Napa High School’s 1988 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title-winning baseball team was loaded with superstars.
There was Troy Tallman at catcher, Todd Pridy at first base, Matt Franco at second base, Glen Kelly at shortstop, and Brennan Jones at third base.
“It was a phenomenal team. Pretty impressive,” Pridy said. “There were some names on that team that got a lot of recognition and went on to play for a number of years.
“That Napa High team was special.”
There was also very strong pitching, a staff led by Scott Ruggiero, Craig Johnston and Lundeen.
At one time, Ruggiero held the school record for single-season earned run average at 0.98. He was named Most Valuable Pitcher of the 1988 Napa Invitational, and was also selected to the All-Napa County team and to play in the Vallejo Times-Herald North-South All-Star Baseball Game.
Ruggiero, a right-hander, compiled an 8-0 record and 1.56 ERA in 67 innings, helping Napa to a 26-3 record during its championship season. Napa won six games in the playoffs and beat Christian Brothers-Sacramento in the finals at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi.
“Scott was about as steady of a performer as you could ever hope for as a starting pitcher and as a teammate,” said Pridy, who stepped down as Napa High’s head baseball coach in 2018 after leading the program for 17 years. “You didn’t take it for granted. You knew he was going to out there and he was going to battle for you.
“Scott was a cool character, an amazing teammate. I can’t remember a time when I saw him in a bad mood. You couldn’t find somebody that didn’t like the guy. He truly was one of the best individuals I’ve ever known.”
Ruggiero, a 1988 graduate and three-sport athlete, will be honored for his achievements as a year-round athlete when he is inducted into the Napa High School Athletic Hall of Fame next month.
Ruggiero joins Jillian Imrie (Class of 1998), Joe LeMasters (Class of 2003), Don Inglis and Bob Chance in this year’s Hall of Fame class, which was selected by a committee earlier in the year. Inglis and Chance, who handle the filming duties for Napa High freshman, junior varsity and varsity football games, will enter the Hall of Fame as special category inductees.
The newest class will be honored at a dinner and induction ceremony on Oct. 12 at Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley. A social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. and is followed by dinner at 7 p.m.
Ruggiero, who passed away on Sept. 1, 2018 at the age of 48, will be inducted posthumously.
“We are very, very proud of him. He always made us proud, ever since he was even a little boy,” said his father, Ron Ruggiero. “Even a year later, after he has been gone, he’s still making us proud. He’s still making us proud with his legacy. He was always so athletic, so smart and always so polite. He was just a very, very responsible boy and young man.
“And I will tell you, he was die-hard Napa High person. His letterman’s jacket was decorated.”
As a three-sport athlete, Ruggiero played football (wide receiver, safety, special teams), basketball (point guard), and baseball (pitcher, shortstop, center field).
He set a school record with 11 receptions in a game. He was named All-Napa County offense, All-Monticello Empire League and received Napa’s coaches’ offensive award.
He coached in the football program as an assistant at Napa High for several years and was also the head JV baseball coach. He also volunteered his time as a youth football coach in town.
He played for Yountville American Legion.
“I’m very happy that the selection committee decided to put Scott into the Hall,” said Pridy. “Everybody liked him and he got along with everybody. You’re talking about a high-quality individual, the type of student-athlete that you want everybody to aspire to be.”
Ruggiero was 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA during the Monticello Empire League season in 1988.
Napa won the Sac-Joaquin Section South championship tournament, beating Merced, 9-0, as Ruggiero allowed five hits, walked two and struck out three in Lodi.
Former Napa High head baseball coach Mike Brown remembered Ruggiero as a competitor, a really fun guy to be around, and always with a smile on his face.
“He was my ace right-hander that I had,” said Brown. “All I know is every time he went out on the mound we had a chance to win, because he was pretty good. When he went between the lines, he was a heck of a competitor.
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“He was a great kid, a solid kid, and fun to be around.”
He was also a top student. He was named to the Academic All-American Scholar Program.
“He was as tenacious in the classroom,” said Pridy.
Ruggiero probably couldn’t wait for the 1988 baseball season to start after his basketball team finished 0-12 in the MEL and 4-23 overall.
In football, Napa had a run-first offense and didn’t throw the ball much. But Ruggiero, a wide receiver, was still a big part of the team’s offense, former coach Les Franco said.
“We got the ball as much as we could to him, because he was probably our best primary receiver at the time,” said Franco. “He was a big part of an offense that just exploded those two years.
“He was one of our favorite players of all time. He was the full package – well-liked by his teammates, his teachers, everybody.”
Ruggiero played Pop Warner Football locally for the Napa Chargers and played several years of youth basketball.
Scott Ruggiero Memorial Scholarship Fund
A memorial scholarship in Ruggiero’s name, the Scott Ruggiero Memorial Scholarship Fund, has been established at Napa High. It’s funded through donations and provides a student with a $2,500 scholarship.
The criteria for the scholarship is based on academics, athletics and being a humble person, said Ron Ruggiero.
“Scott was a very humble person,” said Ron Ruggiero. “He never spoke about himself. He never bragged. He was just quiet about himself always. He was always that way. He didn’t want any notoriety about himself. That’s the way he always lived his life.”
Scott Ruggiero worked at Browns Valley Market and Food 4 Less.
He is survived by his five children: Cassondra (Sonny) Ruggiero, Scott Ruggiero, Jayce Ruggiero, Addison Ruggiero, Ryan Ruggiero; his parents, Ron and Linda Ruggiero; and his four sisters, Sarah Baldock, Leah Bushby, Amanda Proctor and Ashley Ruggiero.
“I’m just happy that his kids … will be able to walk into Messner Gym and see their dad’s name there, see that section pennant up on the wall, and be able to just know that they’re connected,” Pridy said.
Hall of Fame formed in 1997
The Hall of Fame’s selection committee votes on the nominees after reviewing the nominations and hearing presentations by nominators. A successful nominee needs 75 percent of the total points possible.
Individuals may be nominated in one of three categories: athlete, coach and special.
To date, there are 149 members of the Indian Hall of Fame, whose membership dates to 1912. The NHS Athletic HOF Foundation is a nonprofit organization.
In 1997, the Hall of Fame was formed, with 36 inductees in the inaugural class.
The purpose of the Napa High Athletic Hall of Fame Foundation is to honor the school and its department of athletics by recognizing the achievements of former athletes, coaches and others who have made significant contributions to the school’s athletic programs, while celebrating Napa High School scholar-athletes for their work in the classroom, community and in athletics, according to napahighhof.org.
To be eligible as an athlete, an individual must have graduated from Napa High at least 15 years ago (2004 or earlier), participated in at least one interscholastic sport as an undergraduate, and lived an adult life that did not discredit the school or the community.
The Hall of Fame has awarded $90,000 in scholarships to student-athletes over the years. The scholarships are funded by contributions. The Hall of Fame awards two annual scholarships to deserving scholar-athletes who have represented Napa High well in athletic competition, as well as in the classroom and community, according to napahighhof.org.