Caldarella 'honored' with Wood Bat Hall of Fame induction

Bill Althaus
Phil Caldarella, left, is the newest member of the American Legion Wood Bat Invitational Hall of Fame. The longtime contributor to the popular American Legion tournament is presented his plaque by Jim Moran, the co-creator of the Wood Bat tournament 32 years ago. Caldarella has worked behind the scenes at the tournament running the scoreboard while doing many duties for the new defunct Blue Springs Rod's Sports A's, who won the Wood Bat Invitational six times.

There will not be a 32nd annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational at Hidden Valley Park this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, there will be a member of the Class of 2020 Wood Bat Hall of Fame, an annual highlight of the American Legion baseball tournament.

Phil Caldarella, who has worked behind the scenes at the tournament for 30 years, was inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday morning by tournament co-founder Jim Moran.

This is the 13th hall of fame class and Caldarella is the 19th inductee. The first two inductees were late Examiner sports writer Dick Puhr and late Wood Bat co-founder Ron Johnson, a longtime area American Legion coach.

“This tournament would not be possible if it weren’t for the behind-the-scenes volunteers like Phil, and it’s a great honor for me to induct him this year,” Moran said. “I just wish we could have done it in front of an opening ceremonies crowd, because he deserves the recognition.”

Caldarella, a graduate of Fort Osage High School who still works for the school district in the finance department, was thrilled with the honor.

“You look at the names of previous hall of fame inductees like (Fort Osage graduate and three-time National League MVP) Albert Pujols, and Ron Johnson and all the great coaches, players and volunteers who have made this tournament possible,” Caldarella said, “and it is a real honor to join them.”

Caldarella was associated with the Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s for 30 years, and has worked the scoreboard and done other tasks at the Wood Bat for three decades.

“To me, the Wood Bat Invitational was part of my summer, an important part,” Caldarella said. “Jim (former manager of Blue Springs Post 499 Fike) and Mike (Rooney, former manager of Rod’s Sports A’s) remained friends despite being the managers of two successful, rival programs in Blue Springs.

“And that’s what I always loved about American Legion baseball. You could leave it all on the field and be friends after a tough game and a long season and to have Jim present this plaque is really special.”

When asked to name a favorite Wood Bat memory, Caldarella just grinned.

“There are way too many of them,” he said. “But the A’s won six Wood Bat championships, and Jim always did such a great job getting games in, even when it rained. And I was at one game when it began really late at night and ended with the sun coming up – you never forget games like that.”