Dunmore grad overcomes injury to hit homer for daughter

rinaldi and family

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore graduate Chris Rinaldi knows how to rise to the occasion.

Rinaldi, a catcher, led the league in homers and RBIs as a senior in high school and hit 20 homers in two seasons at Penn State Worthington, but nothing was more special than the home run he hit for his daughter a week before last Father’s Day at Sherwood Park.

Son of Mike and Michelle Rinaldi, Dunmore, Chris is married to the former Cassie Suriano, a North Pocono graduate. The couple has a one-year-old daughter, Skylar.

Chris played four years of baseball and basketball and one year of football at Dunmore.

He was an all-star catcher in his junior season.

However, he really put it together his senior year when he hit .489 and led the league in hits (30), homers (6) and RBIs (27). He was named an all-star and all-regional catcher.

Then came the two seasons at Penn State in Dunmore where he hit 20 homers.

He continued his baseball career for several seasons in the Collegiate Summer Baseball League (CSBL), now called the Dunmore Freedom League.

In the meantime, Chris continued his academic career at Lackawanna College, where he graduated from the police training academy in 2011.

He was working for the Lackawanna County Sheriff’s office SWAT team in Old Forge a couple years ago when he suffered a head injury while serving a warrant. He hit his head on the concrete after he fell during the incident. The fall resulted in a concussion, seizure and brain bleed.

rinaldi and daughterThe injury took Chris away from police work, and he took some time off from playing baseball.

During that time, his daughter was born.

Chris decided to come back to baseball this summer—rejoining the Dunmore Freedom League. He is also looking to go on in college, possibly to pursue an advanced degree in counseling or psychology. His head injury may prevent him from returning to police work.

Returning to the baseball field for his first game in three years, he was a little jittery.

With his wife, daughter and mom on hand to watch, he walked in his first at bat.

Then came the second at bat which resulted in a blast to deep left field and out into the concrete area close to the basketball courts. A home run. His daughter gazed with excitement.

“That was a whole different thing for me,” Chris said. “Hitting my first homer coming back was great, but doing it as a father made it much more special.

“It was the greatest moment of my life.

“To see my daughter smile was the best. She was smiling ear to ear. Our team made sure she got the ball to keep forever. And it happened a week before Father’s Day.”

Chris went on to hit two singles to finish 3-for-3 in Dunmore’s 6-4 loss to Best.

He went 3-for-4 in Dunmore’s 14-4 win over Prep in the second game. The bulky bearded receiver hit two doubles and a single. He went 1-for-4 in the next game, a 1-0 loss to McGintty’s.

Chris, who was a basketball captain in his senior year at Dunmore, hit two doubles and went 2-for-4 in the fourth game, an 8-7 extra innings win over Old Forge.

rinaldiChris batted .475 in his two seasons at Penn State playing under coach Paul Boccado.

“This is the first time I felt healthy in over two years,” he said. “My wife convinced me to come back and play at Sherwood Park. She thought it would be nice to play in front of my daughter. I got the itch to play, missed the sport and decided to come back to the Dunmore team here at Sherwood Park.”

Chris, a genuine family man, said he enjoyed his years at Dunmore High School playing under veteran baseball coach Gino Tempesta. “I was lucky to get a lot of individual awards, but no championships. I especially loved being with all the guys and playing for Gino Tempesta. I made life lasting friendships. It was a pleasure and blessing to play for coach Tempesta. I loved being on his squad. He is a student of the game.”

Besides his daughter seeing him hit a homer for the first time, Chris enjoyed another first last month. He had the opportunity to catch for his younger brother Corey, 20, the starting pitcher in the team’s win over Old Forge. “It was real cool to have him pitching to me. It was a real great. It was the first time we were on a baseball field together in a real game. It was a lot of fun.”

It’s all about family and baseball now for Chris.

“Right now I am looking to get into a new career. And I will pursue another college degree. I will play baseball as long as I can. I’ll play until my knees go. And I”ll surely enjoy seeing my wife and little daughter at all the games.”

Dunmorean of the Month: In Memory of Billy Ruddy

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The Ruddy twins—Billy, left, and Bob, right—pose together during their days as football stars for the Dunmore Bucks back in 1985.

By Emily Fedor

On the morning of January 29, Billy Ruddy, a senior a Dunmore High School, came downstairs to see his father, Bob. Billy asked his dad to watch a video that he had made and posted to YouTube. He didn’t say what the video was about or give away any details before heading off to school.

The video Billy created commemorates the days that his dad and uncle had shared as teammates and brothers in addition to old news footage covering the accident that took his uncle’s life.

He had shared the video on Facebook for all of his friends and family to see.

Everyone that grew up in Dunmore, knew the Ruddy twins,” said Billy. “They were known obviously for their football talents, but the people they were on and off the field made everyone love them.”

January 29, 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of the tragic car accident that involved Bob and his twin brother Billy. The two were football stars for the Dunmore Bucks and helped the team capture the program’s first Eastern Conference Class A crown in 1985.

The sons of Rose and the late James Ruddy, Bob and Billy were the youngest of the 13 children who made up this native Dunmore family. This number includes their brother Mark who passed away after birth.

On January 29, 1986, the twins were on their way to a recruitment visit at Mansfield University. Upon approaching their destination, their car, driven by a family friend and Mansfield assistant football coach Frank Butsko, collided with a tractor trailer.

Billy Ruddy and Frank Butsko were pronounced dead at the scene. Bob Ruddy suffered serious injuries, which caused him to be under hospital care until after his brother’s funeral services, but he managed to make it out of the crash alive.


(Photo Credit: Paul Nardozzi/Facebook)

As they were not only brothers, but identical twins, the youngest Ruddys had a special bond both on and off the football field. They were competitive but also very protective of each other. Bob remembers his brother taking blocks for him under the Friday night lights during football season.

On the morning of their Mansfield visit, he recalled racing his brother to the car and fighting over the front seat.

After a minute, they realized that their actions may make Butsko question their maturity. Billy ended up taking the passenger seat next to while Bob hopped in the back.

“Looking back on it now, it was really like he took one last block for me.”

During the course of their football careers at Dunmore, the Ruddy family had recorded televised news stories about the twins and their success with the Bucks. Recording these memories became especially important during their senior season, which they played in memory of their father, James, who passed away earlier in 1985.

They also served a purpose during Bob’s stay in the hospital, when he wasn’t conscious for a time after the accident to know what exactly was unfolding.

Billy was able to edit together some of those old videos along with photos of his father and uncle to create his video.

“I usually make a post on Facebook every year,” said Billy, “but with this year being the 30th anniversary, I wanted to do something different.”

Although he never had the pleasure of meeting the uncle after whom he was named, he has heard a lot of stories about him over the years from not only his dad, but from other relatives, family friends and even faculty members at Dunmore High School, too.

“He was the kind of person who would stand up for someone being bullied in school,” said Billy. “He was just a positive person.”

Billy’s father agreed, saying his brother was a person many people, including himself, wanted to emulate. And although his son followed his own path and decided not to become a football star for the Bucks, Bob said he sees many of his late brother’s qualities in Billy, as well as his daughter, Casey, every day.

To say the least, Bob was touched by his son’s surprise on that chilly Friday morning.

“I couldn’t help but get a little emotional,” Bob said. “Doing that just shows the kind of man he is, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

But what Bob was most glad about was the fact that Dunmoreans, his son included, aren’t afraid to talk about his brother and the wonderful life he lived.

It’s never easy to look back on difficult times without having emotions take over, but as Billy so perfectly reminded everyone with his video tribute: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  

Dunmorean of the Month: Billy Dolphin

By Steve Svetovich

Jennifer Dolphin was preparing for the fight of her life when she was diagnosed with Buldchiari Disease in 2012. It is a disease that weakens the body and leads to end stage liver failure.

But Jennifer had two things going for her. She had her baby daughter Mackenzie and husband Billy.

Billy has been her anchor, and what an anchor. He has been by her side ever since the initial diagnosis.

Daughter of James and Georgette Mecca, Jennifer learned of her diagnosis at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia in 2012. She was told her liver would gradually deteriorate, and she would become weaker as the disease progressed.

“I was told it would lead to end stage liver failure,” Jennifer said. “I lived with it for a time until my liver finally failed. Finally, the doctors decided on a transplant. I was told to get the transplant or I would die.

“I waited nine months for the liver transplant. I was lucky. Most people have to wait longer, sometimes for several years. I received the liver transplant July 18, 2015, at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

“I am starting to feel stronger. Everyday is a better day. It takes nine months to a year or longer to recuperate from a liver transplant. There are setbacks, but I am improving.

Billy and Jennifer Dolphin were born and raised in Dunmore. Son of Bill and Marilyn Dolphin, Billy, 41, graduated from Dunmore High School in 1992. Jennifer, 35, graduated from Dunmore in 1998.

Billy makes a living installing ADT security systems for Defender Direct, Wilkes-Barre. The company is an authorized dealer of ADT security systems.

“He has energized me,” said Jennifer. “My husband has been by my side every single day since my diagnosis. And he has cared for our daughter, Mackenzie, who is now four.

“And he never complained once. He completely gave up on himself to focus on me and our family. He does nothing for himself. He no longer golfs or even goes to the mall for himself. He does nothing that he likes or interests him. And that is his personal choice. He only wants to care for me and our daughter.

Jennifer, Billy and Mackenzie Dolphin (Credit: The Dolphin Family)

Jennifer, Billy and Mackenzie Dolphin (Credit: The Dolphin Family)

“He is such a good man. He is a wonderful father and great husband.”

Jennifer, courageous as she fights her own battle, sees her husband as the hero in his role as the caregiver.

“He is my Apollo and I am Rocky. I was in the hospital a total of eight weeks in Baltimore. I was there four straight weeks and then back again twice for two weeks each time. My husband took a leave of absence and stayed in a hotel. He was at my bedside from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every single day. I would wake up and he would be right there next to me.

“Everyday he would help me get dressed, shower and prepare my food. He would walk with me in the hall for my rehab. I heard his words of encouragement every day. He is the greatest.

“There were the little things he would go get me at the store like fruit and yogurt. He would do that for me while I was in the hospital.

“He made this all about me. He was by my side with every hospital stay, every trip to the emergency room and every time I was ill. He would not have it any other way. And not one word of complaint about not having time for himself. He continues to stand by me and take care of me and our daughter as I recuperate.

“If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything.

“It means a lot to us that we come from Dunmore. I want to get better and do the things we did together like going to football games.

“But for now, I am just so thankful to my wonderful husband. He never leaves my side. He is so special, a great man.”