Tag: south windsor

May 25th Opening Day at Muzzy Field

On Tuesday, May 25th, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League will host Opening Day of the 2021 Regular Season at Muzzy Field in Bristol, Connecticut. A doubleheader will be played hosted by the Bristol Greeners, the GHTBL’s newest expansion franchise.

At 6 PM, the Greeners will take on the Hartford Colts, the other expansion franchise to join the league this summer. Then at 8 PM, the Greeners will welcome the 2020 Regular Season title winning South Windsor Phillies. Fans will be allowed to attend the games.

The league’s full schedule will be published in early May. More announcements are forthcoming regarding our 2021 fundraising events. The GHTBL invites you to support our mission, to promote and preserve the game of baseball, while giving back to the local community.

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.

South Windsor Captures Regular Season Title

Ron Pizzanello and the fightin’ Phillies clinch 1st place.

The South Windsor Phillies defeated the Vernon Orioles on Thursday, August 6th and captured the 2020 Regular Season Title.  In 2018, the Phillies pressed the reset button on a Twilight franchise in South Windsor. It only took 3 seasons for the club to achieve a pennant. Over our 12-game season, the Phils relied on the slugging of Mike Lisinicchia, Brody Labbe and Jordan Zima and solid pitching from Trevor Moulton and Andre Jose.

Trevor Moulton, Pitcher, South Windsor Phillies.

Ron Pizzanello, former catcher in the GHTBL and professional player in the Italian Baseball League, recruited and managed the South Windsor Phillies to victory. This is Ron’s third year as manager. By leading the Phillies and by overcoming health complications, Ron continues to prove that, with grit and passion, any goal is achievable.

Ron Pizzanello, Manager, South Windsor Phillies.

The GHTBL Executive Committee thanks and recognizes Tony Desmond (1944-2020) and Gary Burnham Jr. for supporting the South Windsor franchise for many years. Congratulations to the South Windsor Phillies on their success as they proceed to the 2020 Playoff Tournament starting Sunday, August 9th at various sites.  Will the Phillies win both championship titles this summer? We shall see. Stay tuned! 

Pizzanello’s Return, a Life-changing Experience

Ron Pizzanello is manager of the South Windsor Phillies.

Magical things sometimes happen on and around the baseball field, and one need look no further than the South Windsor Phillies dugout to be reminded of this.

Ron Pizzanello, in his second year as coach after a reluctant return to a sport he left years ago, calls the shots there. He makes the lineup with players he recruited to this Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League team. He argues with the umpires. This is where he comes and this is what he does to feel whole again.

“I don’t know what I’d do without baseball,” Pizzanello said.

About four years ago, with Type-1 diabetes wreaking havoc on his circulatory system, Pizzanello started having body parts removed. His left leg was amputated below the knee in 2015, and above the knee in 2016. Doctors took his right leg below the knee in 2017.

Ron Pizzanello, Manager, South Windsor Phillies, 2018.
(Photographer: Johnathon Henninger / Special to the Courant)

Pizzanello, a Hartford native who was a feisty catcher under Bill Holowaty at Eastern Connecticut before graduating in 1976, lost equally meaningful parts of himself through years of debilitating health, too — some pride, some purpose, a whole lot of confidence. He became depressed.

But what Pizzanello has gotten out of a return to baseball, with a nudge from Holowaty, speaks to the power of feeling included, the power of sport, the power of having someone believe in you, the power of human connection and common goals.

Pizzanello, prosthetic legs and wheelchair and all, is just another guy spending a few evenings a week on the dusty diamonds of central Connecticut, again just one of the boys.

“When you wake up in the morning and you know you have something to do, it’s good,” said Holowaty, who won 1,404 games and four national championships in 45 years at Eastern and is now the GHTBL president. “It makes your life a lot better. True or false? That’s what it’s doing for him, and I just feel delighted.”

South Windsor Phillies at Rotary Field, South Windsor, Connecticut.
(Photographer: Johnathon Henninger / Special to the Courant)

Holowaty hadn’t spoken much to Pizzanello, now of Eastford, over the years but kept up with his story, which included Pizzanello’s year as a professional baseball player in Italy just after graduating from college. He arrived at 195 pounds and left at 128 pounds.

He couldn’t figure out what was happening to his body. His father came for a visit and said it must be diabetes. People in Italy suggested the same. Pizzanello didn’t want to hear it.

“I was playing like crap, and that’s what really ticked me off,” Pizzanello said. “I was 22, and you don’t get diabetes at 22, but I had all the symptoms. I was eating like a horse and losing weight. My dad said he wanted me to return home. I said, ‘Dad, we’re one game out of first place and there’s a $15,000 bonus if we win the championship.’”

Pizzanello, now 64, stuck it out as long as he could.

Pizzanello fills out his scorebook, South Windsor, 2018.
(Photographer: Johnathon Henninger / Special to the Courant)

“We’d go to the best restaurant in town and I’d have a big dish of pasta,” he said. “They called it rigatoni abbondante. That means a lot. I’d eat the whole thing by myself. I’d have a steak or a fish. I’d have some kind of dessert. On the way home, I’d stop and get a big bottle of Coke. I’d have an ice cream.”

When Pizzanello returned to Connecticut he said his blood sugar was over 800 and doctors wondered how he was still alive. He began to properly manage his health and went about a relatively normal life. His first marriage lasted 28 years, and he is a father of three. He was a good player for years in the Twilight league for the Vernon Orioles, the team he coached against last week, until a case of frozen shoulder — people with diabetes are particularly susceptible — made it impossible for him to keep catching.

“I couldn’t hit, anyway, so if I couldn’t catch, I was done,” he said.

Pizzanello, who remarried last year, laughed. He has a lot to laugh about these days. There’s a joy in his voice, even when retracing the obstacles diabetes has produced since he stopped playing in 1990. He spent much of the next 10 years coaching American Legion ball while working as a mainframe system programmer for The Hartford and later IBM. He had a heart attack nearly 15 years ago and has a defibrillator. He had a kidney removed.

Eventually, Pizzanello’s legs were so damaged that blood wasn’t reaching his feet unless he stood, and it was impossible to sleep through agonizing pain. His prosthetic legs — one of which he goes without, occasionally, for fear of a skin infection — are emblazoned with Red Sox logos.

Baseball was always on his mind and in his heart. He didn’t think it was in his future. But Holowaty called last summer, urging him to coach the South Windsor team with the help of Gary Burnham.

“I said ‘Coach, I don’t know,’” Pizzanello said. “I could barely walk. I couldn’t hit a fungo, couldn’t do any of that stuff. And I was in the stages of depression.”

Manager Ron Pizzanello and the South Windsor Phillies, 2018.
(Photographer: Johnathon Henninger / Special to the Courant)

Holowaty kept on his former player, wouldn’t let Pizzanello accept limitations. Pizzanello’s return would be good for Pizzanello and good for a league that is always looking for tough, serious, knowledgeable baseball people.

That’s Pizzanello — tough guy, always, and a baseball guy again.

“It was probably the best decision I’ve made,” Pizzanello said. “I just got so into it. It changed my whole demeanor, everything. I had a lot of fun. Just being part of this has done wonders for me. You wouldn’t believe how much this means to me.”


Story printed in the Hartford Courant: https://www.courant.com/sports/hc-sp-greater-hartford-twilight-baseball-ron-pizzanello-column-20190612-ysxrs5ynhraspcvdnprdwmspju-story.html
 

Article written by Mike Anthony
Mike Anthony

Mike Anthony was named The Courant’s sports columnist in May 2018. He has written about the state’s most prominent athletic programs, including the UConn men’s basketball beat from ’05-11. After a five-year period focused on feature writing, Mike spent two years on the UConn football beat. He also covered the ’17-18 UConn women’s basketball season.

Expansion Announced: South Windsor Phillies

South Windsor Phillies to be 8th GHTBL franchise.

On behalf of the GHTBL, I am pleased to announce the addition of another franchise into our historic baseball league. The league is excited to welcome a South Windsor franchise back to the GHTBL. A team called Mr. G’s of South Windsor last played twilight baseball in 2006.

Now the league an eighth team in the South Windsor Phillies and will be led by a former professional player and longtime GHTBL player and contributor, Gary Burnham Jr.  Gary’s hails from South Windsor, and is one of the best hitters to ever come out of the Greater Hartford area. 

Burnham is a minor league Hall of Fame inductee (Reading Phillies) and will be general manager of the South Windsor franchise. Gary played AAA baseball in four different organizations before signing to play Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. His brother Brett Burnham also played GHTBL and minor league baseball with the San Diego Padres after an outstanding collegiate career at Auburn University and the University of Connecticut.

Gary Burnham Jr. Reading Phillies, Eastern League (AA).

Manager of the South Windsor Phillies will be Ron Pizzanello. He is a GHTBL alumnus and a former catcher who played professional baseball in Italy. Pizzanello will bring his experience and his passion (big Red Sox fan) for the game to the league. We are lucky to have him.

Ron Pizzanello featured in Hartford Courant, 1971.

League Notes:

1st Annual GHTBL Golf Tournament & Awards Banquet on Sunday, May 6, 2018.