Local Sluggers Hit the Mark
Fairfield AMerican Little Leaguers Win Big
What does Connecticut have in common with New Jersey and Pennsylvania? Each of these northeastern states has won four Little League World Series titles at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, trailing only California’s win of seven.
“It’s amazing that this little state has done so well in Little League on a national level,” said Matt McGuire, who is in his second and final year as president of the Fairfield American Little League. Indeed, Fairfield American’s District team has upheld Connecticut’s lofty standing in recent summers, advancing to the Little League World Series this past summer as well as in 2010 and 2012. This 2017 squad, guided by manager Mike Randazzo and coaches Wayne Righter and Jorge Rivera, won three of five games in Williamsport to finish third in the U.S. and fifth in the world.
“Our only two losses this season were to Lufkin, Texas, which won the U.S. title and lost to Tokyo, Japan in the world championship,” explains Randazzo. “We had a group of kids who had never won a tournament as a district team, and I think we surprised everyone this year—except maybe the players themselves. They thought we could win the whole thing.”
Fairfield entered the Little League World Series with an unsullied 18-0 record, sweeping its opponents in District 2, the sectionals, state tournament and New England Regional. This is not to suggest there wasn’t a close call or two. Randazzo: “In the second game
of the state tournament, we were losing to Newington in the bottom of the sixth inning, but we came back to win it, 5-4, on a walk-off two-run double by Owen Kalagher.”
In its third game of the World Series, Fairfield trailed Walla Walla, Washington, 5-2, but erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning and went on to prevail, 14-6. “Christian Smith hit a three-run homer to tie it.” When the team returned home from Williamsport on August 25, a crowd of more than 400 gathered on Sherman Green to witness the ceremony marking the boys’ accomplishments. First Selectman Mike Tetreau presented them the key to the town and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal offered words of praise.
Randazzo, who earns his livelihood as an investment strategist with White Plains-based Pentegra, has a lifelong passion for the game. A star outfielder at Norwalk High School, he was among a trio of Norwalk city athletes recruited by Seton Hall, joining first baseman Mo Vaughn—the future American League MVP—and pitcher Kevin Morton at the New Jersey school.
Both Vaughn and Morton advanced to the Boston Red Sox, but Randazzo went undrafted and played one summer for the Chicago White Sox’s farm team in the Class-A New York-Penn League. “For about twenty minutes,” he grins. Baseball is ingrained in the Randazzo family. Mike Jr., the eldest of Mike and Lisa’s two sons, played for his dad on the 2013 Fairfield American District team and is now a senior left-handed pitcher at Fairfield Ludlowe. He’s headed to Bryant College in the fall. Leo, 12, the third baseman on Randazzo’s 2017 New England championship squad, is an eighth grader at Roger Ludlowe Middle School.
How does one account for Fairfield American’s consistency during this decade?
“Like a lot of Little Leagues, there is tremendous dedication by the kids. They love the game,” explains McGuire. “Success breeds success. For those of us who are involved, we know how special it is.”
McGuire points out that 600 kids plus participated in all levels of Fairfield American play this past year, encompassing the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Fairfield National, the town’s other league, fielded nearly as many players. Randazzo goes a step further, stating, “We’re blessed with very good players and their families are very much involved. They make sure their boys play travel ball. They give up their summer; they can’t even book a vacation. They miss a lot of work and they miss things their other children are involved in.” But the dedication surely pays off.
CT WINS Senator Blumenthal welcomes the team to Sherman Green along with First Selectman Tetreau.