Rich Rinalli has dedicated a good portion of his life to Little League baseball.
“It started when my son [Rich, Jr.] was eight years old, playing in Lincoln Park Little League,” Rinalli said. “[Former Lincoln Park Little League president] Jerry Meyers asked me if I could umpire and I said, `Yeah, I can help.’”
That started a commitment that has lasted 17 years. Rinalli became friendly with another respected Little League umpire and administrator Tony Saltarelli.
“Salt told me that they were always looking for umpires,” said Rinalli, who like all other Little League umpires worked strictly as a volunteer. “Salt was like a mentor to me.”
Through his association with Saltarelli, Rinalli got his license to umpire both high school baseball and softball, while keeping his dedication to Little League.
For the last five years, Rinalli has been the umpire-in-chief for local District 7. He also hosts an annual Little League rules clinic, for both umpires and coaches.
“We try to do a good job of educating the coaches about the different rules,” Rinalli said.
But Rinalli had been making his mark in other tournaments on the state level.
In 2005, Rinalli worked the 10-year-old All-Star state championships in Elmwood Park. A year later, he was part of the umpiring crew that presided over the 12-year-old Little League state championships in Neptune.
In 2008 and 2009, Rinalli was selected to umpire in the junior region tournaments, working with the 13-to-14-year-old All-Stars.
In 2011, Rinalli was selected to umpire at the Big League World Series in Easley, S.C.
“I had a wonderful time there, working with some of the top baseball prospects in the country,” Rinalli said.
Now, beginning this weekend, Rinalli will get the chance of a lifetime.
The 57-year-old Rinalli has been selected to preside over the 12-year-old Little League East and Mid-Atlantic regional championships held in Bristol, Conn.
Rinalli had attended umpiring school in Bristol before, so he had a good relationship with the organizers there.
Rinalli put in an application to umpire at the region level last December.
“There are some 2,000 umpires who apply,” Rinalli said. “It’s not an easy process. They try to pick the people who are the most involved with Little League, the ones who contribute the most.”
Rinalli received word that he was selected to be among the 12 umpires at the Mid-Atlantic and East Regional in March. He will work every game of the tournament that began last Friday.
“I’m extremely excited,” Rinalli said. “It’s a great opportunity to work with such an organization that does a wonderful job in Bristol. I know the crowds will be big and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Rinalli was once the head wrestling coach at St. Peter’s Prep and served as an assistant coach there as well. He worked as a wrestling and football coach at Hudson Catholic and still referees wrestling matches.
But for one weekend, he’ll be one of the men in blue calling the shots on one of the biggest Little League stages.
“I don’t know if Williamsport [the Little League World Series] is in my horoscope,” Rinalli said. “Little League has certainly treated me well and I’m proud to be selected to go to this prime regional.”…
The Jersey City/Pershing Field RBI team recently won the 16-to-18-year-old Babe Ruth state championship and will head to the East Regional in Pottstown, Pennsylvania this weekend.
The team is coached by Ryan Houghton, who was just recently a player himself.
The 19-year-old Houghton, a Hoboken native who was part of the Jersey City Sharks program organized by the late Ed “The Faa” Ford, is only a year or so older than most of the players on the roster.
“It was a little different being a head coach at my age,” said Houghton. “But I was lucky to have two good friends with me.”
The assistant coaches are Duke McCourt of Hoboken and Angel Paulino of Jersey City, the former St. Mary’s standout now playing at New Jersey City University. Both McCourt and Paulino are 19 like Houghton. The other coach is Hoboken’s Michael Purvis, the former three-sport standout at Hoboken High, who was once part of the Hoboken Ambassador team that went to play baseball in Russia in the mid-1980s.
“There was a little bit of a question how the team would respond to me,” Houghton said. “But I’m just trying to coach like Mr. Ford and some of the other coaches I’ve had like Mr. [Mike] Hogan [of Ferris], Mr. [Buddy] Matthews [formerly of Hoboken] and Mr. [Pat] Laguerre [of St. Peter’s Prep]. I want to give back to the kids of Jersey City and Hudson County the way they did.”
Houghton is a student at Rutgers-Newark.
“But my playing days are over,” Houghton said. “I like coaching.”
Houghton has a fine pitching staff to bring to Pottstown, including 2013 Hudson Reporter Most Valuable Player Ryan O’Connor of St. Peter’s Prep, who got the win in the state championship game against Bloomfield.
Joe Calandro of St. Peter’s Prep and Steven Acosta of Memorial are two other pitchers that Houghton can count on.
The catcher is Jared Ensmenger, who plays at Sussex County Community College. Will Clancy of Prep is the first baseman, with Matt Salotico of Hudson Catholic at second. Isaiah Mateo of Hoboken is the shortstop, with Carlos “Pepe” Olivo of Union City at third.
In the outfield, Jose Palonco of Union City is the left fielder, with Sean Pagan of North Bergen in right field and Shane Brown of North Hunterdon in center.
“We have a good chance to win because of our pitching,” Houghton said. “I’m absolutely thrilled we got this far. I actually like coaching a lot and it helps that we’re winning and we have a good team. I definitely this is a good first step for me.” …
EXTRA INNINGS focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area, from Little League action through travel leagues.
If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by phone at (201) 303-5792, by general mail at 1400 Washington Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.The e-mail would be the best way of getting in touch.
Please include a telephone contact name and number, in order to secure further information for a possible story. Also, if you have a picture to be used with the story, that would be a great help….--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.