Rutherford Little Leaguers in the Pros

Seven former Rutherford Little Leaguers have made it to the major leagues.

Bill Hands (Rotary 1952) went 4-1 for his regular-season team, striking out 64. After a fine career at Rutherford High School (class of 1958), he was signed by the San Francisco Giants. He worked his way through their chain, making the Show in 1965. Later, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he went on to a 20-win season in 1969 and helped his club to a second-place finish behind New York in the National League East. After pitching for two seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Hands retired after the 1975 season with the Texas Rangers, having compiled a career record of 111-110. Hands, a longtime resident of Southold on eastern Long Island, died in 2017 at age 76.

Brant Alyea (Rotary 1953) played in the league’s longest game, a 3-2 tournament victory in 17 innings, July 27 and 28, 1953. He went on to be a three-sport athlete for Rutherford High, graduating in 1958. In 1965, he earned himself a permanent place in The Sporting News Baseball Record Book when, in his first plate appearance for the Washington Senators, he knocked the first pitch he saw out of the park. He lasted seven more years in the majors as a utility player for the Senators and, later, the Twins. Here is another anecdote about Alyea's playing career.

Pat Pacillo (Critchley Candy 1975) got no decision in both of his 1975 Town Series appearances, as his club lost each game to Flash Cleaners in extra innings. After his graduation from Rutherford High in 1981, he attended Seton Hall University for three years, making his mark as both a pitcher and outfielder. He was selected to the 1984 U.S. Olympic squad as a pitcher, and he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds the same year. He made his first appearance for the Reds in 1987. He retired from baseball following the 1990 season, which he spent at Calgary of the Pacific Coast League. His career major-league mark was 4-3.

Bobby Jones (Park Exxon 1984) struck out 100 batters as a 12-year-old. He went on to pitch for Rutherford High (class of 1990) as well as playing some basketball there. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers after one year of junior college, and then moved to the Colorado Rockies organization after the 1994 season. On 18-May-1997, Jones made his big-league debut pitching at nearby Shea Stadium against his boyhood team, the New York Mets. He later spent time with the Mets from 2000 to 2002, and he appeared briefly with the Boston Red Sox during their 2004 championship season. He was named manager of the independent Sussex County Miners for 2016.

Jack Egbert (Kurgan-Bergen Realtors 1995) appeared in 14 games as a pitcher during his 12-year-old season. He went on to back-to-back 10-victory seasons at Rutherford HS, 2000 and 2001, and then won 18 games over three years at Rutgers University before being selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 13th round of the 2004 First-Year Draft. Following a successful climb through the White Sox system as a starting pitcher, he went to the bullpen at the start of 2009, and he made his MLB debut 21-Apr-2009 at Camden Yards in Baltimore as a reliever. At the end of the 2009 season, the New York Mets claimed Egbert off waivers. He underwent elbow surgery, but came back to make one relief appearance for the Mets on Memorial Day 2012 before retiring from baseball at season’s end.

Vin Mazzaro (Lions 1999) holds the Rutherford Little League records for victories in a season, with 10, and for strikeouts in a career, with 310. He pitched the Rutherford Bulldogs to NJSIAA Group 2 state championship victories in 2004 and 2005, and he was a third-round selection of the Oakland Athletics in the 2005 MLB First-Year Draft. Mazzaro made his professional debut in 2006 and came into full bloom at Midland in 2008, where he went 12-3 and was the Texas League Pitcher of the Year. He finished that year and started 2009 at Sacramento, and he made it to The Show 2-Jun-2009, starting against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Following a brief stint in Sacramento early in the 2010 season, he returned to the A’s and had a 5-2 record shortly after the All-Star break. He then spent 2011 and 2012 with the Kansas City Royals, working mainly out of the bullpen, before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for 2013, where he retired all five batters he faced in three playoff relief appearances.

Frank Herrmann (Rotary 1996) set a Rutherford Little League record for career base hits, with 95. Following a three-sport high school career at Montclair Kimberley Academy, he went on to pitch for three seasons at Harvard University. He signed with the Cleveland Indians as an undrafted free agent late in the summer of 2005, and came up through the Tribe’s farm system as a starter through 2008. He was moved up to the Indians’ top farm team in Columbus in 2009 and moved to the bullpen, from which he made his Major League debut 4-Jun-2010 and retired all four batters he faced. He split 2011 and 2012 between the Indians and their Triple-A club at Columbus, but spent the 2013 season on the disabled list.

In recent years, quite a few former Rutherford Little Leaguers have played professional baseball as part of Major League organizations, and some have stayed involved beyond their playing days. Henry Manning managed the independent Johnstown Johnnies before becoming the head coach at Pace University, while Rob Walton moved directly into the college coaching ranks, serving as head coach at Oral Roberts and Oklahoma State. Isaac Pavlik went on to become the pitching coach for the independent New Jersey Jackals. Other former Minor League players include Steve Dembowski, Richie Embser, J.R. Ferretti, Dan Mahony, Bob Slomkowski, and Jim Wladyka. Jason Kane also played pro ball, in the independent Frontier League. While they never played professionally, John Wilson and Sean Rooney stayed active in the sport by becoming scouts for Major League Baseball teams.

A select few former Rutherford Little Leaguers have enjoyed success in professional football as well. Stan Walters (Legion 1960) spent a decade as a lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles, while J.D. Maarleveld (Flash 1974) went from the University of Maryland to the offensive line of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In April 2010, Corey Wootton (Fire 1999) was drafted by the Chicago Bears out of Northwestern as a defensive end; his first NFL sack, in December 2011, was the last play of quarterback Brett Favre’s career.

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