Napoli among four chosen for CR Baseball Hall of Fame

Veteran MLB catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli and former MLB pitcher Joe Sambito are among those who will be inducted into the Cedar Rapids Baseball Hall of Fame before Tuesday’s Kernels game. Here is more information about each of the inductees, from the team’s press release:

Mike Napoli played for the Cedar Rapids Kernels during the 2001 and 2002 seasons. In 149 games, he hit .246 (127-for-517) with 15 HR and 68 RBI. He was selected by the Anaheim Angels in the 17th round of the 2000 First Year Player Draft out of Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and made his major-league debut for the Angels on May 4, 2006. He was a member of the 2013 World Series champion Boston Red Sox and was named an All-Star in 2012. He’s played in 12 MLB seasons, batting .246 with 267 HR and 744 RBI in 1,392 games.

Joe Sambito pitched for the Cedar Rapids Astros in 1974, posting an 11-8 record and 3.00 ERA in 23 starts. In 156 innings, he allowed 133 hits and 59 runs (52 earned) with 49 walks and 182 strikeouts. He was drafted by the Astros in the 17th round of the 1973 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Bethpage (N.Y.) High School and made his MLB debut on July 20, 1976, at Pittsburgh. He pitched for 11 seasons in the majors for the Astros, Mets and Red Sox, posting a 37-38 record and 3.03 ERA with 84 saves. He was an MLB All-Star in 1979 for the Astros and appeared in two games for the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. He retired at the end of the 1987 season and became a player’s counselor and representative. He resides in Irvine, Calif.

Ken Blackman played for the Cedar Rapids Raiders in 1935 after a college career at Coe College and the University of Iowa. He played 54 games for the Raiders, batting .249, and quickly moved into a role as a manager. He managed several minor-league teams, including the Cedar Rapids Braves in 1962. He also was the athletic director at Buena Vista College from 1946 until 1951, as well as the general manager for the Quad Cities Angels (1963-65), Mobile Athletics (1966) and Waterloo Hawks (1967). He served as a scout for the Indians and White Sox and was the commissioner of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Association (IIAC) in 1965. His son, John Blackman, was a catcher at the University of Iowa. Ken passed away on February 20, 2005 in Davenport, Iowa, at the age of 93.

Wencil “Chine” Stodola grew up in the shadow of Old Hill Park and pitched for the Cedar Rapids Bunnies in 1913. After his baseball career ended, he became a steamfitter at Penick and Ford and was involved with local amateur baseball teams. It was noted that he would often pitch batting practice to the Butternut Bakers Legion team in a vacant lot next to Old Hill Park, and when he was tired of pitching with his right arm, he would pitch to the rest of the team using his left. Chine may be most remembered for being in charge of “baseball retention” at old Veterans Memorial Stadium. In those days, the club used a crew of boys outside the stadium to retrieve foul balls hit over the roof and Chine would direct them from the steps of the press box using a whistle. Chine was a member of the Cedar Rapids Ball Club Board of Directors and passed away on April 5, 1973, at the age of 81.

The Class of 2018 Hall of Fame will be recognized before the Kernels game on Hall of Fame Night and Alumni Night, scheduled for Thursday, July 12, at 6:35 PM. Gates open at 5:30 PM.

The mission of the Cedar Rapids Ball Club Hall of Fame is to honor those individuals who, through extraordinary personal effort, have furthered the existence, quality or preservation of professional baseball in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Hall of Fame is located in the Bimm Ridder Diamond Shop and a Hall of Fame Timeline is located on the suite level at Veterans Memorial Stadium and is open during all Kernel home games, normal store hours, or by special appointment.

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