Eaton, Spitzer, Ronai join Springfield baseball hall of fame

Darrin Spitzer didn’t get “the call,” so to speak. He heard about his induction into the Springfield/Clark County Baseball Hall of Fame by reading it in the Springfield News-Sun.

“Whoever nominates you is supposed to give you a call, and I never did get one,” he said. “It’s real honor. The tradition of baseball in this area, all the players that played in the major leagues, it’s just tremendous around here.”

Spitzer, a 1985 Southeastern High School graduate who played at Marietta College, was inducted Saturday night at the Local UAW 402 Hall in Springfield, along with Chicago White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton, a 2007 Kenton Ridge graduate, and 1996 Catholic Central graduate Jason Ronai, who played college baseball at UNC-Asheville.

Spitzer, who now works as a certified public accountant at Clark, Schaefer, Hackett in Springfield, was a four-year letterman at Southeastern. He hit .525 as a senior shortstop. As a freshman at Marietta, he sparked a five-run, game-winning rally in the eighth inning in the 1986 Division III national championship game against Ithaca College.

Eaton played for two regional runner-up teams at Kenton Ridge and for the state runner-up team in 2007. He was a three-year starter at Miami University and a 19th-round draft pick in 2010 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He made his big-league debut in 2012 and hit .252 in 66 games in 2013 for the Diamondbacks. He was traded in December to the White Sox.

“Being a young guy, I think it’s kind of neat,” Eaton said of the trade. “They have confidence in me to continue doing what I’m supposed to do and continue to play at a high level.”

Eaton grew up playing baseball in Springfield and said it means everything to what he’s done since.

“The basis of your ability comes from your high school days,” he said. “(Kenton Ridge coach) Tom Randall set me up for great things.”

Ronai, who admits he’s probably better known for helping lead the Irish to the state championship in basketball in 1996, along with Jason Collier, played under head coach Mark Miller and led Clark County with a .521 average in 1996.

Ronai started for four years at Division I Asheville and was team MVP as a junior and a team captain as a senior. He was later an assistant coach at the U.S. Naval Academy and now is a boys basketball coach at Chicago Bulls College Prep in Chicago.

“Springfield has been absolutely blessed with a lot of great baseball players,” Ronai said. “I’m just extremely humbled to be a part of that.”

Three teams also joined the hall of fame: Springfield’s first professional baseball team, the 1877 Champion City Blue Sox; the 1987 WBLY state and regional championship team that played in the Connie Mack World Series; and the 1988 Foreman/Armoloy team that finished 41-17.

North High School graduate Will McEnaney, who pitched for the Big Red Machine in the 1970s, was the scheduled guest speaker. He made his big-league debut with the Reds 40 years ago in 1974 and pitched six seasons in the majors. McEnaney now lives in Florida.

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