Randazzo, Iannazzo are Norwalk natives heading to LLWS
Published 12:00 am, Friday, August 18, 2017
FAIRFIELD — The sport of baseball has already given Mike Randazzo a lifetime of memories.
An FCIAC championship while playing at Norwalk High; a four-year Division I baseball career at Seton Hall, playing alongside two of his best friends in future major league players Mo Vaughn and Kevin Morton; and, of course, signing his name on the dotted line for his first professional baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox — all are right up there near the top of the list.
This summer, however, Randazzo is experiencing his ultimate baseball thrill … and he’s not even playing.
Randazzo is the manager of the Fairfield American Little League 12-year-old All-Stars, which followed up their District 2 championship with a state title, a New England Regional championship and a trip to this week’s Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
It was Fairfield American’s fifth trip to the LLWS in eight years. Along for the ride this summer is Randazzo’s youngest son, Leo, a third baseman and catcher.
“I haven’t really thought about that, but my first inclination is this is the best thing ever,” Mike Randazzo said. “To be able to do this with my youngest son, yes, this certainly has to be No. 1.”
Randazzo was born and raised in Norwalk — one of two city connections to this year’s FALL summer.
He never had a chance to chase Little League World Series dreams when he was younger. That’s because he played PONY in the city’s highly competitive Cranbury League.
“My father wasn’t an athlete, my mother wasn’t an athlete,” Randazzo said. “But my brother Wayne and I were best friends with Mo Vaughn and we all played in Cranbury growing up.”
So began a lifetime spent on Norwalk’s baseball diamonds where Randazzo played in the Kinlock tournament before moving on to Babe Ruth and American Legion.
While many of his friends played multiple sports, Randazzo was drawn to baseball.
“I don’t want to say it was my identity, but it was what I spent most of my time doing,” he said.
He graduated from Norwalk High in 1986 as an outfielder who did a little bit of pitching before heading off to Seton Hall.
While Vaughn and Morton were drafted after their junior season with the Pirates, Randazzo played all four years and signed a free-agent contract with the White Sox.
After a half a cup of coffee in pro ball (the White Sox cut him at the end of his first season), Randazzo married his high school sweetheart, Lisa Castellano.
The family settled in Fairfield and soon started a family, with Michael being born in 2000 and Leo a few years later.
Almost immediately, Randazzo started giving back to the sport he loved.
He was helping Craig Katz coach Norwalk’s Legion team when Michael was born.
When Michael — now a rising senior at Fairfield Ludlowe who has already committed to pitch at Bryant University — was in Little League, the family came agonizingly close to making its first trip to Williamsport.
“Unfortunately we ran into a buzzsaw called Westport,” Randazzo said, referring to the run led by current Staples standout Chad Knight and Co.
With his second son, Leo — who’s named after his mother’s grandfather — and another talented FALL team around them, the Randazzos are finally on a trip of a lifetime.
“You get here and people call it the mecca of baseball, or the Disneyland of baseball, and you realize we’re one of the last eight teams playing meaningful baseball,” Randazzo said. “Come Thursday, it’ll be a zoo with 15 or 20 thousand people walking around, the kids will be walking around giving autographs. It’s amazing.”
After winning the New England title over South Portland, Maine, on Saturday, Little League officials got Randazzo and his team on a bus on Sunday, sending them directly to Williamsport.
As the team adjusts to the limelight and spectacle of what is happening to them, it will be time to start thinking baseball soon.
“We need to couple that with having fun,” Randazzo said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for the families and coaches and players. But everybody is 0-0. We’re obviously happy to be here, but we’re here to play baseball. Even with all these distractions, we need to find time to get back to business.”
The Randazzos aren’t the only connection to the manager’s hometown, though.
Fairfield American shortstop/pitcher Michael Iannazzo is the son of Jim Iannazzo, who pitched for Norwalk High shortly after the Randazzo brothers graduated as Bears. He graduated in 1991 before going to UConn.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Jim Iannazzo said. “These guys have been thinking about this since they were 7 years old and it’s unbelievable to see them get to this level. It’s just indescribable and I’m sure it’ll be even more once we get down there.”
Jim Iannazzo is cousins with Jeff Iannazzo, who is the father of former Norwalk High ace Matt Iannazzo. Matt Iannazzo pitched in the Chicago Cubs organization for a couple of summers before joining the Bridgeport Bluefish, so baseball talent obviously runs in the Iannazzo family.
“I remember when Jeff used to coach me in T-ball and basketball,” Jim Iannazzo said. “And of course we went and saw Matt pitch many times and now Jeff is coming up to watch my son play. It’s funny how things like that work out.”
The youngest Iannazzo has picked up plenty of his family’s baseball talent, too.
“Iannazzo’s kid is unbelievable,” Randazzo said. “This boy is fun to watch. I’ll put him up with any hitter who has ever come through (Fairfield American) Little League.”
Just another strong baseball career with Norwalk roots.