Nov. 3, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - Two former Northern Illinois baseball players have made an impact at the professional baseball level as Joe Mazzuca (2003) recently played for Team Italy in the World Baseball Tournament and Nick Hall (2003-06) inked a minor league contract with Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres.
"It's good to get phone calls like the two that I received recently," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey, who coached both players when they were in Huskie uniforms. "I like to hear that our guys our having success. They are both still enjoying baseball and making a living out of it. That's great to see and hear about."
Mazzuca, a former 12th round pick of the Florida Marlins, has been playing professionally in Italy for the past three years and played for Team Italy in the first round of the recent World Baseball Tournament held in Italy. In games versus Mexico, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia and the United States, Mazzuca went 1-for-8 at the plate with three walks, an RBI and one run scored.
"Joe has been in the Italian professional league for a few years now," Mathey said. "To be awarded a spot on the national team was a great experience for him. He got to play with a lot of former MLB players and his hitting coach was Mike Piazza. It goes to show that he is still having success in this game at a pretty high level."
As a Huskie infielder, Mazzuca played in the 2003 season and was selected to the All-Mid-American Conference Tournament team as he had a very stellar season in which he hit .357 with 76 hits, 52 runs, 10 home runs, 57 RBI, 33 walks and 20 stolen bases. His one season in an NIU uniform still stands as one of the program's best of all-time as his 57 RBI ranks second all-time in the single season record book, while his 76 hits ranks in a tie for third, his 33 walks ranks sixth, and his 52 runs and 20 stolen bases rank eighth.
After sitting out two seasons following his short stint with the Philadelphia Phillies organization, Hall made his return to professional baseball with the Frontier League's Windy City Thunderbolts in 2009 and found his niche as the team's closer. He finished the year with a 4-1 record, 11 saves and a 2.41 ERA in 41 innings with 59 strikeouts in 40 appearances. Hall's outstanding season with the Thunderbolts grabbed the attention of the Padres as they purchased his contract and he will report to spring training in February with the expectation of playing for the Padres' double-A affiliate, the San Antonio Missions.
"Nick had a couple of tryouts after his time with the Phillies, but didn't seem to get one to hit," said Mathey. "A lot of guys our now realizing that the way to get back into pro baseball is through the independent leagues. Nick decided to give it a shot and it has paid off so far. He has a great frame to throw off of and has always had a very durable arm. Things seem to be coming together for him. His velocity has raised, his location has improved, and it's great to see. I'm very happy for Nick and his family."
Hall's name still stands in several categories of the NIU record book as he ranks in a tie for the most games started (47), while he also ranks second in career innings (280.1) and sixth in career strikeouts (166).