Community Icons Honored for Dedication at Inaugural Malden Baseball Legacy Hall of Fame

Baseball in Malden nowadays is something that many residents often overlook. Malden has had a 100+ year history of Little League, Babe Ruth, and high school baseball teams: players that have significantly contributed to the city's culture. As years go on, people may forget about names that mean so much. However, the baseball community in Malden has not forgotten any of its figures which gave it such a rich history. 

Steve Freker, who is the president of the Golden Tornado Club, baseball head coach, and a legend in the baseball world of Malden and New England, decided to create the Malden Baseball Legacy Hall of Fame. Freker aimed to create something that would honor those who “contributed a great deal of their time and effort” in service to the city of Malden. Freker claimed that in doing so, these individuals “positively promote and make an impact on the sport of baseball,” which in turn “promotes players and families that participated in baseball.”

The inaugural ceremony of this Hall of Fame was held on Thursday, March 7th at the Malden Moose Hall. In this first class of inductees were some of the biggest names in the history of baseball for Malden. The inaugural class includes Bob Rotondi, Shawn Brickman, Joe Caraco Sr., Kenny Mazonson, Deano Summers, Sal Turilli, and Peal and Perry Verge Sr. See the image below for their accolades and achievements.

The aforementioned Brickman, who is regarded as one of the best athletes to ever walk through the doors of Malden High, was honored at this event. Brickman is known best for his time playing at Malden High but he also played wide receiver in football as well as baseball at Northeastern University, where he holds a record for pitching with a record of 11-1. Brickman ended up coaching at Malden High for several years with current Head Coach Steve Freker. Freker, before introducing Brickman, noted him as his “best friend”; the two have formed a strong bond over the years of dedication to baseball in Malden. Freker remarked that during his time coaching, Brickman “brought a whole new level” of expertise to the coaching staff and that he was a “premier athlete” in three sports during his time at Malden High. Brickman played baseball, basketball, and football while he was a student at MHS.

Freker put it in simple words that Brickman was an extremely “tough” athlete. He explained that Brickman coaching at the young age of 25 was “unheard of” and that the coaching tandem “expected to win” every single time they went out there.  They made the state tournament several years in a row and had three players drafted to the pros with two of them pitching in the major leagues before that Brickman was one of the only players to ever play college baseball coming from Malden High.

Brickman concluded that he was “extremely proud to have been inducted” with his “fellow great deserving inductees.” However, Brickman was most proud that he was able to “share this moment” with his family and stressed just the immense amount of love he has for his family. “I can’t explain how great that feeling was! I love my family so much!” Brickman exclaimed. As one may notice, the baseball community reaches far beyond the players as familial friendships are bonded for decades of supporting their players. 

Brickman also firmly stated that the best moment in his career was when he was hired as the Head Coach of Baseball at MHS; Brickman attributes all of his success to “all of the great coaches, teammates, and players,” as he has been “fortunate and privileged to play with, play for and coach.” He also mentioned that he always tried to be positive and strived to be a great “teammate, coach, and friend” to all involved throughout his career.

Another one of the inductees is longtime Babe Ruth coach Deano Summers. Deano, who has coached since he was in his 20s, has dedicated countless hours to the Malden Babe Ruth league. Currently, he is the head coach of the Flames, which he is so proud of. Summers has won two of the last three City Series championships for Babe Ruth. Not just Deano, but also his former players are happy to have been part of the “tradition” of being a Flame, as Summers described it. Former Flame, Sean Hudson at MHS professed that he was “so grateful to have been coached by Deano” and that he is “proud to be a Flame.”

Summers who has dedicated 36 years of service was happy to have been inducted and he observed that “all of the inductees share the same passion for baseball in Malden.” Summers is most proud of having had the opportunity of coaching his two sons Nick and Jacky, explaining, “It was so much fun going to the park and watching them play.” Summers views the purpose of the Babe Ruth League as to “prepare players for the next level” of baseball.  He loved “watching the players grow as athletes” as well as seeing players become Varsity baseball players by the time they graduated Babe Ruth. Summers can thank his drive for coaching from his Mother: “My mother told me as a young man if you want to be a part of your community, get involved with the youth. I started coaching in 1989 and have not stopped ” explained Summers. Since beginning coaching in 1989, Summers has coached basketball and hockey in addition to his impressive baseball coaching campaign.

Left to right: Deano Summers, Kenny Mazonson, and Felice D'Anna at the Hall of Fame banquet. Photo Submitted by Deano Summers

Finally, any mention of baseball in Malden absolutely cannot go without the talk of a legend. Bob Rotondi is an iconic figure in the community of baseball in Malden. Turning 85 this month, Rotondi has coached for nearly 70 years, since his teen years. Rotondi is not only well-respected, but he is a wonderful human being and an absolute pleasure and honor to speak to. Rotondi has committed his entire life to the Malden Babe Ruth League and helping grow the game of baseball for Malden. Over the years, he has seen hundreds of players come and go and watched as the game evolved at a youth level right before his eyes. Rotondi has been honored many times and this is the fourth hall of fame he has been honored in. He has now been inducted into the Massachusetts Babe Ruth League Hall of Fame, the Malden Golden Tornadoes Hall of Fame, the Greater Boston CYO Hall of Fame for Hockey, and now finally the Malden Baseball Legacy Hall of Fame. 

Rotondi explained that it was a “great honor” to be inducted and it is “probably the most important” of his four times being honored in a Hall of Fame because it makes him feel “well-received” in his own hometown. Despite having decades of experiences to choose from, Rotondi pointed out that the 1960s were some of his favorite and his best years of success. Best known for his success in the Babe Ruth League, he noted  “In 1962 I had the first central league team to win the city series.” In 1963 he coached the Central League All-Star team and went to the state finals  which “was the farthest any Malden team has ever gone.” Right after this, he went to coach the team that he still coaches, the Knights, and won four straight City Series titles. Rotondi also recognized that there were once 23 teams in the Babe Ruth League and they are now at five. There are some new challenges that come with this. He remarked, “Families are not having as many kids anymore, so it’s a little harder to get so many to sign up.” He followed with, “A large percentage of the kids we're coaching are basically just starting so it's like it's a little tougher to get a team together.” However, one thing that Rotondi loves to see is the influx of first-time baseball players. Rotondi noted that he has had players from “China, Haiti, Bangladesh, and Nigeria” in recent years.

Bob Rotondi on the bench which was dedicated to his sister at Pine Banks Park. Photo taken from @mayorofmalden on Instagram

Obviously, with Rotondi coaching for this many decades, there is no secret that he has a true love for the sport and carrying it on to new generations. Rotondi was a baseball player himself and even attended a rookie camp for the Washington Senators, however, his coaching career did begin after his playing career. Rotondi commented,  “I love this sport, and I love teaching it. I look at it like a subject in school that had to be taught.” He is enchanted by the “intricacies and all of the work that goes into molding a team, to prove myself and parents and players.” It is agreed upon by many that Bob Rotondi is a legend for Babe Ruth baseball in Malden, Massachusetts, and New England.

As we move our glance from the past to the present and beyond, some may notice that participation-wise there has been a decline in numbers for baseball in Malden. Recently, thanks to new coaches putting in their own volunteer hours and starting their own coaching legacies, there has been an uptick in participation. A new team will be added to the Babe Ruth League this year, and slowly but surely kids are starting to gravitate back towards baseball. Bob Rotondi believes that Steve Freker is “the heart and soul of the game” right now for the city. He also recognized that with “new stars in the MLB, kids are beginning to look up to them more.” Freker, on the same subject, believes that the key to keeping the future intact for baseball needs things like this Legacy Hall Of Fame. Keeping the community together and “connecting the past with the present as we did with current and old players” is what Freker’s aims with events like these. Freker also firmly stated that “people being honored” like they were at this event motivates coaches to stay with it.

The mayor with the Hall of Fame inductees. Photo taken from @mayorofmalden on Instagram

Deano Summers and Shawn Brickman have very similar views to both of these men, with Deano Summers demonstrating that all three leagues in the city need to “work together and share a common goal ” that being the “growth of baseball in our city.” Brickman put it simply, as the key to growth was to “allow any kids who want to play, to play so that they can get the experience of how great it is to play baseball in Malden.” With the support of local icons like these, there is only one way to explain the state of Malden baseball right now, which is the city’s slogan: “Strong Past, Proud Future”

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