Some good-natured ribbing harkened back to days gone by for two former Saint Leo baseball players who struck it big in the major leagues.
J.P. Ricciardi, the Toronto Blue Jays' general manager, and 10-year major-league veteran Jim Corsi traded barbs March 21 during the 16th annual Saint Leo Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the McDonald Center on campus.
Ricciardi teased Corsi about his weight gain since retirement and exuberant personality, saying, "This guy makes Dick Vitale look like he's sleeping."
Corsi shot back, targeting Ricciardi's nose and Italian heritage before saying, "I'm going to ask him about a job."
On a more serious note, Ricciardi called baseball teammate Jim D'Aloia "the best player on our team."
D'Aloia, among seven inductees, was a middle infielder who batted better than .300 for four years and spent three seasons in the minors.
Softball player Kelly Bowe and basketball player Shawn Jennett also were inducted in Saint Leo's largest class (six members were inducted in 1990 and 1991).
Bowe and Jennett, as well as the baseball trio, attended Saint Leo College before it became a university in 1999.
Two others, Joe Mason Sr. and Fred Rust Jr., were inducted from the Saint Leo Preparatory School (the school became Saint Leo College in 1959).
"Who would think, at the age of 70, I would be standing here at Saint Leo accepting this award," said Mason, a tri-sport athlete and class president. "All I did was have fun and try to be competitive. Today, that joy came back."
Rust, who set a state shot put record, came to Saint Leo after a sister and aunt drowned.
The monks, Rust said, "taught me how to deal with life ... they taught us to be men."
Ricciardi echoed a similar refrain in discussing former baseball coach Jack Gillis, who guided the 1978 team to the NCAA tournament and a 26-15 record.
"(Gillis) made Bobby Knight look like a choir boy," Ricciardi said. "He would do things you can't get away with today, but he made us men."
Jennett said he learned perseverance at Saint Leo.
"Whatever goals you set for yourself you can achieve," said Jennett, the school's career free-throw leader (431). "I came here without a scholarship, saying to myself that I was going to make this team."
Corsi offered some advice for current Saint Leo athletes, many of who attended Friday's ceremony.
"Don't take things for granted," he said. "It goes by fast."
ALUMNI GAMES: As part of the March 21-23 festivities, alumni soccer and baseball games were scheduled but a March 23 baseball game was rained out. In the March 22 soccer game, Tony Rossi scored twice in leading the current team to a 4-1 win over the alumni.
LATE HONOR: John Kozak, a Saint Leo outfielder and 1982 graduate who never received his Academic All-American award from 1982, finally got it during Friday's ceremony.
The school's sports information director, Walt Riddle, looked into the oversight after Kozak mentioned it during last year's 20th class reunion.
"I didn't want to take away from these guys' night," Kozak said after hugging his former teammates. "It was a very tight-knit group."
HALL'S NEW MEMBERS
The 16th annual Saint Leo Athletic Hall of Fame inductees:
All-Sunshine State Conference shortstop for four seasons, All-South Region as a senior.
Team's career leader in batting average (.414), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.626), at-bats (647), hits (268), runs (180), triples (39) and stolen bases (69); second in RBIs (185) and doubles (47).
SSC leader in career triples and single-season triples (12); third in conference in career hits and doubles. Owns Division II record for career triples.
Made SSC Commissioner's Honor Roll three times and Dean's List three times.
Saint Leo pitcher for three years, went 7-2 with a 2.69 ERA as a junior.
Drafted by the Yankees after junior year and spent 16 seasons in professional baseball, 10 in the majors with the Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, Florida Marlins, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
In 369 major-league games, went 22-24 with a 3.25 ERA and seven saves. Struck out 290 in 481.1 innings.
Did not allow a run in five postseason games (Oakland, 1992; Boston, 1998).
A second baseman as a freshman and three-year shortstop, ranks third in career hits (230), fourth in runs scored (159), fifth in stolen bases (84). Batted over .300 all four years, including .392 as a senior.
Led SSC in hits (71) and runs scored (49) as a senior.
Two-time All-SSC player.
Graduated magna cum laude with a 3.67 GPA.
Drafted by the New York Yankees and played three years in minors.
Team's career leader in free throws made (431), third in points scored (1,693, fourth in field goals made (610), fifth in single-season points (551) and free-throw percentage (.763).
Tenth in SSC in career free throws made.
Two-time All-SSC player.
Joe E. Mason Sr.
Track, Basketball, Football (1946-51)
Set state records in 110-yard hurdles (15.1 seconds) and 180-high hurdles (20.2) in 1951.
Voted most athletic student-athlete, class president and honor roll student.
A starting second baseman for three years, he batted .300 twice including .353 as a junior.
Signed with the New York Mets and played two years in the minors.
Minor league coach in the Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers organizations before working as a scout and in the front office for Oakland.
General manager and senior vice president for the Toronto Blue Jays since 2001.
Coached Holy Name High basketball team in Worcester, Mass. to three state finals.
Fred Rust Jr.
Track, Football, Baseball, Basketball (1948-54)
Set state shot put record of 47 feet, 93/4 inches in 1954.
Center in football for four seasons, co-captain for two.
Class officer and honor roll student, initial recipient of Service to Saint Leo award.
- Compiled by Steve Lee.
[Last modified April 18, 2003, 13:16:54]
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