Giglio. When Vito became ill and ultimately succumbed to cancer in 1988, Larry decided to organize a golf outing in his memory. He has continued this memorial golf outing for the past 26 years and has donated proceeds from the outing to the Union County Baseball Association for the last 20 years. These donations provide necessary equipment and supplies for the Summer Youth Leagues.
Larry Caroselli is married to his wife Joan and has two sons, Michael and Christopher. He and his wife currently reside in Westfield and he retired in 2011 from the County of Union, where he was employed for 35years, 29 of which were as Director of Finance.
Al Faella is a product of the Union County Baseball Association’s Summer Youth Leagues. In 1970, he was the most valuable player of the Teen League. As a center fielder for Coach Kevin Duggan’s baseball team at St. Mary’s High School in Elizabeth, he was selected to the Second Team, All Union County in 1972 and 1973. He holds a high school career batting average of .371 and he stole 44 bases in 45 attempts.
Al was a three-time All Star for the Betsytown VFW team from 1972 to 1974, playing for manager Lenny Green. He also played at Kean College, where he had a .310 batting average.
After Kean, Al stayed involved in baseball by coaching. He led Blessed Sacrament to six consecutive Uptown Division championships. Al served as athletic director and coached at St. Patrick’s in 1980. He also served on the boards of the North Elizabeth and Mountainside little leagues.
Following an 18-year State, Municipal and County government tenure, Alfred Faella was appointed County Manager of Union County in 2011. He and his family live in Mountainside.
Leroy Horn was a three-year starter for the Summit High School baseball team. He was selected to the First Team, All Union County squad by the Star-Ledger and the Elizabeth Daily Journal in his sophomore and senior years. In his junior year, he was selected to the Second Team. Leroy was named to the First Team, All-Conference squad all three seasons. In 1984, he earned a Third Team All-State selection in his senior year. He had a .418 batting average in senior year with eight triples, still a Summit High School record.
Leroy moved on to Montclair State University as an outfielder, hitting .326 with 37 doubles, 18 home runs, 172 hits and 139 RBI’s in his three-year career. He was named First Team All-NJAC, All-Mid-Atlantic Region, and Third Team All America. He ranks in the Top 20 in several MSU baseball statistics. He also excelled on the football field as a running back and kick returner as the Red Hawks earned three straight NJAC Championships.
Leroy Horn was recently inducted into Montclair State’s Hall of Fame. He remains active with baseball in Summit, coaching at all levels from Middle School to Junior Varsity.
Jim Jeskey played baseball, soccer and basketball at Panzer College before the school merged with Montclair State. He transferred to Seton Hall University and pitched for the Pirates in 1955 and 1956. His catcher was Mike Sheppard, who went on to coach Seton Hall baseball for years.
After a stint in the Army, Jim became assistant baseball coach at Union High School, where he stayed for 36 years, from 1963 through 1999. He also was the coach and player/manager of the semi-pro Livingston Giants in the prestigious Essex County Baseball League from 1969 to 1979, and he coached the Livingston American Legion teams from 1963 to 1968, and again in 1980.
Jim served as head soccer coach at Union High School from 1961 to 2008. He has 500 career wins, four Union County Conference Championships and 11 conference titles. The Union High School soccer field is named in his honor. During his varied athletic career, Jim coached the bowling team and varsity golf, and coached basketball at the junior varsity level. He also coached CYO baseball and basketball teams.
Jim Jeskey has finished a number of major running events including the Marine Corps Shore and the Boston Marathon. He has competed and won medals in ten National Senior Olympic Games.
Al Volpe has served the City of Linden since 1967, when he became Assistant Superintendent, and since 1976 as Superintendent of Linden Recreation. While he has made numerous contributions to all sports in Linden, his contributions to the baseball programs in Linden and Union County are particularly notable.
Al sponsored numerous free baseball clinics for players of all ages and co-sponsored clinics with Ed Flanagan of the Linden PAL that featured major league players and managers such as Jeff Torborg and Roy White. He sponsored teams in all age brackets of the Union County Summer and Fall Youth Baseball Leagues and sponsored three teams annually in the Tri-County League. In addition, he sponsored annual clinics for girls’ softball teams that featured college coaches.
During his tenure, Al Volpe oversaw the construction of one of the first lighted baseball facilities in the county and created a system of baseball fields available for schools, community groups and teams of all ages for practice and games. He also sponsored American Legion baseball teams at all levels, hosted numerous County and State American Legion Baseball tournaments and provided facilities for Union County and State High School tournaments.
Chris Zusi Memorial Award
Rob Smorol played four years of varsity baseball at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark, where he was selected to First Team All-Union County and Group 2 All State squads by the Star Ledger during his junior and senior years. He played for legendary coach Fred Hill for four years at Rutgers University, where he was one of the most accomplished left-handed pitchers in the school’s 144-year baseball history. Rob was a three-time All State selection and he ranks third in Rutgers career and single-season wins and in career strikeouts.
As a Rutgers senior, Rob received the 2013 Ron Kish Academic Award for having the highest GPA on the team. After graduation, he signed with the Boston Red Sox and began his professional career with their Gulf Coast League affiliate. He is the 66th Scarlet Knight to sign a major league contract during Coach Hill’s career. Rob’s success in his first season with the Gulf Coast Red Sox led to a late season promotion to the Greenville Drive, Boston’s Class A affiliate in the South Atlantic League.
Joseph Lombardi Memorial Award
Melissa Tobie of Elizabeth was a three-year starter at Roselle Catholic High School, where her 1,016 career points make her the third leading girls basketball scorer in school history. She finished her senior season averaging 19 points and more than eight rebounds per game and led Roselle Catholic to the school’s third straight Union County Tournament championship. Melissa was named Union County Player of the Year for 2010-11 by the Star-Ledger.
At Montclair State University, Melissa had outstanding freshman and sophomore years, starting every game of both basketball seasons. She averaged 18 points per game as a freshman. A year after she earned the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s Rookie-of-the-Year honor, Melissa was named Player of the Year by the league. She also collected her second All-America honor. Under the direction of Coach Karin Harvey, Melissa led the Red Hawks in scoring, free throws, assists and blocked shots. Now in her junior year, she has already reached the elite 1,000-point club for her MSU career.
Edward Cooper Memorial Award
Most Valuable Scholastic Baseball Player
Ryan Williamson had a stellar year leading Cranford High School to its second straight state crown, third in four years, and the Number One spot in the final Star-Ledger Top 20 of 2013. Ryan, a left-handed First Team, All-State selection, finished his senior year with an 11-0 record and a 0.56 ERA. He led the Cougars to every championship they could win – conference, sectional and state. He struck out 88 and walked 22 in 75 innings with a WHIP of 0.90.
When not pitching, Ryan played center field and finished with a .419 batting average with 11 doubles, two triples, 27 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .457. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 28th round of the Major League draft, but he is attending North Carolina State University on a baseball scholarship.
Banyasz Brothers Memorial Award
Most Valuable Scholastic Softball Player
Elena Scarano led the Westfield High School Blue Devil Softball Team in 2013 to its first Union County Tournament trophy since 1998. The right-handed pitcher struck out 121 batters and walked just 24 in 142 innings while recording a 1.82 ERA. Elena also had a good season at the plate, finishing with a .314 batting average, 26 hits, seven doubles, 17 RBI’s and 14 runs scored. She was named Union County Softball Player of 2013 by the Star-Ledger.
Under the direction of Coach Caitlin MacDonald, the Westfield Softball Team approaches the 2014 spring season with a talented roster that includes Elena Scarano, seven other seniors and two juniors – and likely will be a contender in Union County and throughout the state. In the “off season,” Elena is a four-year varsity volleyball player and captain of the Westfield team.