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.
The 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.
Chris 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.”