Tag: gary burnham

Ron Pizzanello, A Baseball Life

In 1977, former star catcher at Bulkeley High School and Eastern Connecticut State University, Ron Pizzanello, signed a professional baseball contract. He did so with the Colombo Nettuno team of the Italian Baseball League (now known as Serie A1). At the time of his signing, Pizzanello played for the Vernon Orioles of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League managed by Frank McCoy. After playing in Italy, he returned to the Vernon Orioles franchise as the team’s backstop.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1977.
Ron Pizzanello (#12) and Colombo Nettuno teammates, 1977.
Ron Pizzanello, Catcher, Vernon Orioles, 1985.
Hartford Courant excerpt, June 12, 1987.

After a battle with diabetes that claimed both of his lower legs, Pizzanello has persevered. He was a successful American Legion baseball for South Windsor in the 1990’s and 2000’s. In 2018, Pizzanello came back to the GHTBL as manager of the South Windsor Phillies franchise. Also supporting the team with Pizzanello is Reading Phillies Hall of Fame inductee, Gary Burnham Jr who serves as the team’s General Manager. The team’s sponsor is Tony Desmond of Allstate Insurance – South Windsor.

Diabetes forces Pizzanello to end his playing career, 1990.
2018 South Windsor Phillies

GHTBL Career

  • West Hartford Merchants, 1974
  • Vernon Orioles, 1975
  • East Hartford Merchants, 1976
  • Vernon Orioles, 1978 – 1989
  • South Windsor Phillies (Manager), 2018 – present
Ron Pizzanello, Manager, South Windsor Phillies, 2019.
Ron Pizzanello, Manager, South Windsor Phillies, 2019.

Awards & Accomplishments

  • Little League Connecticut State Champions, Hartford All Stars
  • All City Baseball Catcher, Bulkeley High School, 1971-72
  • All Conference, Bulkeley High School, 1971-72
  • Captain Bulkeley Varsity Baseball
  • All-Conference Wrestler, Second Team
  • Received a degree from Eastern Connecticut State University
  • Starting varsity catcher, ECSU Baseball, 1974-76
  • Elected Captain, ECSU Baseball, 1976
  • All-New England Second Team Catcher, ECSU Baseball, 1976
  • Inducted into the Bulkeley High School Hall of Fame, 2017
  • 2020 GHTBL Regular Season Title
GHTBL meeting with Ron Pizzanello (standing, right), 2018.

World Series Club Features Bobby Valentine

Bobby V reminiscences about baseball in West Hartford.

Stamford, Connecticut, native Bobby Valentine has not been following baseball as much this past couple of months due to his nonstop busy schedule, however, he made time to visit West Hartford to speak to the World Series Club about the common passion everyone in the room shares: baseball.

“This is the baseball time of the year. Some people here love the sport of baseball and they asked if I can come up and I said absolutely. For a free meal I’d do anything,” Valentine said with a grin. “I just wanted to get into the game with the crowd and answer their questions about what we all love and it’s the game of baseball.”

Valentine, 67, was introduced by his former player, Gary Burnham Jr., who played under Valentine in 2009 in Japan. To this day, both men remain close and, for Burnham, it was a no-brainer to introduce his former manager.

“I built a great relationship with him and now he’s just really a great friend,” Burnham said. “I am just super happy to be here and it’s an honor for me to introduce such a great guy.”

This is not the first time Valentine has spoken to the organization; he has made two prior visits in the 1970s and ’80s. However, baseball was different then and he is intrigued to see the new direction MLB is taking with the implementation rules to speed up place.

“I think the game should be quicker,” Valentine said. “You know all these mound visits are probably going to be the things of the past and all we have to do is have the younger generation understand the competition.”

Valentine says during his managing career, he did not believe in mound visits and had his pitching coach go to the mound to speak to his pitchers. If Valentine had to count, he says he probably made 10 mound visits during his professional managerial career.

Valentine, like other baseball junkies, is also looking forward to the new Yankees slugging tandem of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and the potential of what the two sluggers can produce. The Connecticut native also expects the new Yankee skipper Aaron Boone, who he worked with for two years at ESPN, to excel under pressure in New York.

On the other side of the Boston/New York rivalry, Valentine expressed mixed feelings on the Red Sox signing J.D. Martinez.

“Well, I think if he is healthy, he is the necessary piece to that puzzle. I think if he was left-handed he’d fit a lot better than him being right-handed,” Valentine said.

For Len Montanari, who has been a member of the World Series Club for 15 years, said it was a treat for people like Valentine to come to their meetings and reveal the insights of the shenanigans that happened behind the closed doors.

“For a baseball fan in the winter, it is like going through withdrawal,” Montanari said. “(Valentine) is a very colorful guy and he has an extraordinary history. He was fired by George Bush while at Texas, its fun to hear the backstory about things like that.” 

Although Valentine’s passion for baseball continues, he remains focused on his tenure as Athletic Director at Sacred Heart University.

– Written by Kimberly Pena, Hartford Courant

League Notes

– Gary Burnham Jr. is now the GM of the newest team in the GHTBL, the South Windsor Phillies and the league is ecstatic to have him involved. Gary owns a property management business and has a family of five of his own who live in South Windsor.

– Special thanks from the GHTBL goes out to the Worlds Series Club, especially to Tim Brennan, his family and the Montanari Family.